THE BATHING COSTUME

I have just been through the annual pilgrimage of torture and humiliation known as buying a bathing costume. When I was a child, the bathing costume for the woman with a mature figure was designed for a woman with a mature figure. Boned, trussed, and reinforced, these costumes were not so much sewn as engineered. They were built to hold back and uplift and they did a darn good job.

Today, stretch-fabric bathing suits are designed for the prepubescent girl with a figure chipped out of marble. The woman with a mature figure has little choice. She can either front up at the maternity wear department and try on a floral costume with a skirt and come away looking like a hippopotamus that has escaped from Fantasia - or she can wander around any run-of-the-mill bathing costume departments and try to make a sensible choice from what amounts to a designer range of flora rubber bands.

What choice did I have? I wandered around. I made my choice and disappeared into the small chamber of horrors known as the fitting room. The first thing I noticed about the bathing costume was the extraordinary tensile strength of the stretch material. The Lycra that goes into bathing costumes was developed, I believe, by NASA to launch small rockets in a sling shot. And it comes with the bonus that as long as you can lever your body into a Lycra suit you can protect your vital organs from shark attack, the reason being that any shark foolish enough to take a swipe at your passing midriff would immediately suffer from jaw whiplash injury.

I fought my way into the first costume but as I twanged the last shoulder strap in place, I gasped in horror. My bosom had disappeared. I found one cowering under my left armpit. It took a little longer to find the other flattened beside my 7th rib. The problem is that they don't have bra cups. The mature woman is meant to wear her bosom spread across her chest like a speed bump. I realigned my speed bump and turned to the mirror to make a full-view assessment. The costume fit all right. Unfortunately it only fit those bits of me willing to stay inside it. The rest of me oozed out of the top, bottom and sides. I looked like a lump of playdough wearing an undersized piece of cling wrap. As I tried to work out where all these extra bits of me had come from, the sales girl poked her head around the curtain. "Oh, they ARE you" she gasped, admiring the bathers. "Yes they are ALL me" I replied, looking at the extra bits, "what else have you got?"

I tried on a crinkled cream one which made me look like designer tape. I tried on a floral two piece which made me look like an oversized napkin in a napkin ring. I struggled into a pair of leopard skin ones with a ragged frill and ended up looking like Tarzan on an off day. I donned a black one with a net midriff and looked like a jellyfish in mourning and I tried on a pink pair whose legs were so high cut I would have needed to wax my eyebrows to wear them!

Finally - success. I found the one that fit. A two piece with a short-style bottom and halter neck top. It was cheap, comfortable, and bulge friendly. I bought it. When I got home I read the label. "Material may become transparent in water." I am determined to wear it. I just have to learn how to do the breaststroke on dry land.


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