Thursday, June 19, 2014

Swimsuits.

I've been MIA for the past week or so due to a rather large product launch we had at work yesterday. I survived, though, with my sanity still somewhat intact. I am looking forward to having my life back, for at least a little while. I am looking forward to having enjoying having my energy back and being able to do more with my daughter on the weekends than taking her to the playground and pushing her in a swing for a half hour. There are several indoor pool/"aquatic recreation centers" near our house that look like they'd be a lot of fun for Eva, and I'd love to take her.

With that, let's talk about a subject that many of us find overwhelmingly unpleasant: Swimsuits. I do own one, and like many plus sized women, I didn't have much choice in my swimsuit. We were on vacation a little over a year ago, our hotel had a nice pool, and since I didn't own/bring a swimsuit, we ran to Target and I purchased the only suit I could find where my boobs didn't spill out in an obscene way.

I've been mentally toying with the idea of making a swimsuit so that I can have something to wear if I take my toddler to one of the local aquatic recreation centers. Of course, swimsuit patterns don't come in size "short and dumpy with a giant rack," so I'm looking at having to make significant pattern alterations and at least one muslin to come up with anything remotely workable. And unfortunately, there aren't many pattern reviews or blog posts for plus sized swimsuits out there where I could use someone else's work as a guide. We're in uncharted waters here.

I love love love the look of the Closet Case Files bombshell swimsuit (and love the look of bombshell swimsuits, in general):
Closet Case Files Bombshell swimsuit
This has been a very popular pattern in the blogosphere for the past year or so, but I can't find a single example of anyone remotely plus sized who's made it, either on Pattern Review, the pattern's flickr group, or by simply googling for blog posts. At best, there are a few women with hourglass figures who are rocking it, but they are much smaller hourglasses than I am.

Unfortunately, when I look at the line drawing, I want to run away crying when I see how small the bra portion appears to be in relation to the rest of the suit:

Bombshell line
I don't suppose anyone out there happens to know what cup size this pattern is drafted for? I can do an FBA on just about anything, but this looks like it has the potential to be a far more substantial engineering project than I am willing to take on. Blog posts and reviews have described this suit as being supportive, but supporting ~20 lbs of boobage is going to be a much greater task than I think this suit has been asked to handle by most of the bloggers who have covered this suit.

Another suit that I like the look of is Gertie's new suit for Butterick:

 
Butterick 6067 by Gertie
This pattern has the advantages of including different cup sizes (up to a D), so in theory, a less substantial FBA would be involved. However, the sample on the model doesn't fit her all that well (look at the seamline across the bust), and she doesn't appear to be particularly full-busted.

Butterick 6067 line drawing
This one doesn't seem to have any reviews anywhere yet, so I don't have a feel for if the cup sizing runs small or weird, or if they just chose the wrong model to photograph for their sample.

I'm intrigued by the idea of making my own suit--I'd love to have a suit that I potentially actually like, rather than one that I left the store with primarily because my boobs didn't spill out of it.

Have any of you tried tackling a swim suit when you knew that there would be major fit challenges involved? What pattern did you use? And has anyone with a curvy figure made up either of these patterns and just not blogged about it or reviewed it yet?

On a related note, I think it's telling that there are so few blog posts from plus sized women about swimwear. Honestly, I couldn't find a single sewing-related post by a plus sized blogger (but maybe Google missed something)? Trust me, I can certainly understand not wanting to post photos of yourself in a swimsuit on the internet. We've all read that viral blog post by the woman who posted a picture of herself in a swimsuit as a way of making peace with her body only to have the image stolen by a diet company who used it as a "before" picture. None of us want to be that person. I'm not sure what the solution is; how do we communicate about what patterns work for us and encourage each other if the only way to do that is to put yourself out there in front of a judgmental public?

 

Update (20-June-2014)


I'm updating this post to surface some of the suggestions/links given in the comments. I know that blog readers don't always read every single comment (shocking, I know), so I'm hoping that this info will be easier to find if someone reads this post in the future.

