Be Your Own Pin-Up! DIY Swimwear!

BlogHer Original Post

It's summertime! And for many of us that means opportunities to get half naked and run around in the sun. I've never liked wearing a regular bathing suit. I have this ginormous RED birthmark covering one entire ass cheek and half my upper thigh and I've always hated it.

Rather than obsess about proper body image issues and loving oneself or whatever I have always just gone ahead and let myself not want to wear a regular suit. Board shorts are great and they are in style for women now so you can find stylish options in the whole range of sizes. However, lately I've found that board shorts are no longer working for me. They are too heavy when wet and sort of ride up my bum.

sailor jerry swimdress from 2006

Right before BlogHer '06 (the infamous BlogHer Con where Liz jumped into the hotel pool while wearing a ball gown; see photos here), I found the most amazing swimdress at Macy's. I wore the heck out of that thing for four years. It was so perfect! As May came around and our two-week Hawaiian vacation came closer, I realized that it was too old and stretched out to work anymore. The solution was clearly that I needed to make my own suit.

Of course, I trolled the internet to see what bloggers before me had come up with on this topic. The first thing I found was a great post on True Up about swimwear fabrics. That's a good place to start; it will give you some solid resources for buying fabrics. Sewing with a new type of fabric can be daunting, but I am here to tell you that, if you have the right tools, sewing with swimwear fabric is a total breeze.

Next up was looking for patterns. I was not holding out much hope to find an actual swim dress pattern, and was hoping I wouldn't end up having to mess about with tracing the old dress, which is doable but not ideal. Erin of Luck and Bliss did go that route: She cut up an old, not-quite-right suit to use as a base for her swimsuit project. Her swimwear tutorial is a good read, with lots of pictures to illustrate her process.

kwik sew swim dress pattern! so easy!

But without too much trouble, I found not one but two swimdress patterns, both from Kwik Sew and both very cute. I picked the one that looked easiest -- it was just a dress without an attached suit -- figuring I would just wear bikini bottoms under the dress. I also went to Pattern Review to see what other sewists had to say about the pattern I picked out. The Pattern Review site and blog are invaluable resources for sewists; people give reviews and show pictures of finished projects, and you can get a good idea of the ease, or not, of a pattern before you start.

For the first dress, I used an 8oz, four-way stretch nylon Lycra and I sewed the size large. It ended up too big, and I was kind of annoyed, since that was my favorite fabric of the bunch. Fortunately I'm a fabric whore, so I had ordered three other fabrics and plenty of lining. I sized down for the next two, and made a couple of other alterations to the pattern. The two pieces in the tops needed to be overlapped, which makes the top sturdier, keeping one's boobs in place properly with no chance of spillage -- as does the halter top alteration I made.

For both my second suits, I did some cannibalizing of old suits. I can't throw anything away, so I have this (used to be) pointless stash of old suits I will never wear again. I used the ass of an old Paul Frank bikini to make the top of my pink stars suit. It's rakish in a skull-and-crossbones way, no?

pink stars and skull swimdress IMG_5600

For my pin-up girl leopard dress I sewed in an undersuit -- an old, plum-colored Calvin Klein princess-cut suit -- and I cut up an old red bikini top to make a nice red trim and halter straps.

I think these swim dresses are flattering for all body types. So if you've been reading articles on choosing a swimsuit to flatter your body type but STILL are thinking, "Yes, but, I still don't want my behind hanging out all over the beach," one of these dresses would be a great option. Not a sewist yourself? Consider looking on Etsy Alchemy for someone to sew something for you, or try sending me a convo -- I might have some bandwidth this summer!

Tips for Sewing a Swim Dress

**Make sure you have a sewing machine needle appropriate for sewing with stretch fabrics. This will save you much grief. Use a ball point or a stretch needle. They are available at any sewing shop.

**If you are sewing a suit for an adult that you expect to last more than one season, invest in swimwear elastic. Go ahead and use regular elastic if sewing for a kid.

**Instead of cutting into your pattern, trace the size you want onto tracing paper or pattern paper of some kind.

This post was originally posted on my personal blog, Thank You For Not Being Perky.

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