Today I have a whole new respect for the swimsuit industry. I'll admit that there have been more than a few times that I have bad-mouthed them; perhaps even used expletives.
It just seemed like they could never get it right. I mean, if the intimate apparel industry can get it right, why can't the swimwear folks get it? We women are not all the same size and shape. And, for goodness sake, can't a mom have a cute swimsuit that is actually flattering?
I give you exhibit A:
This swimsuit looked adorable on the internet model. And, it looked adorable when I opened it up. When I put it on... well... it was OK. However, I felt the need to wear a well-fitting bikini top underneath it.
I wore it to the pool. I was excited. I got in the water. I looked like I had a giant wet blanket draped over me. I was unhappy.
I still really, really wanted to love this swimsuit. So, I took it in on the sides. It looked pretty good after that. Unfortunately, it was NOT comfortable.
The culprit? These cute little white straps beside the (shall we say) chest area. They start on the sides and are supposed to tie behind the neck. The problem? It really hurts to have a wide slab of spandex supporting your chest when starts below your armpit, goes around your shoulder and ties in the back.
That's when I knew I would have to do something drastic. I certainly did not want to waste this super cute bathing suit, but I was not willing to be in pain. And finally it hit me... A BIKINI!!
Yes, I was nervous. I have no serger or fancy sewing equipment. And, let's face it, the last place you want to have a major wardrobe malfunction in at the neighborhood pool. But at this point, what did I have to lose?
I felt like a mad scientist today. I made it all up as I went along. I wasn't sure what I was going to get exactly. But I had a whole day to do it.
I started by by pinning the bikini top inside the suit to get a general idea of where to cut the top. The first cut was the scariest. Then I cut the back side of the top right down the middle.
For now, I took the bikini top out. I carefully removed the ill-placed white straps. I didn't want to lose the rushing effect on the front side, which meant I would need to sew before I cut. With the suit turned inside out, I matched the top edge of the pink front to the top edge of the pink back and stitched the sides together BEFORE cutting off the straps. I did this to both sides and I saved the white straps for later.
I pinned some elastic just below the "shelf bra," as they like to call it. (Seriously, who makes these things?) I cut a piece of elastic that was longer than I needed, and I used a short zig-zag stitch. I stretched the elastic ever so slightly and stitched it into the front panel first. Then, I pinned the elastic to the sides with a slight upward angle.
I trimmed the extra fabric off the sides below the elastic and finished off the edges. Then I folded the elastic up and top-stitched it. As you can see, there was quite a bit of seam allowance left over, which came in very handy.
I folded the extra seam allowance down and pinned the bikini top to that. I wanted to avoid any extra visible seams. I stitched it in where I could; the middle and a little bit on the sides.
I trimmed off the sides of the (striped) bikini top. Making sure that I molded the bikini top into the shelf bra as much as possible, I pinned the very top of the bikini top (where the straps would be) to the top of the suit.
Remember the old white straps? I cut both in half, so that I would have four (shorter) straps. Two of these became the shoulder straps and were pinned right where the striped bikini straps used to be. I sandwiched then between the two suits. I top stitched the straps into place, trying very carefully to sew directly over the existing seam.
The other two white straps were sewn to the back of the top. I added them to both sides so that I could tie it closed in the back. I apologize for the poor picture quality here.
Top is done. Now on to the bottom. The bottom was WAY easier. First I had to decide how high I wanted the bottoms to be. I was trying to maintain a retro feel to the suit, so I decided to make them fit just below the belly button. I added an extra inch to the height and cut away. I added another extra inch to the front side so it would be higher than the back.
For the back of the bottoms I used the same elastic technique as above. First I sewed the elastic to the top inside edge. Then I folded it under and top-stitched it down.
The front of the bottom was slightly more tricky. There was a ruching effect in front that I didn't want to lose. And I didn't want the front to have a visible seam at the top.
To accomplish the ruching, the front had three layers; a lining, a base layer and and ruching layer. I folded the lining and base layer to the inside of the suit and sewed them down. I did not sew the top layer down this way because I did not want the seam to show.
Here is what I did instead. After sewing the bottom two layers down, I folded the seam open and sewed the ruching layer to the inside of the seam allowance. This is the same technique I used the merge the two bikini tops together.
This is what the inside of the front looks like.
The last step was to make a small seam on each side to make sure that the front doesn't unfold.
And there you have it! A complete swimsuit overhaul. I like to think that I saved this swimsuit. Tonight I am in love with it. Fingers crossed for no wardrobe malfunctions tomorrow...