Other swimsuit patterns that go into true plus sizes

Jalie 2447 (goes up to a 50" bust, 52" hips):

Jalie 2447 line drawing

Simplicity 1374 (goes up to a pattern size 24 - 48" bust, 50" hip)

Simplicity 1374 line drawing
Butterick 5795 (goes up to a pattern size 32W, includes separate cup sizes, 54" bust, 56" hip)

Butterick 5795 line drawing
Various Pin-up Girls swimsuits (up to bust size 52"):

Denise swim suit

Princess tankini

Resources for modifying a swimsuit pattern for a curvy figure

Heather's instructions for grading the Bombshell swimsuit up beyond the size chart:

For a sewist with the following measurements:
  • 47" bust
  • 43" waist
  • 54" hip
  • 5'7" and short waisted
From Heather:

"This is the formula I would use if I was grading the pattern specifically to fit your measurements. Trace the unchanging line of the pattern piece (the center seam or the line where the fabric is placed on the fold). Using size 18 pattern pieces, measure at the widest point of the bust. You are going to extend that point by 7%. Taking the narrowest point of the waist, you should add 16% to that point. At the widest point of the hip, add 17% (I got these numbers by dividing the bust/waist/hip ratio for size 18 with your bust/waist/hip ratio). Actually, add 1/2 of the above percentages since the pattern pieces are only half and will be doubled when you cut them out. You follow so far?

Once you have your new key measurements plotted (widest bust, narrowest waist, widest hip), you can join them together with a smooth curve (tracing the curve of the size 18 piece if possible). Normally I would suggest that you also lengthen all your pieces by 106%, but since you are short waisted you may not need to. Do the above exercise using a stretchy piece of a fabric for your lining parts only and see how the fit is. If it fits okay in the length, you will not need to lengthen any pieces. If you need to add a little to your lining pieces, THEN you would add the 1.6 ratio to your ruched pieces."



Adding support to a swimsuit

Incorporating a partial bra into a swimsuit:
Beverly Johnson blog post on incorporating a bra into a swimsuit:

46 comments:

  1. I had exactly the same thoughts about the Bombshell. I LOVE the look of it, but I can't see at all how I could possibly adapt it for a G/H cup short of totally re-engineering the top of view A to be a proper bra, which, as if I have those kind of skills.

    I also know just what you mean about the photo thing. The problem is, there is no safe, non-judgmental place to be fat on the internet (or in the western world, really).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If I *do* make a suit, I'll blog it with my changes so that at least that info will be out there and will photograph it flat. But yeah, posting photos of myself in a swimsuit isn't a sword I'm willing to fall on. :P

      Delete
  2. I read this post with interest. My issues are a little different (I'm just getting old and the way my body/skin tone is starting to look is terrifying me - I still feel like I'm 23 but I'm quickly approaching O L D!!) I'm thinking of wearing something more of shorts/tank top at the beach. I've seen them made of performance fabric (Lands End? can't remember) and they are intended for "swimming".

    My breasts are really heavy and I can relate to what you are saying with respect to the bombshell perhaps not being supportive. I'm just brainstorming but here are a few ideas:

    Consider doing some snoop shopping at Nordstroms perhaps (since they also do such great bra fittings). My life seriously changed after I had a bra fitting at MyIntimacy - I have gorgeous lacy sexy bras now with only 2 hooks that support me better than the Balis I used to buy. They cost over $100 each but I don't care. I buy fewer of other things so that I can afford them. My Intimacy sells swim suits too. If you don't have one, Nordstroms does good bra fittings and perhaps the sales people there could dish on swim suits.

    Once you can try some swimsuits on that are actually engineered for women with large cup sizes (I'm an E cup and honestly don't need the mammogram personnel to tell me I have the heaviest breasts they've ever seen every single year) you may get some great sewing ideas there. You may also love their suits so much that you'll decide you are done.

