Seriously, this is really exciting for me. I have a lifelong hatred of swimsuit shopping, and the biggest reason is that the bottoms never quite matched my coverage comfort level. I’ve always felt that I had to get the boy cut to cover my entire backside, because the thought of my cheeks hanging out does not make for a relaxing beach day, but still wasn’t happy with the thigh coverage or how wide they make my hips look. So I’ve spent a lot of beach time in my life wearing my (often jeans) shorts over my suit, which was much more mentally comfortable for me than physically comfortable. I’m also super picky about the top. I generally like tankinis, because I get the coverage of a one piece without having to fully strip every time I need to use the toilet, but it’s hard to find those with bottoms that I’m happy with.
I knew a swimsuit would have to be attempted this year. I just didn’t have one that fit anymore, except for a hand me down, unsupportive one piece that was frankly embarrassing to wear. When I saw that Jalie has a shorts pattern with a built in swim bottom, it sounded like a dream come true!
So I bought the pattern, along with a one piece that looked a little more interesting and supportive than their tankini top. And the rash guard top, because I am descended from all of the palest people on earth and I’m tired of always missing a spot somewhere on my back or shoulders and getting burned! (I’ll be honest, I was seriously tempted to just use that as the top, because I will never wear just the tankini top outside now, but I wasn’t sure how to build the necessary bust support into that.) And a few pieces of swim knit from Cali Fabrics. I was hoping for an SPF fabric, but couldn’t find anything in colors and prints that I liked, and this blue and green abstract print was singing like a Siren. Of course I couldn’t resist.
The shorts came together pretty easily, especially for a first attempt at swimwear. The hardest parts were wrestling the elastic into something resembling submission, and that I still haven’t quite worked out tensioning on my coverstitch machine. But I think the finished results look good, at least when it’s on. (Thankfully, you can’t see the elastic stitching on the built in briefs, because that is a mess. My elastic technique needs practice.) The waistband construction is pretty clever, and it has pockets! I never want a normal swimsuit bottom again.
The top is ok. Hacking it into a tankini top was easy, all I did was cut it off right at the leg hole. I like the twist front, but wish the cups were better. The swim cups I was able to find (from Joann’s) are a bit unnatural in shape, at least for me, and I honestly couldn’t figure out how to sew them in with good placement and the very open mesh I was able to find to line things. I’m telling myself that since they’re still removable, that will help with washing. But I do think that whenever I need a new swimsuit, which hopefully won’t be for awhile, I’ll look for a different top pattern. Like one with cup instructions. And maybe more bust support.
The other two changes I made to this were to hand stitch the twist so it would stay in place, since it kept slipping below the seam it was meant to cover, and to cross the straps in the back. I had the length, and figured it might help with support.
I did a little hacking on the rash guard, too. My main reason was that the zippers were all too long or too short. Every time I’ve tried pulling plastic teeth off, the edge is a frayed mess, so I decided to go with shorter and change the neckline to compensate. In retrospect, that was probably the best move anyway, because I’ve never liked clothes that are too tight around my neck. The turtlenecks I sometimes had to wear as a kid were torture. So I basically shortened the neckband, drew a sort of curvy V neck down to meet the zipper, and topstitched around the whole thing with the coverstitch machine. (See that whole triangle of the wrong side of the fabric? That’s all filled in on the original pattern.) I initially had a lot of trouble with the zipper installation, since the fabric was soooo stretchy, but a little piece of this roll of interfacing-like stuff that I found in my cart of sewing essentials made it sew in like a dream after that.
As for the fabric, I was very happy working with the print, as it had just enough texture to keep it from sliding all over the place. The solid black does have a shinier finish, and was a lot more slippery. I also used some meshy stuff for the lining bits, but severely overestimated how much I needed since I was basing my estimate on a fully lined one piece! So I’m not sure what to do with nearly 2 yards of beige powernet… I guess I’m set for life if I ever want to make skintone bras. Sigh.
Aside from the top, if I were making this again, I think I’d loosen the elastic around the internal briefs just a bit. And buy as little of the mesh as I could have. But aside from that, I’m overall pleased. I made this without any size alterations (using size Y). It’s a little whiskery in the shorts, but since they’re just meant to get wet and that will probably straighten it out anyway, I’m not going to sweat it. I did test this out yesterday for an Independence Day gathering at my in-laws’, who have a pool. It didn’t fall apart (yay!), the shorts didn’t do a lot of irritating riding up like the boy cut bottoms I had before often would, and I did successfully avoid sunburn (except for one teeny bit I missed near my scalp. Arrrrgh. #palepeopleproblems)!
I can actually see myself getting some extra use out of the shorts and rash guard patterns, to be honest. The shorts could easily be used for workout shorts/bum around the house shorts, if I’m ever so inclined to make those, with the brief left out. (The pattern does actually suggest that, as tennis shorts.) And if I could find an appropriate fabric, the top could work out very well for hiking, I think! Which is something I’m trying to get back into, as much as I can with the age and listening abilities of the boys.