Confession: I am deeply affected by aesthetics. I struggle with this concept, because I don't like to think of myself as a superficial person. But I am emotionally and physically moved by beautiful things. You know when something is so good it hurts? So while I aim to be a person of greater substance, I'm aware of how visual appeal influences my choices. In terms of sewing, I've observed this when it comes to pattern selection. I find myself scrolling past designs that don't appeal to my personal style without giving them a second thought. Later I'll see a stunning project using the very pattern I disregarded and am floored by how much vision the maker had. It's a huge source of inspiration, but at the same time leaves me feeling a bit narrow-minded. A true creative can look past styling or fabric choices that are different from their own and I really admire that. So I'd like to say that today I'm sharing with you the progress I've made in this area, but I’m afraid not. With the intent of self-reflection, today I’m taking you with me down a different path.
I've been subscribing to the "no fear" philosophy in sewing for a while now, so it was only a matter of time before I tackled my most recent challenge: swimwear! Plans started to take shape during a routine trip to Joann's when I found what looked to me like swimsuit fabric. It was stretchy and shiny in a really sleek dolphin grey, had a Nicole Miller label and was priced for clearance. I was sold. (An uninformed choice, based solely on appearance. I didn’t even check the exact content or percentage of stretch. Bet you can guess how that went.). I picked up lining & elastic and started searching for a pattern. My inspiration was the one-pieces in this year’s J. Crew collection but I hadn't seen too many pattern options. I had just about settled on Laminaria by Tuesday Stitches (Seamstress Erin) when I decided to check out vintage patterns on Etsy. I was completely swept away by the styling of the late 70’s & early 80's. Some of my earliest memories are of my mom in a super shiny one-piece, glammed up in full hair and makeup (rouge + perm, natch) for a day at the pool. So when I came across the gorgeous ladies illustrated on the envelope of Stretch & Sew's V-swimsuit from 1979, I wanted to be one of them. Laminaria is similar in so many ways, it probably would have been the smarter choice. It's hard to beat the detail of indie pattern instructions, plus it has a sew-along. But I had fallen so in love with the image of those ladies so I clicked through to purchase. Here's the rundown:
Pattern: Stretch & Sew V-swimsuit; version A
Fabric: Nicole Miller nylon/spandex from JoAnn, exact content & percentage of stretch unknown; nude power mesh also from JoAnn
Size: Graded between 34 at the bust to 38 at the hip (my measurements put me just under 36 and 40, so I went with the smaller size)
Changes: I followed the version A construction method for the most part. Instead of soft halter ties I wrapped my ties in elastic and attached them to the back, straight down on either side. I also chose to fully line the suit with power mesh and added a shelf bra because I’m not fancy-free like they were back then, if you know what I mean (wink, wink).
Verdict: This was my first attempt, so I consider the fact that it actually came together and fits as major wins. It isn’t the most beautiful thing to look at when it’s just laying there, but once it’s on you really don’t notice the imperfections. My biggest regret is the fabric. My impulsive choice based on color was not the wisest. The wrong side of the fabric is a lighter grey, so it shows through at the stress points- most notably at the side seams. The questionable percentage of stretch must factor in here as well, or maybe I should have sized up. For my next attempt I will 100% choose a fabric marketed for swimwear. I can’t say with certainty if the power mesh as lining was a smart choice. But I don’t think it was a bad one. Regarding the pattern itself, I know it’s unlikely that you’ll try the same one. Even so, I think it's a good one and the instructions were very clear and helpful. I’d say vintage swimwear patterns are a viable option.
I admit the takeaway here is a bit feeble. I chose a pattern because the illustrations were pretty and it worked out alright. Will I do that again? Probably. But I hope my future self will remember this reflection and not limit her options solely based on aesthetics. It can be a really positive thing to question why we make the choices that we do.
There are a ton of photos of this project. So even though this isn’t a tutorial, I hope they help other first-timers visualize the process.
If you’re still reading at this point you may be wondering where the photos of me actually wearing the swimsuit are. Spoiler: there aren’t any. Rest assured, my body image is fairly heathy and I’ll wear this swimsuit with pride. It’s nothing more than a personal choice to limit how much of myself I share on the internet. To see this one in action you’ll have to catch me on the sand or at the pool...if you can! I’m usually hiding under an umbrella or in a caftan. Stay protected, friends. And if you make your own swimwear, tag it #nofearnewswimsuit so I can see!