    My bras from M.I. have lasted me years by the way. I seriously love that place.

    My other thought was to first tackle making a good supportive bra. After that, how about making a bra out of swimsuit material and then figure out how to integrate that into a swimsuit you love?

    I thought I'd also mention that I can't wear a halter top bathing suit at all. My neck aches from supporting the weight of my breasts after just half an hour or so.

    One last thought is perhaps you could throw up a private blog and grant permission to other plus size sewists where people could share reviews with each other???

    My ideas may be nuts but I'm sharing in hopes that they will at least help you brainstorm or just add to the conversation. This is a great topic and I can't help but feel I'm not the only one who is glad to read about this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had making a bra first in my head as a possible jumping point too. Then you know how to construct the bones of something to hold them in and go from there.

      Delete
    2. If I did one of the neck-strap style swimsuits, I'd have to change it to a racerback (or modified racerback). That's the only style suit I've tried that didn't kill my neck and seemed to offer decent support without having the straps slip off my shoulders.

      I wouldn't even know where to start with making a bra. I took Anne St. Clair's class a while back, but that was a number of pounds and several cup sizes ago.

      Delete
    3. Glad to see you address the halter style issue, as my first thought was there is no way that I could wear a halter style (tied behind neck) without serious neck/back pain. My suit this year is a racer back takini top with shorts made from a material that feels like paper almost, yet dries almost instantly. The shorts have a built in panty for coverage. I intend to carefully copy both pieces for future patterns, as I think it's my favorite suit ever! Good luck with your quest!

      Delete
    4. That sounds like a great suit, Nursebennett!

      Delete
  3. OKay, here's a swimsuit question, especially for anyone with a bust: Why, oh why, do so many suits have neck straps? They are just not practical. They can cause real strain and pain on the neck, can come untied, especially under the pressure of breast weight, and often don't have good bras, and aren't very swimmable.

    Have you thought of doing a tankini? Maybe with some ruched panel shorts and a funky tank with layered straps?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My my-boobs-don't-spill-out suit from Target is a tankini, and I like it because I was able buy a larger size for the top part than the bottom. Plus, it's long enough that I don't show skin around my midsection. A suit like what you're describing would definitely be an option if I could find a pattern.

      Delete
    2. Jalie has a tankini pattern ...

      Delete
    3. I'm aware of the Jalie pattern--it's nice, but it's a sportier style than I'm looking for, and Jalie drafts for a completely different body type than mine.

      Delete
    4. I wonder if we have the same Target tankini top?

      And now. A rant.
      Why do so many designers-- patterns or clothes-- assume larger women aren't also athletic women? I work out every day, usually for a minimum of 45 minutes. I lift weights. I have broad, muscular shoulders, defined calves, quads, and hamstrings. But I also have a gut and and a butt. Jalie drafts for someone thin and cylindrical, which I am not. And most designers who do design for plus sizes don't think about an athletic frame. I think too many people are really convinced that larger = lazy, so fewer designers seem to acknowledge that plus sized women also need fitness wear too! I mean, I know this isn't surprising to the crowd here, but not everyone with a larger body is a lazy ass. And having suitable fitness clothes does make a difference in staying with a workout program.

      Delete
    5. Melissa (of Fehr Trade) has cute, functional exercise gear patterns that go up to a 45" bust/48" hip. I don't have any of them yet, but it would be nice to have something other than old sweats/t-shirts to walk in. I'm particularly intrigued by her XYT top with the built-in bra--obviously, that's not going to hold me for any high-impact exercise, but I do want to make it and test drive it for walking.

      Delete
    6. Thank you!!! Finding a running bra to support the girls is like looking for a grain of salt in a sandbox. I old regular bra to run because nothing else is supportive enough. I don't even bother with bathing suits.

