THEY FOLLOW FAST FASHION TRENDS
I am writing this in November 2019 (Spring time in Australia) and everywhere I am seeing gimmicky shoulder straps looking like they've been pulled off of rucksacks. What can I say? They're a gimmick! I'm also seeing too many swimsuits made from a new kind of seersucker spandex. It was a big hit at the last round of fabric expos, where all the designers were so smitten they bought it, without stopping to think if it would trap sand.
If I went to Europe next May, I would be seeing fake gold necklaces used in place of spaghetti straps on halter neck swimsuits. Those will likewise look old before Europe's next Summer has even arrived.
The reason I know all of this is that long before any trend appears on the beaches, it has been decided on by the editors of WGSN. WGSN is a mafioso-like body that fashion brands pay for protection.
"Protection?" you ask. "Protection from what?"
Fashion brands want to be protected from being off-trend. Most want to be on-trend because most fashion buyers are sheep.
Some men are attracted to sheep. They build pens in the suburbs to keep them. If that is your dream, to be kept in a pen, you should buy the first trends hitting the shops in late Winter. 6 months later, look to the opposite hemisphere for their latest trends and buy another new swimsuit online.
For women not aspiring to become sheep, following trends is mistake number one. Aside from being eyed off by shepherds, you will be buying a swimsuit made to fall apart in 6 months. I know because back when I was studying fashion I took my wife's collection of out-of-date swimsuits, plus many more I bought from secondhand shops, and I unpicked them. I found disintegrated rubber in seams and spandex the shape of a spinnaker sail. I also found many clasps ready to snap, either because they contained aluminium that corrodes or were made from plastic that turns brittle when exposed to the sun.
Trendy new swimmers attract boring men and last, if you're lucky, six months.
THEY OVERCOMPENSATE FOR THEIR BODY TYPES
There is some research to suggest that people's eyes (both men's and women's) are drawn to women with waists a good deal narrower than their hips. Other than that, there is no statistical preference. What are you achieving, in that case, by buying a swimsuit with puftaloon shoulders or underwires and padding to exaggerate the size of your breasts? The way I see it, you're disguising your assets from men and women who want to admire you as you are.
Everyone knows women's clothing is meant to play tricks on the eyes, that swimsuits cut high on the hip, for example, are supposed to visually lengthen short legs and that dark coloured side panels are supposed to create the illusion of an hourglass figure. We keep it to ourselves when our eyes are not tricked. A time does come though when the bows, stripes, foam padding and underwire nonsense becomes so exaggerated that all and sundry can see that you're trying too hard.
None of this is to dismiss the idea of the miracle suit, or high waisted briefs for women post-childbirth. The point is simply that there are already too many articles breeding neuroses. The last thing the world needs is one more!
In any case, there is a point I wish to make, and it is that no one is exclusively attracted to the hourglass figure, or necessarily thinks it is the ideal. We fall in love with the person, then adopt whatever body type our lover possesses, as out own personal preference. There is actually no point, in trying to conform to a norm.
THEY BUY FLY-BY-NIGHT BRANDS
Many brands don't care what you think of them one year from now, when seam rubber has failed and clasps have all snapped. One year from now, they won't be in existence. Sometimes that is because the brand owners are serial brand starters pushing cheap stock into independent surf shops and the likes. Other times, the brand owners are simply naive. In either case, their garments are made overseas with no proper oversight.
Contrary to popular belief, poor oversight doesn't necessarily equal poor sewing. Slaves, it so happens, sew reasonably well! The main thing factories do to fly-by-night swim brands, is use thinner rubber (it's sold according to weight), and occasionally play tricks with cheaper fabric and hardware. I say "occasionally" because most owners of fly-by-night brands don't even ask if fabric or clasps are long lasting. All they care about is a low unit price.
One way to identify a fly-by-night brand, is to ask how much they have invested. Have they paid to have branded moulds made for their clasps? Is their packaging branded? Have they registered their trademark (do a quick search). Brands shoulder these added expenses when they are planning on sticking around. When they have invested in their own brand name, they have something to lose if a clasp suddenly fails.
A further and, these days, rare sign of commitment, is their own sewing factory where their managers and designers work too. With this they can have genuine oversight of quality, waste and worker conditions.
