Sunday, July 13, 2014

swimsuit sewing saga

I can't lie to your pretty faces, so I'll say it: I hated sewing this swimsuit. But I forced myself to DO IT anyway because I didn't have a swimsuit at all, and it's still somehow a fraction of a bit better than shopping for one. Shopping for swimsuits entails fully undressing and redressing far too many times in a row, and then staring at your perceived bodily flaws under glaring fluorescent lights from all angles, and being disgusted at the fashion industry for selling us these noodley mesh things meant to be worn in front of strangers in broad daylight. Nothing has decent coverage, nothing feels comfortable, and having to overhear conversations between teenage girls in the dressing room is its own kind of hell.

So, I sew. It's desperate times, people; it's 90F degrees daily and there are pools and lazy rivers that I need to be submerged in, stat! But sewing my own swimsuit released a whole new angst inside of me, maybe partly due to the lack of air conditioning in my sewing room. Sure, you have control over style, print and coverage, but getting to that ideal state of fit was a battle. It was not an empowering process, lemme tell you. Why can't I stretch this thing over my hips? Why does it STILL not cover my whole booty? Why can't my sad little bust hold this thing up? Why are these bra cups so low, and these other ones so pointy, and these other ones as hard as concrete? Why is the suit pulling here and dragging there and dipping and gaping and rolling? Why can't I stretch elastic evenly? That muslin fit in jersey, but it's too small in spandex. Can I starve myself and fit in this by mid-week? No way, take a break and go buy a brownie pop.

First attempt, second attempt, third, fourth. Two patterns, three. Fold-over elastic wasted by the yardful. Hack, cut, slash.

Le fin. I finally eked out something wearable before I used all the spandex in my stash or flipped a table. Of course I exaggerate about my rage, but you get the idea. I think the fit was tricky because I'm a pear shape, and a one-piece swimsuit can only be put on one way: upward, over dem hips. When there's a 13 inch difference between your waist and hip measurements, that makes for some major stretchage and wriggling requirements. I almost considered cutting this thing in half but realized that would be two additional openings to elasticize. Wasn't into it, and my heart and midriff were set on a one-piece.

Here's the muslin graveyard. Let us mourn the loss of that cute green dot spandex:


I started with the Ginger Bodysuit pattern by Ohhh Lulu. It's drafted for a bigger bust and shorter body than mine, which I thought I worked out but couldn't get right after two tries. Seams were slightly different lengths, the easing looked bad in solid spandex and my side seams were slanted for whatever reason. The lower cups were also too deep, so it wasn't just about changing the apex curve. So I moved onto the Ohhh Lulu Jasmine Bra mixed with a Nettie Bodysuit body. I think the Jasmine is more flattering than the Ginger with its vertical seaming, and I knew the Nettie already fit my body length and had better rear coverage, though I still ended up adding more depth all around for public decency. 

You may recognize my fabric, so I'm sorry you have to keep looking at it on all these sewing blogs. But it's adorable! It's a pink/coral/black "abstract wildflowers" print from Girl Charlee that Heather also used for her Nettie bikini hack and Sallie recently used for her Soma bikini. The back of my suit is solid black matte spandex, and everything is flat-lined in black tricot lining, also from GC. I cut up an old bra for the cups, which are tacked in place to the wrong side of the bust lining.

I decided to go with solid black fold-over elastic (FOE) for all edges and my straps. I like the contrast and I like that I didn't have to worry about taking away any seam allowance from where I needed it most (leg/crotch openings). I was already so fed up with the whole construction process and FOE seemed like the fastest option. My FOE is from Peakbloom. A five-yard cut of solid FOE from there is only $1.45 total, which calculates to under 30 cents a yard. I'M SERIOUS. They have tons of cute prints, too, for all your handmade undie needs. The prints are slightly more expensive than the solid, but still way more affordable than JoAnn's, where printed FOE is $3.99 per yard.

However, I've worn the suit in the pool once now and the color of the FOE has already started to fade, and the black spandex on the back of suit is doing some weird splotchy effect as well. Great. I know they say (whoever 'they' are) that you're only supposed to use cotton or nylon elastic on swimwear, but I didn't want to believe it. If this suit is unwearable by the end of this season, though, I am gonna flip a table. Or, uh, just make another suit. Swimsuits are actually pretty fast to make once you have modified your pattern to fit properly! And they take such little fabric that you can squeeze two (or more!) out of one yard of spandex.

Laying flat, the suit isn't very pretty, which is why I actually modeled it on my body in front of the camera (with majorly cropped photos for everyone's benefit, trust). The back looks like a diaper cover, but I had to stretch the elastic that much so it would be snug around all curves once worn:


This strenuous exercise in swimsuit fitting was worth it, I think, because I actually did feel somewhat comfortable at the pool in my finished suit. Believe me, that's rare; I haven't been in a pool in years due to self-consciousness (mostly). While I was there, I witnessed a woman hike up her suit repeatedly and actually say to her friend, "I need to hire a seamstress to fix the neck on my swimsuit so it stays up!" I almost considered chiming in, but decided that I should reserve the swimsuit sewing stress for me and my body alone. 

Have you taken the swimsuit sewing plunge yet?