I did something this week that I haven’t done for many, many years. Something that predates even the pandemic. I went swimsuit shopping.
Actually, to be entirely accurate, I went swimsuit shopping, got stuck in a series of one-pieces in various changing rooms, and emerged sweaty and furious and cursing the patriarchy.
I’m pretty sure it’s their fault. It usually is.
I was watching Love Island when it dawned on me that I will be happily heading off to warmer climes soon and in need of swimwear.
Not, I hasten to add, that I was keen to ‘shop the look’ — just looking at some of the eye-watering ensembles on the Virgin Media show has been enough to bring on the symptoms of a sympathetic yeast infection.
But, looking at my tattered and functional swimsuit, bought some time back when Fifth Harmony were in the charts, it felt like time.
Once more unto the beach, as Shakespeare perhaps might have said if prepping for a week in the Balearics.
Between strikes and cancelled flights and staff shortages and roaring heatwaves, it’s not like heading on a sun holiday needed a fresh circle of hell, but oh, I found it in the swimsuit section.
Options were decidedly limited — is everything stuck in a pallet somewhere in the South China Sea? — and firmly placed at either end of a scale where I could have navy ‘tummy tamer’ or ‘risqué twenty-something influencer’ and nothing in between.
I’m a forty-something mum of two with a decidedly Rubenesque figure.
I don’t want to cover up in a burkini nor do I wish to don a bikini that makes me feel like a middle-aged Love Island wannabe — so where are my options?
Because this isn’t a body-hating piece. After struggling into a tummy-taming lilac suit with a plunge front that made me look like a cross between Pamela Anderson and a Ribena berry, it wasn’t my body I hated, but the industry.
I’m not abnormal. I’m a size 16, which is now the most common dress size in the UK and US, and yet options for this size and up, particularly if shopping offline, are woeful.
“I’ve too many curves for this,” I heard one woman cry out from a changing room down the line, while another muttered “everything is cut for young people” from behind a curtain.
Cut was where my major problem seemed to lie — and a similar issue raised its head when shopping for dresses — in that all size 16 one-pieces seemed to assume that I was as busty up top as I am rounded below. Which I’m not.
When I spoke about it to a stylist, she confirmed that the manufacturing standard assumes a ratio of ‘two inches smaller bust to hip’, “but about 80pc of women don’t fit that standard”, she added.
Is that not crazy? Is it too much to ask to be able to walk into a shop and see clothes that are actually made for a variety of shapes and sizes? If you’re a certain age and a certain size, are swimsuit shopping options really only ‘ass out’ or ‘tummy tame’ because, honestly, I’m just not buying it.
I remember attending the third instalment of the Fifty Shades of Grey movies, Fifty Shades Freed, at the Savoy on Dublin’s O’Connell Street and people in the audience were roaring with laughter so hard at some of the dialogue, that a die-hard fan in the front row got up and angrily ssssh-ed the auditorium.
It was a fairly bonkers cinematic moment, so it was interesting to read this week that the film’s female lead, Dakota Johnson, has spoken out about the filming process of the franchise being similarly bizarre.
In an interview with Vanity Fair magazine, Johnson, who played Anastasia Steele, revealed that filming Fifty Shades of Grey had been chaotic, with the books’ author, EL James, exerting a lot of creative control which made it “tricky” to navigate script re-writes.
“It was like mayhem all the time,” said Johnson. “If I’d known at the time that’s what it was going to be like, I don’t think anyone would’ve done it. It would’ve been like ‘oh, this is psychotic’.”
“But no, I don’t regret it,” added Johnson, who, along with Jamie Dornan, became a household name thanks to the sexy series. Not sure I can say the same for the six hours I lost in cinemas foolishly watching all three of the films.
Cancer campaigner Dame Deborah James, who passed away from bowel cancer on Tuesday, leaves behind an incredible legacy. The 40-year-old mum of two raised both money and awareness that will go on to help many affected by the same terrible illness.
Hopefully many of us will never need to feel the impact of her tremendous work as BowelBabe, but we can all learn from her final epitaph: “Find a life worth enjoying; take risks; love deeply; have no regrets; and always, always have rebellious hope. And finally, check your poo — it could just save your life.”