      Delete
  4. I'm planning an adapted Bombshell soon! I'm going to take the underwired bra bit out of an old tankini, FBA, and change the straps to regular from halter neck. Can't wait to see what you do and I'll keep you updated on mine! Btw I have seen a few plus size bombshells - if you google image search ther are some on what I'd guess are size 14/16s

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh yes, please share what you do when you tackle it!

      Delete
  5. I have sewn a tankini top and boy shorts for swimming but only would wear it in my backyard as I don't have the sewing skills to sew anything with support. Good luck.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Here's the one I saw. She says Heather gave her grading instructions! I'll email Heather and see if I can get them for us :)
    http://mymodernvintage.wordpress.com/2013/07/05/bombshell-swimsuit-pattern-review/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, that's funny! I started following Jeri's blog fairly recently and didn't realize that was her from the images on flickr. I've noticed a trend of that suit doing wonderful things for a woman's booty. I'd be very interested in the grading instructions.

      Delete
    2. Here are the instructions she gave (interesting using %s rather than inches):

      Sure, they are....

      47 bust
      43 waist
      54 hip
      Also I am 5'7" and short waisted
      • Reply•Share ›
      Avatar
      Heather Lou Mod Jeri Sullivan • a year ago
      Okay Jeri. This is the formula I would use if I was grading the pattern specifically to fit your measurements. Trace the unchanging line of the pattern piece (the center seam or the line where the fabric is placed on the fold). Using size 18 pattern pieces, measure at the widest point of the bust. You are going to extend that point by 7%. Taking the narrowest point of the waist, you should add 16% to that point. At the widest point of the hip, add 17% (I got these numbers by dividing the bust/waist/hip ratio for size 18 with your bust/waist/hip ratio). Actually, add 1/2 of the above percentages since the pattern pieces are only half and will be doubled when you cut them out. You follow so far?

      Once you have your new key measurements plotted (widest bust, narrowest waist, widest hip), you can join them together with a smooth curve (tracing the curve of the size 18 piece if possible). Normally I would suggest that you also lengthen all your pieces by 106%, but since you are short waisted you may not need to. Do the above exercise using a stretchy piece of a fabric for your lining parts only and see how the fit is. If it fits okay in the length, you will not need to lengthen any pieces. If you need to add a little to your lining pieces, THEN you would add the 1.6 ratio to your ruched pieces.

      Does that make any sense? Good luck!
      • Reply•

      Delete
    3. Thanks so much for posting that, Jenny! That sounds like a relatively straightforward way to get at least to the point of making a reasonable muslin.

      Delete
    4. I wonder if we can get Mrs. Hughes to talk about her experience?
      http://tanyamaile.com/2013/07/04/my-bombshell-swimsuit/

      Delete
    5. Good find! That one didn't come up in my blog search, and I wasn't following Tanya yet back when she made that.

      Delete
  7. I made Jalie 2447 for friend who is a G cup. I did a huge FBA on the cups and then sewed them together making a center seam that runs up the cups to provide coverage. For support, I added a gathered shelf bra (for lack of a better explanation) with 1" elastic around the underbust. I lined the cups with both power mesh and regular lining and added the swimwear cups in between the two layers.

    I made the straps wider (cut to 3") and attached them to the back of the suit and also to the elastic from the shelf bra. Ties on swimsuits are ridiculous.

    I made the top quite a bit longer to provide more coverage. It came out really well, and I made her another one this year.

    I'm going to learn how to make bras so that I can incorporate that knowledge into swimsuit making.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for sharing this--with the widened straps, I could see this suit having a lot of potential for a fuller figure. I see that they also give FBA instructions for this suit on the Jalie web site.

      Delete
  8. Check out this post on adding support to a swim suit:

    http://threedresses.org/2013/06/12/adding-support-to-your-swimsuit/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! I'm adding this to the "resources" section for my updated post.

      Delete
  9. Good luck with your swimsuit. Sandi of Sew much, sew stylin, sew fast is very full busted moderately full figured and made a swimsuit and posted it on her blog. She reused underwires from a RTW bra to make a supportive bra style lining if I recall. I can't search very well on my phone but try http://mamamademine.blogspot.com.au

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! I managed to find her review after I made my original post. Her suit looks great on her.

