In Praise of the Two Piece

I Like It Like This / I Like It Like That

The first installment in the new monthly series, I Like It Like This / I Like It Like That, where we compare our difference of our opinion on one seasonal style, looks at how we both feel about swimsuit season. 

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There's been this saying going around lately. You know the one: Every body can be a bikini body – just put a bikini on your body and voila! Today me adores this saying. But if you'd told teenage me to just slide into a bikini without fretting about the shape I was in, I would've roundly ignored you, called you out of touch. It isn't that I don't think that everybody can wear a bikini. It's that I think everyone should wear whatever they feel comfortable in – and 16-year-old me wouldn't have felt comfortable in a two-piece. And not just because of body image issues; I gave up on bikinis when, while hopping out of a swimming pool, I lost my top in front of two boys who never let me live it down.

For most of my teenage years going into early adulthood, that was the plight of the babe-in-a-bikini... just like in the movies. It felt like it was only a matter of time once I tied one on before I would lose one of the two pieces. In the Atlantic hopping waves one summer, I realized how frustrating it was to be so busy pulling my pants up that I couldn't dive through the surf like I wanted to. Bikinis took a backseat so I could swim without a second thought.

it’s clear to me that everyone has to find what works for her at whatever stage she’s at

But with a long torso and a not-flat chest, one-pieces didn't really do the trick either. I felt like I had to be a contortionist to get an athletic-cut suit over my shoulders only to have major side boob. Or I'd slip into a scoop-back tank and relive the fear of baring it all every time a wave hit, only this time, there was the feeling of having my skin rubbed raw by too-tight elastic at the crotch -- thanks to my longer-than-average upper body. 

As a result, I spent most of my twenties avoiding the water as though it were toxic. I've seen other women in the US do this, too -- hang out at the pool or beach in knee-length shorts and T-shirts, not going into the water beyond their knees. Whether it's discomfort with their body or the poor fit of bathing suits, I don't know. But after I came to Germany, where women will literally jump into pools in their skivvies or walk into the lake naked just to cool off, who cares about onlookers, I began questioning my reluctance to hop in and started shopping for a brand new bikini.

I started with a triangle-tie top, one which didn't necessarily do well in the ocean but which worked for afternoons splashing in the shallows. Sidelined from my normal daily runs by a leg injury later, I decided to spend some time in the pool and got this gorgeous adidas by Stella McCartney two-piece to do so. And I LOVE it! The straps coming together in the back ensures the top stays put even as I crawl through the water. Its shape suits my muscular upper body and I feel stronger when I wear it, more athletic. And although on-the-rack the bottoms are smaller than I would've preferred in the past, they stay put and that's the best thing a bikini can offer. No more fishing the bikini bottoms out of bikini bottom.

Although I'm still not sure I'd say a bikini is for every body -- to each her own -- the older I get and the more bathing suits I try on, the more it's clear to me that everyone has to find what works for her at whatever stage she's at. Maybe instead of saying it's on us to just slip into a bikini if we want to, we can ask swimwear designers to design bathing suits that work for every body instead. We're not all after the same thing -- I definitely grab a different bikini before I pop up on my surfboard than I do if I'm chilling poolside -- and our bodies are so unique, it's silly to think that what works for one works for all. 

-- Courtney Tenz