Thursday, June 22, 2017

Embracing the Swimshirt


It’s swimsuit season! Nothing brings on body anxiety quite like those three words. This year, I found a new piece that will make my trips to the pool much more bearable: a stretchy mock turtleneck. I’m no surfer, but I’ve become a huge fan of the rashguard. Here’s what I learned along the way.

Women who are comfortable in their own skin take care of it

Just after school let out last June, my daughter and I met a slightly older and wiser friend and her daughter at a local pool. The girls happily splashed around and swam, playing with pool toys like two golden retrievers in the water. After about an hour had passed I was miserable; I felt like my shoulders were on fire. I reapplied my SPF 70 sunscreen while casting an envious glance at my friend, who looked cool and calm in her rashguard. I said, “You’re so smart to wear a swimshirt.” She replied with a wave of her hand, “I just can’t fight with the sun anymore. I’m over it.” And suddenly, I had an epiphany. I have incredibly sensitive skin. There is a history of skin cancer in my family. Why was I wearing spaghetti straps and exposing my shoulders to sunburn over and over? Why was I continuing to fight a losing battle with the sun?

Next time you’re at your neighborhood pool, take a look around. You’ll probably find one or two women who are taking exceptional care to protect their skin. They might be wearing a Kentucky derby-type sunhat or sitting on the side of the pool with a cover-up on. They are confident and comfortable in their own well-protected skin. I aspire to be one of them.

Swimshirts Feel Fantastic

I don’t remember swimshirts being available when I was a kid in the late '80s and ‘90s. It was either a one-piece tank suit or a bikini, and if you got a sunburn and needed more coverage, you could get away with throwing a t-shirt on over your suit. Tanning beds were popular and little attention was given to the negative effects of sun exposure. But thankfully, rashguards have gone mainstream and aren’t just for surfers anymore. They’re widely available and inexpensive, and last season I was able to get one for $20 online. It arrived in time to pack for our family vacation, but I had my doubts. Would I really be comfortable wearing it? Wouldn’t it get hot? I brought along a regular one-piece halter swimsuit, just in case the rashguard didn’t work out and I needed it.

My worries were unfounded. After swimming around in my rashguard for just a few minutes, I felt like one of the von Trapps in a playsuit made of old drapes.  I was pleasantly surprised by how lightweight it felt in the water. I could play water tag with my daughter and not worry about a wardrobe malfunction. There is something very freeing about wearing an item of clothing that is the fashion equivalent of a potato sack--it doesn’t get much more comfortable than that.

A Rashguard Will Make You Look Younger

My daughter and I ordered lunch poolside one day during our vacation. We went back into the water to swim, and a few minutes later my daughter said, “Look, our food is here!” When we made it back to our chairs, the waitress said to me, “Oh, I thought you must have left. I didn’t recognize you out in the water...you looked like a young girl out there.” Now, I am only five feet tall, but I’m no spring chicken. I’ve been “thirtysomething” for a few years. Score one for the swimshirt.

I Am Modeling Sun Safety

I always wear a seatbelt in the car, and I always wear a helmet while riding a bike. Shouldn’t I also model sun safety? I truly believe that every body is a beach body and that women should wear whatever kind of swimsuit they feel best in, whether that’s a bikini, a tanksuit, a rashguard, or a burkini. Because of my skin type, I know that more fabric is best for me. My daughter shares my fair skin, and I want her to see me protecting myself from the sun as I encourage her to protect her own body. I want to ensure that we’ll both be around for many more summers together.  

Summer Reading

Have you ever heard the story of the woman who invented the modern swimsuit and water ballet? I love Shana Corey’s picture book biography of Annette Kellerman, titled Mermaid Queen: The Spectacular True Story of Annette Kellerman, Who Swam Her Way to Fame, Fortune & Swimsuit History! It’s a quick, interesting, informative, and beautifully illustrated book about a woman who challenged conventional norms. I always enjoy sharing Shana Corey's books with my daughter, and this one is perfect for summer.

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