The Annual Torture Of Buying Swimwear When You’re Middle-Aged

We’re approaching summer here in Sydney and my annual fear of publicly outing the middle-aged, cuddly bod, to a beach full of unsuspecting and judgmental sunbathers already has me reeling with fear.

The Annual Torture Of Buying Swimmers In Middle Age


I moved to Australia for the temperate climate but as much as I love the water, the idea of posing in swimmers and having to hold in the muffin top for most of the weekend, is hardly a relaxing idea.

It seems I’m destined to write this ‘buying swimmers’ post each year, because I know that I can’t be the only middle-aged woman out there who would prefer to disappear on leave with Tony Abbott than try on swimming costumes.

At the end of every summer season I swear that the following year I will opt for the burqini or don a kaftan, yet here I am again, the vanity of wanting to add some colour to my sallow, English skin forcing me into apparel designed for the young and nubile.

I get sucked in by the ads, you see. What wafer-thin model doesn’t look good in swimmers? As soon as Jets and Seafolly reveal their new range of full-pieces, I get excited, kidding myself that this year things will be different.

Even though they never are …unless I had the spare cash to spend on some blood-constricting, Spanx-style miracle suit, I imagine; a snip at only $300.

Nevertheless, this year I started out with a positive outlook. The experience couldn’t be any worse than last year, I kidded myself, and I know I’ve gained weight so I wasn’t exactly expecting Elle McPherson to peer back at me from the torture chamber changing room mirror. So I confidently dragged an assortment of full-pieces and tankinis ranging in price from $60 to $120 back to my secret lair of doom.

The Annual Torture Of Buying Swimmers In Middle Age
Burkqini by Giorgio Montersino at

They’re crafty, those swimwear designers. The $60 generic swimsuits fitted my body surprisingly well, but in terms of design, they had obviously been created for nanas. With their thick, wide straps, over-zealous padding in the boob area and the fugliest patterns on the front panel, (that would have looked much better on curtains in a nursing home), I just couldn’t give up that easily.

So I moved to the tankini, my favourite type of swimmers, the obvious advantage being that if like me, you need to pee every twenty minutes at the sight and sound of moving water, they’re quick and easy to disrobe. But again, while most designers make tankini tops to support lumpy, middle-aged breasts with enough boning and lycra to crush the muffin top into submission, the bottoms don’t get even close to covering a real bush.

Fifteen costumes and what felt like two hours of body contortion later, I decided that enough was enough and that if I really wanted to torture myself I could give up wine for another evening.

Swimwear Shopping for Middle-Aged Women

Fanny Durrack (left) and Mina Wylie, Australia...
Fanny Durrack (left) and Mina Wylie, Australian swimmers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I went to buy new swimmers yesterday.

Shopping for a new swimming costume when you’re over 40 must be up there with admitting how much weight you haven’t lost at a Weightwatchers meeting; in terms of excruciating embarassment.

Because designers are still not catering for middle-aged women, and that makes it so hard for us. Not to mention our self-esteem.

There are two clothing items that no middle-aged woman likes to buy – swimming costumes and jeans. They’re just so hard to get right when your body decides to re-define itself with age.

Luckily, on this occasion, I wasn’t looking for impractical ‘fashion’ swimmers – the ones you flaunt your body in as you still try to pose provocatively on the beach hoping that you’ve still got it, (all the while knowing that you haven’t).

No, I was looking for a practical, full piece suit to aid my new Olympic training sessions at the 50m pool. (Yes, you heard right – I did say 50m).

My weekly dips have obviously pushed my loyal Target swimmers to the limit of their endurance. The chlorine rot is so bad now that holes have appeared in the nipple area and the fabric sags badly everywhere else, so my boobs free-fall to the sides mid breaststroke. It was obviously time to get the right equipment – I’m not averse to skinny-dipping in a public pool but the sight of my un-encased breasts is obviously causing a discernible awkwardness among the older set when I pass too closely to them in the lanes.

My mission should have been an easy one. As I mentioned, I wasn’t looking to make a style statement and I had a budget of around a $100 because a) I take my sport VERY seriously and b) I saved it on the food shop by cutting out all the old man’s favourite junk food.

I was quite excited at the prospect, for five minutes.

I think I must have tried on forty sets of swimmers in all, although the sales assistant did remain very calm and professional throughout our ordeal, (yet typically a tad invasive – what’s with them barging in when your tits are hanging down out?). By the thirtieth costume, I had had enough and was ready to capitulate fully and buy this horror of a floral 50’s retro cozzie, partly to get out of the shop, but mainly because it was the only one I could contort my body into that was a size 14.

Generally I am a size 14 12, but do you think I could pull any of the size 12s over my muscular thighs? And even when I did, they were all so damned short in the body that they did a better job than gravity at pulling my boobs further down towards my ankles.

The experience was beyond mortifying for the assistant.

She looked at me pityingly as I stubbornly tried to squeeze my body into each tiny cozzie like sausage meat into a skin. The more I persisted requesting size 14s, refusing to consider any diaphanous suggestion in a size 16, the more she shoved those big motherf*cker maternity costumes in my face.

It was the principle of the matter.

I must have worked off 10kg in that changing room. Ever tried changing swimming costumes with straps that test your IQ, padding in unobvious places, and in a space the size of a toilet cubicle?

But finally, I found the one.

The sales assistant cracked open a bottle while I sat on the floor and wept with joy, sweat pouring down my face.

The Men’s Over 60 Swimming Club is definitely going to be a little disappointed this week, now that my breast tissue has now been firmly strapped in. Thanks Speedo.

This post was inspired by Nikki Parkinson’s post Am I Fashion’s Invisible Woman at