Bikini shopping after birthing three kids is an itsy bitsy descent into hell

The one-pieces were substantial, but they were all completely wrong. Either they had no breast support, so my boobs hung limply beneath the spandex, or they had huge built-in cups that gave off Barbarella vibes. (And besides, one-pieces aren’t ideal on a beach holiday. You don’t want to come off the sand all hot and sticky, peel your swimmers down to your ankles, and sit naked in a public bathroom. One-pieces are for women who can hold their bladders all day, or who are happy to wee in the sea.)


Alas, the two-pieces were disastrous, too. Whoever is designing these things has much bolder women in mind than me. There were rows of bandeau tops that would definitely slip off, microscopic briefs that would definitely ride up, and white bathers that would definitely become translucent when wet. I was hoping for some colour after my years of funereal black, but the range of vivid patterns made me feel a little woozy. Emerald and green stripes. Orange and brown leopard print. Purple and cream floral. Yellow and black swirls. Are we women, or are we peacocks? I just wanted a bit of colour, not to flutter my feathers by the pool.

Still, I pushed on. I spent hours under harsh change room lights that screamed “Buy fake tan!” and “Do sit ups!” and “Get some more sleep!” I tried on tops that made me look completely flat, and tops with cups that my poor little boobs swam in (and not at all in a fun, pool party way). I tried on matronly bottoms that came up past my navel, and a pair of tiny briefs that left my cheeks on full display.

“Such a lovely colour!” enthused a salesgirl as I regarded my rear in the mirror. For a moment, I thought she was referring to my bum.

I discarded pile after pile of hideous polyester. I thought wistfully of winter, and of being 18, and of the eighteenth century, when women wore frocks into the water.

Then, just as I was losing hope, I found a decent option. It was made of recycled nylon, which pleased my sustainable heart, and was a nice, muted pattern, which was easy on the eye. It wasn’t ideal – the bottoms were slightly too skimpy and slightly too expensive, so I paid rather more money for rather less coverage. Still, it was worth spending more just to end the ordeal, and to get out of that store with my modesty intact.

Swimsuit shopping is truly a descent into hell. These bathers better last me another five years.

Kerri Sackville is an author, columnist and mother of three.

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