No more bikini “ready” than anyone, but a looming girls’ trip forced Suzie Coen out of her basic togs into a world of high cuts, low backs, thongs and tricky dangling ties in search of a swimsuit she’d look forward to wearing.
I spend a lot of time in a swimsuit. At least twice a week, I’m in my togs due to the nature of my midlife crisis, which involves flinging myself into cold lakes and choppy seas with like-minded open-water pals, because swimming outside does wonders for my mental health (really, it does!). In days gone by, I stuck to black swimsuits in as flattering a shape as I could find. I was not, as they say now, body confident. I dreaded trying on costumes in the harsh light of changing rooms and made safe choices, worried about being judged and judging myself. Anyway, all this swimming means I have finally come to a place where I don’t care what I look like in a swimsuit (ish). Trying them on doesn’t bother me anymore, because their value to me nowadays is practical, not aesthetic. I don’t worry whether they make me look slim or not. I don’t care if they don’t hide my wobbly bits or whether or not they make me look even paler than I already am. And yet, and yet… Liberating and all as that is, I was still unnerved when it came to the task of buying a “holiday” bikini for a girls’ weekend away in Spain to celebrate a big birthday.
I know it’s because I subconsciously buy into the old-fashioned narrative that I should look a certain way in a “resort” bikini. As if the holiday masses’ eyes are going to be scalded by the sight of a few tummy rolls, soft jiggly hips and thighs and normal coloured skin. It’s all too easy to say “love the body you’re in”, but sometimes we just don’t. We all have things we’re not happy with. All of us see things that others don’t; we blow our faults and imperfections out of proportion. The trick is to try and act the magician and practise misdirection and distraction – throw attention and light on what you do like and in my case decide to commit to a killer beachwear “look”.
The holiday WhatsApp pings with chat about exclusive beach club brunches and a day on a yacht (I know…) so perhaps appropriately, I settle on the more-is-more party swimwear muse that was Goldie Hawn in Overboard. Nothing was too excessive for Joanna Stayton, the snobby seafaring heiress who delivered extravagant swimwear looks and colour-co-ordinated cover-ups, amped up with crystal cat-eye sunglasses and blingy bracelets and anklets. I go mad online on every high street and high-end site and over a week, 27 different swimsuits are delivered. I’m on next level friendliness with cheerful Charlie from DPD who’s now as eager as I am to find The One, if only to break the running streak of his now daily delivery stop. It’ll be a surprise to nobody that the boyfriend refused to get sucked into giving any opinion on me wearing what is effectively only several triangles of Lycra.
Early elimination was given to a lot of the skimpier options that were really only for those with a keen Reformer Pilates habit and/or channelling a Christine from Selling Sunset vibe. Bikini tops with Hello Boys padding and Love Island complicated halter-top ties made me tense and are immediately discounted. Cut-outs, diamanté bits and little metal things hanging off swimsuits made my soul sink, while the sunny prints and tropic-inspired patterns were all a bit Ibiza raver who now has a vintage stall in the Blackrock Market.
I learned a few things in this process. Firstly, you can’t be in competition with a girl who is 18 (the usual age of an online swimsuit model). You have to be the best in your category. Secondly, if you want swimwear that gives you the illusion of a shape you’re happier with, go for it but don’t get stuck on the suck in/secret panelling plain togs. It actually singles you out as a person of age faster than long scarlet nails and a stiff blow-dry. I do wonder what mockery 70-year-old me will say when I look back at pictures of me trussed up in a Spanx-like swimsuit on a beach. In the melting heat. For who? Finally, bottom line style wise – I still craved a minimalist aesthetic. I wanted something quite sporty and simple but fashionable.
So bloody hurrah for Hunza G! First launched in 1984, the brand’s signature crinkle stretch fabric is instantly recognisable. The label was made famous by its feature in Pretty Woman when Julia Roberts wore Hunza’s cut-out dress in the Rodeo Drive scene. Not a big mistake on Hunza’s part… Their minimal one-pieces and bikinis, without adornments, under-wiring or padding, in a stretchable, one-size-fits-all crinkle fabric is correctly loved for its super-soft touch and acid colours (all skin flattering) and worn by everyone from ’80s supermodels to, well, me. My classic square one-piece comes in the most delicious soft bubble gum neon pink.
And the feel? OMG, it’s like wearing a hug. The material moulds itself to your body, meaning it fits women like me who are different sizes on top and bottom. And as the material is good and thick, you feel contained – my bits aren’t going to lurch anywhere. I feel sexy but in a me way. I mean, let’s be clear, it’s not a magic suit. It doesn’t get rid of cellulite and it doesn’t have a lining so I’m pretty sure there’s going to be some transparency issues. But who cares? I found The One. And it’s a divine feeling.
This article originally appeared in the Summer 2022 issue of IMAGE Magazine. We may earn a commission if you buy something from any affiliate links on our site.