by chichi offor
I remember a time where a swimsuit was practical and only that. You’re going to get in the water? You need something that’ll do the job. The job of clothing you through the splashes, but also the job of hiding your body. So for a while, this hideous blue and brown tankini with a skirt was my go-to. That was around elementary school. After I outgrew it, I just started using my mother's simple navy blue Nautica one piece with shorts for any and all aquatic activities. The suit was purely function and nothing else. I never got the excitement friends and schoolmates shared when it came to picking out your new swimsuit for the summer. Maybe that’s because for me there was nothing to be excited about. I thought, I won’t look good in a suit if I tried, so what’s the point of getting excited about it.
Fast forward through middle school awkwardness to high school frenzy to my college years. I somehow managed to avoid buying a bathing suit for over eight years, relying solely on my mom’s Nautica one piece or a combination of gym shorts and tank tops for the few times there was a possibility of a pool. At this point the media, fashion and the images I’d grown accustomed to seeing on a regular basis had a major shift. For the first time, I saw larger bodies in a positive light. I began following many plus size models and fashion pages on Instagram. Yes, through the sometimes-toxic online social space, I slowly started building some semblance of body confidence.
After a few years of scrolling through the pages of plus Instagram, something unexpected happened. I actually started looking forward to surfing the web for a cute suit that I could don through the upcoming vacation season. The summer of junior year was the time. I was going to study abroad in Europe. I didn’t know exactly when I’d need the suit, but I knew that I wanted to be ready when the time arrived. I took the task of finding the perfect suit very seriously. It was my debut after all.
Although it was just a few years ago, finding a cute plus size swim suit on a college student budget wasn’t super easy. The only brand that I remember having a solid selection with suits that didn’t resemble a garbage bag was Forever 21 Plus. After keeping a close eye on their swimsuit catalog, I decided on a leopard print bustier one piece. When I finally got it, a wave of happiness and relief washed over me. Not only did it fit and look fucking amazing, but for the first time in my life I was like everyone else. I was giddy about swimsuit season, and that’s a feeling I’ll never forget.