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How to Keep Your Head (And Everything Else) Above Water

Once upon a time in a town not far from here, six young ladies decided to go on holiday together. Now these six young ladies had just taken their ‘A’ levels, were soon to leave school for good and to embark upon the next exciting stage of their lives. In those heady days of summer the girls shared everything – laughs, clothes, boyfriends. The sun always seemed to be shining and the six girls were young and wrinkle free with no thoughts of house prices, tax credits or buggered pelvic floor muscles. This being 1990, free radicals and super foods had yet to be invented and the girls thought nothing of living off humous, pitta bread and chocolate cake. No-one had even heard of Pilates or the Kardashians.

Halterneck bikini £14.99 at H&M

And so it came to pass that as their holiday to a Greek island (that shall remain nameless for fear of ruining the atmosphere of the story and giving entirely the wrong impression of these lovely well brought up girls) approached, book lists were drawn up, sun cream purchased and a group waxing appointment was booked. Having grown up in the 80s, none of the girls had had their legs waxed before as anything other than a disposable Bic razor was seen as flash. When the big day arrived, the girls trotted off to the local department store where by some miracle there happened to be a treatment room big enough for them all to squeeze into along with the somewhat bemused therapist. The bravest of all the girls, a golden ringletted girl called Hannah, agreed to be the first to climb onto the bed as the other five watched through their fingers. One of the girls’ mums had once said that having a bikini wax was “more painful than childbirth” (although she denies it now) and so with the pain of childbirth still at least a decade off and their legs now shiny smooth, the girls went their separate ways for a challenge far greater than any other so far in their eighteen years. A mission so terrifying that in these pre-internet days, at least one of them had resorted to the Freemans catalogue in order to tackle the problem under cover of darkness at home.

Yes, with 60 GCSEs between them, not one of them had found the answer to this most tricky of life’s problems. The final hurdle was swimwear shopping.

Adidas bikini at Next

Lest we forget, in 1990 there was no such thing as buying the tops and bottoms separately, bra sized bikini tops didn’t exist and the use of lycra and padding was limited. As if that wasn’t bad enough, many shops still had communal fitting rooms.  My friend Kerry actually made her own bikinis at university in the early 80s – can you imagine? I didn’t think students even made their own bed. I’d like to take a moment to be thankful for how far we’ve come in the last twenty years (curtains to hide behind! Underwiring! Relaxed refund policies!) and yet shopping for beachwear is still for many the most dreaded task of all.

Panache bikini £31 at Figleaves.com

This year, (holidaying with the boyfriend for the first time after all – you recall the holdall saga, right?) I made all my bikini purchases from the comfort of my own home where I tried them on, adjusted the straps and ties to my heart’s content, jumped up and down in them and experimented with poses in them. All in flattering lighting and without the commentary from my three year old who thinks it’s helpful to point out spots, bruises and anything on the body that moves independently. So avoiding high street fitting rooms would be my first suggestion and here are a few pointers that might ease the pain:

Ruffle bikini top £9.99 at H&M

1. Go for ruffles and frills if you’re flat of chest and want to add an inch or two

2. Obvs avoid the above along with bandeau or triangle styles if you’re top heavy

3. All in one styles with side panels are hugely slimming but avoid if you have a long body and short legs.

All in one £47 at Sweaty Betty

4. Moulded or lightly padded tops keep their shape better but also take longer to dry.

5. Always have a pair of black bikini bottoms on hand as almost any top can be worn with them. I’m not a fan of the mismatched look but if it’s good enough for Mossy…

6. Don’t forget if you must sit on the shore for hours on end with the waves gently going back and forth, when you finally get up chances are your gusset will have filled with sand so that when you stand up your bikini bottoms will be so heavy with the extra weight they will sag in a most unfeminine manner. This has never happened to me of course.

Oh and if you were wondering what happened to the six lovely ladies, well such was their swimwear panic, they all bought a variation on the safe black swimsuit theme. They spent the fortnight lying in a hungover row on the beach like a Greek island version of a Robert Palmer video.

Sequin kaftan £24.50 at MIss Selfridge

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