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Some Thoughts on Beach Bodies

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My New Year’s Resolution Is to Buy a Winter Swimsuit

Everywhere you look in January, people are working on self improvement. Strangers preach the gospel of Drynuary, meeting the love of your life, finally saving some money — but one of the loudest messages is definitely: LOSE WEIGHT. Don’t believe me? Just check out the gym the first month of the year; it will, rest assured, be comically packed to the gills. The idea is to spend all winter working on your summer body. Our obsession with beach bodies is so maddening because, hello, if you have a body, you definitely have a beach body.

Like most women, my relationship to my own beach body — my own body — has ebbed and flowed. I was a very adorable and happy, chunky African child. My weight fluctuated but I never lost my confidence, even during those supposedly cruel high school years. I played sports, dated healthily, and, more importantly to me, crushed all of my enemies academically, so even though many people along the way said unkind things to me, I simply didn’t care.

Going swimming was always a top three activity for me: at the beach, at the pool, in a swimming hole, you name it — doesn’t matter, ‘cause ya girl loves that H2O! It wasn’t until college, when I moved to the States, that I experienced the humiliation of not finding a swimsuit that fit properly at some big-name store. There were soooooo many suits, how could none of them fit a size 16? Combine that with the rise of gossip blogs and their onslaught of paparazzi pictures and obsessive weight tracking of Nicole Richie/Lindsay Lohan/whoever else was famous at the time. Before long, I was taping pictures of the Olsen twins (still my fave celebs!) in my pantry as a reminder not to eat anything. The suggestive power of media, y’all. The worst.

Then my world was shattered when my mother died. I turned into a workout fiend because hashtag in denial and hashtag control issues. That summer, I lost 80 pounds! I was big, but I did not have 80 pounds to lose. I was devastated and going through intense grief, but everyone told me how good I looked. The more people complimented me, the angrier I got, because I certainly wasn’t losing weight for their approval. I was losing weight because I was in pain. Oh also, those 80 pounds? I gained them all back. Probably more, actually, but I don’t own a scale anymore, so I couldn’t tell you.  

A woman in a nice dress.
Photo: Ryan Michael Kelly/Swimsuits for All

And then a few years ago, I finally built up the resolve to buy my first bikini. Well, I guess when you’re fat, they call it a fatkini. I felt bolstered by gorgeous pictures of women like Gabi Gregg and Nicolette Mason and was ready to take the plunge. I did not, however, feel brave enough to go inside an actual store to do it. Lucky for me, it turned out that the best kind of shopping for fat girls was online shopping. I’ve ordered a dozen swimsuits from different sites and never looked back. You get to have your very own romcom trying-on-clothes montage at home!

My favorite places to buy from are Malia Mills (bra-sized! She’s a genius, so she can take all my money), Swimsuits for All (great variety, and the designer collabs with the likes of Gabi Gregg and Ashley Graham are so good), Lane Bryant (this is not your mama’s Lane Bryant — the selection gets edgier and chicer every year), and ASOS Curve (always on point). Honorary mention: While it’s currently sold out, my favorite swimsuit ever is from LLULO, a small but mighty African brand. Keep an eye on them in the warmer months when they restock, and don’t be afraid if the number on the tag is smaller than what you think you wear. Swimsuit material is stretchy!

To bring this back to resolutions, mine is very simple: new year, same ol’ me. That means not hoarding clothes for when I am X size, only keeping clothes in my closet that fit, not delaying buying something fly because I’d look better in a smaller size, and, yes, buying the swimsuit that makes me feel my best. Guess it’s true what they say about getting older: You give less f!cks. And I really look forward to starting the year with a new suit.

This lil’ catcus number is the current 2017 winner. There’s a direct flight from JFK to Palm Springs, so if you’re an obsessive flight planner like me and you need sun during what will surely be a bleak winter, you can live your best desert dreams by copping a flight for under $350. What a steal. See you at the pool. Aminatou Sow, editor-at-large

Crappy Brand T-Shirts to Buy Before They Become Fashion
Girl in DHL T-shirt

Not so long ago, an intrepid fashion collective sent a ripoff of an unassuming Champion sweatshirt-sweatpants combo down the runway, slapped a $1,400 price tag on it, and called it a day. This was met essentially with the five Kubler-Ross stages of fashion acceptance: shock, anger, asking yourself if you’ve suddenly been transported to an alternate universe where Champion is cool, realizing that the answer is yes, and finally, finding yourself in the unexpected position of severely thirsting for said Champion sweatshirt.

Over the past three years of its existence, Vetements has attempted to do the same for a wide array of seemingly un-fashion brands. Last year’s haute couture presentation featured collaborations with 18 of them, from Carhartt to Reebok, Kawaski Motorcycles, Eastpak Backpacks, and Juicy Couture (!).

Before you ask “But why,” don’t. You know why. You know Vetements is half-visionary, half-troll, like everything else cool post-2016. So instead of asking “Why?” ask yourself, “What other seemingly dumb brand's merch should I be copping before it becomes Vetements-level expensive?” We've got some ideas for you.

See the full list here >>
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ADAY Don’t Stop Top, $60

Last year, while writing about the death of the sporting goods industry, a source shared a thought from her high school soccer coach. “For training, both on and off the field, we subscribed to the idea of ‘look good, feel good, play good,’” she told me.

This really stuck with me because it sort of validated the effort I put into my gym outfits. Not only do I think about which leggings will look best with which top, but I’m also deciding what looks best during yoga or spin. On the surface, it might seem like I’m doing this for vanity. But I don’t care about my gym outfits for the finance bros pumping iron to my left; I do it for me.

About two years ago, I began taking classes at Vixen, a Beyoncé-themed dance workout that also touches on this “look good, feel good” theme. I started becoming hyper-aware of my torso and stomach, mainly since we spend a lot of time concentrating on moving those areas, but also because a lot of my fellow dancers wear crop tops (or tie their shirts to look like one). I’m more of a baggy muscle tank top-type of “athlete,” or whatever Soulcycle has brainwashed me into calling myself, so I was concerned this kind of look would make me feel too exposed.

I finally caved, though, and decided to give ADAY’s Don’t Stop Top a chance. I can report that while, yes, I definitely feel exposed, I also have a a totally different workout experience while wearing it. The top is fitted and has a scooped neckline and armholes, so it doesn’t cut in anywhere. The material is stretchy and moisture-wicking and the back is ventilated, so the shirt’s really breathable. 

It runs pretty small, which honestly has me wanting to cover my stomach any time I’m doing anything other than standing. But it’s great for dance classes, especially if it’s paired with high-waisted leggings.

I’m still not totally over the instinct to cover my stomach, but I will say that wearing this top is really helping me appreciate my body shape more. Some people like to wear crop tops because they’re cute and trendy. Others, like myself, find this silhouette to be extremely flattering for the petite and curvy, and when I wear this top to a dance class, I basically feel like I can be a backup hip-hop dancer. I might not have the coordination, but at least the outfit is on point. —Chavie Lieber, senior reporter

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