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No Vacation? Why You Still Need a New Swimsuit

No Vacation? Why You Still Need a New Swimsuit
May 28
15:19 2020

By Lauren Mechling

SWIMSUIT SHOPPING is fraught, even in the best of times. Greeting my pale thighs and under-buttocks in a fitting-room mirror has never been my idea of fun, so my annual suit refresh is: Grab, go and hope for the best.

This year, with the coronavirus pandemic knocking the world off its axis and quashing summer travel plans, women who, like me, dread the swimsuit reup are off the hook. Holed up at home in Brooklyn these past months, I’ve found my virtual shopping cart has mirrored my ultra-confined lifestyle: shapeless sweats and T-shirts from direct-to-consumer brand Entire World and a pinstriped face mask. Even as the weather improves and restrictions begin to lift, I haven’t been in a swimmy frame of mind.

This summer will be about seizing windows of summer-ness, and I’m warming to the idea that a new suit might help that cause.

“Why bother?” agreed Missy Fojtik, a Chicago mother of three. Even though she and her family will be spending most of the summer by the water at their Michigan lake house, Ms. Fojtik is sitting out this bathing-suit shopping season. “I’m not going anywhere special, and I’m not going to be meeting anyone new, so last year’s styles will have to do.”

But many women, more than you might imagine, are taking a different stance on the Covid swimsuit conundrum. Chalk it up to willful optimism, or just an urge to take one’s elasticized WFH wardrobe outdoors. Leading the pack is tennis champion Venus Williams, who posted on Instagram a picture of herself quarantining at home in Jupiter, Fla., in a white bathing suit, captioned in part, “I can’t stop putting swimsuits on when I wake up.”

“Swimwear is the only thing selling on my site right now,” confirmed Mara Hoffman, founder and creative director of an eponymous line. Though, in normal times, swimsuits make up only 45% of her online sales, she’s recently seen that number jump to close to 70%. “People might not be going to parties and weddings this summer,” she said, “but they can show up at the park looking cute in a swimsuit—even from a 6-foot distance.”

“Having a new suit is a lot less expensive than a vacation,” reasoned Sabra Krock, co-owner and creative director of Everything But Water, a swim-focused retailer with 95 shops across the U.S. With about half of its stores currently closed, the company has started offering digital consultations, during which a senior stylist will engage with swimsuit-minded quarantiners via video chat.

But for optimistic rooftop sunning—which is the extent of my vacation plans—wouldn’t last year’s suit do? The pros caution against taking this vital part of the summer wardrobe for granted. Manhattan fashion stylist Alexandra Loeb warned that swimsuits are among the first garments to wear out, and will sag unbecomingly. “The elastic stretches, and the color fades in the sun and saltwater and chlorine,” she cautioned, making me think twice about my plans to forgo the purchase. “It is not an indulgence,” said Ms. Loeb, who pointed out that everybody, even the most landlocked, has access to a stoop or a park.

This summer will be all about seizing little windows of summer-ness, and I’m warming to the idea that a fresh new bathing suit might help that cause. I was further persuaded to embrace this carpe-diem attitude while watching my 5-year-old daughter prance around the living room in a fruity-colored bathing suit while on a recent FaceTime “beach playdate.” So I roused my laptop from sleep and perused this season’s offerings, from Mara Hoffman’s colorful maillots to Anemone’s works of monochromatic magnificence. “A great suit is untrendy and gorge,” professed Sydney-born Ilona Hamer, who co-founded cult label Matteau with her sister Peta Heinsen. Her brand’s one-pieces and bikinis are appealingly simple and, yes, “gorge.”

The suit that I fell hardest for, though, is a one-piece from the Australian label Ephemera, founded by Saint Laurent alum Nicole Banning. It has a square neckline, ruffled shoulders, and a gingham print that reminds me of picnics and the majestically creepy Lonely Doll children’s books from the 1950s and ’60s. Not the most pandemic-appropriate, but maybe that’s the point? It will be just right for a park hang, paired with jean shorts and flat sandals. And ordering it online in multiple sizes to try on at home spared me the horrors of the fitting room (a dignified process I will carry into post-pandemic life).

“This summer is for days spent in a bathrobe and whatever you want underneath,” said Carla Lalli Music, Bon Appetit’s Brooklyn-based food editor at large. For Ms. Music, what lies beneath will be a new suit from designer Malia Mills. “Nothing is normal anymore,” Ms. Music said, “but at least I have one goal I can see through ‘til this is over: Never wear pants.”

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Tarannum Naaz

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