THEY DON'T WRESTLE THE FABRIC
Have you ever used rubber resistance bands in the gym to work out? That is what you should be doing with a swimsuit when you get it alone in the change room. Grip it by the waists and stretch that sucker sideways, as hard as you can—just be sure you don't break any decorative features or put holes in it with your nails.
How do you feel when you stretch it? Like Wonder Woman, able to stretch it as wide as your arms? Don't buy it. It will offer you no shape control.
You want to feel like a weakling, able to stretch it, but with great effort.
A premium self-lined swimsuit can have you pulling on 4 layers (2 front and 2 back) of 190gsm nylon/Lycra. 4 x 190 = 760. With a budget swimsuit you will be pulling on 2 layers of 50gsm lining and 2 layers of 150gsm self fabric. (50 x 2) + (120 x 2) = 400.
The flimsy swimsuit will slip on like a breeze and may look okay in the change room. Once wet though, it will look like a garbage bag in the rain. Self-lined swimsuits are the reverse. They can be hard to pull over your hips, but when they are wet they hold you in shape—especially if they have darts to allow for your bust and pull tight in your under bust region.
THEY BUY ONE SIZE TOO LARGE
When sizing any other sort of clothing, you're checking no part is too tight. With swimwear it's the opposite. You're checking no part is too loose. So where you go through life conscious of your largest dimensions—let's say your long trunk—for once you should be thinking of your smallest dimension instead. Suppose you have narrow hips: you should be choosing whatever size fits snuggly on those.
I hear what you're saying, that the swimsuit that fits snug on the smallest part of your body, will likely feel tight on your largest. That's the whole point of stretch fabric!
Swimsuits are designed to be 10% smaller than the bodies within them, but they can stretch a bit further. What you don't want are sections that aren't stretched at all. It is only when a swimsuit is stretched that gathering and seam bulk disappears and an item acquires that millionaire look us designers like to put on our models. Look at how taught the fabric is in some swimwear catalogue shoots. What you are seeing there, are size-8 models in size-6 costumes, to make sure they're stretched tight.
I'm not suggesting for a moment that you should wear yours quite as tight as those models. Models only need to be seen in two-dimensional photos. The sight of seams digging into their skin can be erased with Photoshop later. All I am saying, is think "small enough", not "big enough". You're buying stretch-wear, not cotton pyjamas.
I would also urge you to trust your tape measure. It is better than a change room, in fact. The last swimsuit I bought with my wife (not counting any I have made for her) was comfortable in every dimension. We forgot though, that she has a short trunk. We're left now with a swimsuit with non-adjustable straps that are forever falling off of her shoulders. Had we worked our way through a complete size chart, we would have chosen the size matching her trunk and accepted more tightness in the bust, waist and hip regions.
By this point you may be thinking that was the most boring article about swimwear you have read in your life. They have been the thoughts of someone who has owned the same navy blue swimming briefs for almost 6 years and who doesn't plan on replacing them any time soon. They have two features that matter to me: lining that does not admit sand and a drawstring that keeps them in place and that I can loop through my door key when I head out.
An item of swimwear, to my mind, is an expensive piece of technical clothing. When I want to make a fast fashion statement on the beach, I'll do it with a T-shirt that at least I can sleep in, when it is faded and thin. Swimwear is more of a long term investment. When we're pounded by surf, it is the only thing between us and indecent exposure.
One of the reasons I started a swim brand, was the pity I felt for most women. Those wanting to dive, swim laps or have fun in the surf, have no choice other than sports brands. But those aren't very flattering for women sun baking or being seen walking around. That is why women choose fashion swimsuits. They sacrifice the pleasure of diving and surfing for the opportunity of looking good. My idea has been to make swimmers that look sophisticated for years, outliving all seasonal trends, but which function as well as any used in the Olympics. I want to let glamorous women go nuts in the surf.
If you have technical questions of me, as a swimwear designer and maker, please don't be shy about getting in touch. I would likewise be delighted to hear from you with your suggestions. Fashion is a field I have stepped into later in life, after 3 decades in architecture. There are similarities between the two fields of endeavour, but enough difference that fashion truly intrigues me, where architecture had become stale.