The one-piece swimsuit is taking over from the humble bikini in a big way. We discuss why and where you can buy 10 of the best...
Looking back on my teenage years, I think with regret of the number of times I said no to going to the beach with my friends.
Irish summers aren't known for their high number of sunny days but when those days did come, my peers grabbed them with vigour. I, however, did not. My excuses ranged from having no drive to feeling sick to having to go back the bog with my father which was an outright lie and a ludicrous excuse.
Eventually, I had to tell my friends that I just hated the beach. They asked too many times and I was running out of excuses. I said I despised the sand in my bag, the overbearing crowds, the sweat and the melting 99's. This was another blatant lie because I actually quite liked the beach. I longed to be there, sat next to my friends taking in the final few years of being a teenager, still under the thumb of our parents but without worry or fear.
While my friends danced in the sunshine, bikini-clad and vibrant, I sat at home sad and thinking about the day when I would be thin enough to wear one and go there too.
My body image issues held me back too many times than I would like to admit. All in all, I went to the beach twice as a teenager. Once in shorts and an oversized t-shirt and the other in a tankini, which at the time was highly unstylish.
Bikinis were the be all and end all. One piece swimsuits were for the pool for sports activities, not for leisure wear on the beach, so my choices were limited. When all of your friends are wearing the same thing at 15, it's against the grain to change the status quo.
Nowadays, the swimwear climate has changed and I couldn't be happier about it. Bikini's are still the piece du jour but the classic one piece isn't the bland Speedo uniform it once was-now it's in fashion. Luxury fashion retailer Net-A-Porter has seen a 27% increase in swimsuit sales year on year. Why is this?
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Although my confidence in my body has significantly improved, I'm not quite at the bikini stage just yet. The one piece allows me to feel confident, secure but still sexy. Designs are now diverse. There are frills, patterns, belts and embroidery. A one-piece is exciting, so much so they are now worn off the beach too.
Modern women love a multifunctional piece and swimwear can now be worn as a bodysuit underneath a suit or tucked into a midi-skirt. The increased interest can also be linked to the general move away from the overtly sexualised images of swimwear we have seen in the past.
Fashion has always had moments that are politically charged and this is one of them. It's taking back ownership and power of our bodies.
The one-piece is easy and now there is a choice, something which wasn't there when I was a teenager. High-street brands such as Topshop, Penneys and River Island are experts in affordability, while Asos do fabulous plus size options and Bravissimo is a dream if you have a bigger chest and need extra support.
If you wish to spend a little more, Hunza-G makes universally flattering pieces which are made from their innovative seersucker fabric. While Norma Kamali's designs are beautifully simple but consistently have a point of difference whether it's a ruching detail or an unexpected shape.
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For bigger busts, look out for padding, thicker straps and suits that come in actual bra sizes for maximum hold and support. Curvy figures can wear an array of different styles, so don't be afraid of colour or prints. Look for retro styles with added coverage around the thigh area if it is one you aren't too confident with.
If your waist is your smallest part, belts will highlight it beautifully but also work equally well on straight figures by creating curves. And if you have a smaller bust, one shoulder, halter necks or ruffle top styles should be your go to.
However, the most important piece of style advice I can give is to wear it with confidence. Whatever shape or size you are, you are beautiful.
I wish I could go back and shake teenage me into realising that swimsuits were stylish and that I didn't have to be a certain size to even go the beach.
When the sunny days finally do some to Irish shores, I won't be sitting sadly at home this time.
I'll be the first on the sand, wearing my one piece with poise.
Here are 10 of the best you can buy right now.
Image: Asos, Topshop and Simply Be
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