You would think that the word hate is a bit strong when it comes to shopping for clothing- after all it is a favorite past time for many women. But that’s exactly what David Robinson says: “ Your average woman in a swimsuit hates it; she hates going shopping for it no matter how good a body she has, she feels terrible.”
He should know. Robinson is the CEO of Speedo, the leading manufacturer of branded swimwear in the world. To learn what drives his market he has commissioned interviews with thousands of women. His findings confirm what other industry observers, like Malcolm Newberry, concluded when they estimate that the aversion to shopping for swimsuits is so pronounced, up to half of all women in Europe and the Americas don’t even bother. “Finding the right size and fit in a swimsuit is a struggle for most women; an experience a just a bit more pleasant, and not by much, than having a root canal” adds Mary Bauer, noted swimwear guru and president of the upscale specialty retailer Aqua Beachwear.
Why is that? For sure there are practical reasons. Unlike lingerie – swimwear’s close cousin – a woman does not customarily wear something over it. When lingerie does not really fit or flatter, or when there is a quality issue, few people if any other than the wearer will know. If a swimsuit does not really fit, or worse- if it has a quality issue- everybody will notice.
The right fit is probably the most important aspect in a swimsuit, probably more so than in any other item in a woman’s wardrobe. Of course the right fit gets a little trickier as the body gets affected by age. No matter how much the personal trainers and the plastic surgeons try, as the body matures, women will look to her swimsuit for some level of support.
There is of course the issue of “body image” or what the psychologists the “self-objectification”. Some people, (women, more so than men) are found to be chronically preoccupied with their appearance than others. Insecurity objectification, or what the psychologists refer to as “body shame” probably causes a lot of women to forgo the swimsuit shopping experience altogether, else make a hasty, uninformed choices to “get the process over with”.
The swimwear industry, the manufacturers and retailers of one-piece suits, tankinis and bikinis, do not do themselves any favors here either. Size information in swimsuits vary greatly from brand to brand without even a hint of standardization and conformity. And the interpretations of size information are probably twice as wild as one would expect them in other apparel items.
Material standards and quality control leave much to be desired. The use of substandard materials, a common practice in house brands, will take away from the elasticity, causing the suit not to mold to the body after a short time. To avoid this problem the consumer must know the properties of a variety of synthetic materials used – hardly a realistic proposition. Swimsuits also should undergo a series of tests to ensure that the material, the seams and the accessories hold up to chlorine, salt, sand and sun. Unfortunately only the top manufacturers of premium brands such as Gottex swim and LaBlanca do have a rigorous quality testing process.
Retailers, on the other hand, often sell swimsuits as one of many soft articles in their assortment. More often than not, the selection of suits and sizes is limited and staff training to assist customers with fabrics or fitting is awfully wanting. Swimsuits are just too different than the other merchandise for sale in the store. And because of the very nature of the swimsuit as a wardrobe item, buyers should be extra cautious of bargains and deals.