      Delete
  10. I recently made a swim suit from an old OOP Kwik Sew pattern which I have reviewed on PR.

    But you might be interested in this pattern http://sewing.patternreview.com/cgi-bin/patterns/sewingpatterns.pl?patternid=54549 which has 2 different swim suits for plus sized ladies. One is a princess style top paired with panties and the other is a wrap around one piece. Both go up to size 24W.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! Adding it to the "resources".

      Delete
  11. Beverly Johnson over at Bra Maker's Supply has a couple of suits that go up to a 52 bust. http://www.bramakerssupply.com/site2009/cart/shopdisplayproducts.asp?id=122&cat=Sun+and+Swimwear

    She just did some classes on making swimwear at a conference. Blog post here:
    http://bramakers.blogspot.com/2014/06/day-8-for-ree-floating-b-ras.html

    Since she specializes in bras, she might have something you could use and I've found them to be very helpful with advice. Although I think she's in Sweden this week. Maybe last.

    Good luck! I'd love to see someone do this successfully.

    ReplyDelete
  12. There's a recent bombshell review on PR where she had to enlarge the bust, and the swimsuit looks fantastic on her. Also, Simplicity 1374 has a similar look but goes up to a 24 and it is a tankini. It is still a halter but probably not that hard to change over to straps. I have read that some people sew an actual old bra into the swimsuit. Wishing you success!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'm pretty sure Gerti's suit is supposed to cut the bust. Her dress pattern does that too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's what I thought initially, too, but someone asked about it on Gertie's blog, and she said that the seam should go under the bust. She also said that she was going to look into adding underwires to the cups, so that might be another available tutorial/resource at some point.

      Delete
  14. I'm tempted to try the bombshell but I've only sewn swim wear for my daughter. Jalie also has a new swim pattern out (as well as several others) and they have a larger size range then most. In the mean time I also wanted to say that I'm a fan of lands end suits. They are pricey but they hold up well and hold the girls up nicely.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm planning to get my toes wet in the swimwear waters (no pun intended) by sewing a suit for my daughter first, since the only fitting issue she has is being long waisted.

      Delete
  15. Beverly Johnson's "Boob Camp" classes cover bra making and swim wear. Sure wish she would run a few of these classes here in the PNW." Her home base is E. Canada.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Here's the place she works out of....
      http://www.bramakerssupply.com/

      Delete
  16. Hiya - I just found bra patterns that go up to to a K! Thought you might be interested:
    http://www.makebra.com/products-page/bra-patterns/

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hi Michelle, the Jalie Tankini will not give the girls the support you need, the cups are way to small and widely set. I like the Butterick one, and also you should see if Kwik Sew patterns come in your size range, I like those the best!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Seeing this yesterday ... http://thequirkypeach.blogspot.com/2014/06/a-retro-swimsuit-in-fuschia.html ... made me think of your quest for a bombshell. I think the top "tube" could fairly easily be adapted for you by draping on yourself, and then lengthened so that it meets the bottoms, creating a bombshell tankini style. I would even think about just wearing a sports bra underneath and adding "straps" to the suit top to cover the bra straps.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks--I hadn't seen that yet. I actually just picked up that Simplicity pattern on sale. I figured that if Sandy could adapt it, maybe I could, too. I was thinking about maybe making up the Fehr Trade XYT top in a tankini length (someone blogged about using it as a supportive tankini top), and stealing the draping/"bombshell" details from another pattern and morphing those onto the XYT bones. This would all be after the mini-wardrobe contest, of course.

      Delete
  19. In case anyone's coming back to this... I just made a tutorial on how to grade up the Bombshell! Available here: http://www.cashmerette.com/2014/08/how-to-grade-up-bombshell-swimsuit.html

    ReplyDelete