I went an entire decade and a half without a swimming costume in my underwear drawer.
(Yes, I keep all swimwear in with my pants and bras and Harry Potter slipper socks and I’m assuming you all do the same?).
Swimming costumes weren’t cool. They were for profesh swimmers (of which I’ve never been – even when I got into the habit of swimming three times a week at my local pool. I always wore a bikini because lord knows I can only just break out of doggy paddle so I defs didn’t deserve to wear a Speedo number like a badge of honour).
And, aside for being from super swimmers, swimming costumes felt, well, let’s be honest here… they felt old.
And I was so desperate to feel young and cool and hip and happening and hey look at me over here swigging a WKD like a badass bitch.
So I stuck with bikinis. I tried hot pant ones and bandeau ones. I tried side tie ones and halter neck ones. I tried triangle ones and high rise one. Heck, I even went heavy on the Tammy Girl tankinis back in the day, and nothing ever made me feel good about myself, let alone feel sexy.
I get it, it’s swimwear. It’s designed for making you feel comfortable and practical whilst you wade into the sea, it’s not supposed to make you feel sexy.
And yet somehow, I feel like it is. Whilst other garments of clothing can help shape your body in the way you want it to – nipped in waists to skim over hips and midi skirts to avert eyes away from thighs and so on, swimwear, well, swimwear doesn’t let you hide.
It doesn’t let you try and distort the way your body actually looks. It clings to you, it bares all. It shows off every lump and bump and stretch mark and mole. Not just to the world – but to yourself.
It doesn’t let you hide from the things that scare you. It faces you to accept the reality of the way you look.
And so yeah, I’d like swimwear to make me feel sexy. To make me feel good about myself, to make me feel confident and brilliant and like a great version of Hannah Gale, rather than a pale whale rolling around in the sand.
So, about two years ago I invested in my first swimming costume.
Me and Chris has booked into a spa weekend in Cambridge and on arrival I’d realised that LOL brilliant, I’d forgotten to pack a bikini.
We moseyed into the city centre and I made the super grown up decision that maybe the time was right to snap up a Marks & Spencer swimming costume rather than a little striped summin’ summin’ from Topshop that would only cut off circulation to the lower half of my body.
I cried in the changing rooms. Actually cried. I cried at seeing my body. I cried at the way it looked. And I cried because it wasn’t the body I wanted.
I walked out of the shop clutching a £25 ‘tummy control’ cossie in black because it felt like the safest option for someone so clearly chubby and old and pathetic.
I love Marks & Spencer, but that swimming costume didn’t make me feel sexy. It made me feel like a write-off. It made me feel about as unattractive as a toad rolling around in dog poo.
It did a job. It covered up my tummy and it covered up a lot of my bum, and it made me feel just a tinier bit happy whilst reading my book in that spa hot tub than a eeny weeny teeny tiny bikini would have done.
But it was only last year, whilst doing a spot of online shopping for a last-minute press trip to Marbella that I stumbled across the ASOS ‘fuller bust’ range and oh hubba, did it change everything.
I tried a few of those high waisted bikinis everyone’s sauntering about in over on Instagram, but they made me look like a twenty-something gallivanting about in a giant, colourful nappy.
And then I tried a couple of swimming costumes. Bright, sexy, sassy swimming costumes designed not only for big boobs (they come in cup sizes rather than clothes sizes), but for women who weren’t ready to be resigned to the tummy control brigade.
And I adored them. I made my brother take this photo of me in Thailand last year and I still sometimes look back on it like HEY YOU LOOKED HOT. YOU SEXY. YOU GOT IT. (My poor, poor brother).
Because swimming costumes did the one thing that bikinis never did, they made me feel good about myself.
They stopped me feeling scared and anxious that people were staring at my body when I was sunbathing on the beach (even though we all know people spend too much energy on the beach worrying about how they look to even notice anyone else).
They made me feel, well heck, I’m not ashamed to say that they made me feel absolutely freaking brilliant.
So this is a post for anyone secretly dreading their upcoming beach holiday because WHAT IF PEOPLE NOTICE MY CELLULITE OR MY BELLY ROLL OR MY LOVE HANDLES?
First up, honestly people are too pre-occupied with their books/what they’re going to have for lunch/their own body to even notice you. And secondly, you, my friend, are hot as hell. You’ve just got to realise it.
So if you need to re-find your long lost body confidence, I cannot recommend jumping on the swimming cossie bandwagon enough. It has, without sounding mortifyingly melodramatic, kinda slightly changed my life <3