I feel very brave posting about swimwear at my age, or possibly courageous in the ‘Yes Minister’ sense of the word. Not only is my head above the parapet, but the rest of me as well, jumping up and down for people to take pot shots.

Please don’t.

Even grandmothers like to swim, and so we need swimsuits. I could of course wear board shorts and a rash vest, or forego the fun to be had in the water altogether, like many older women, but being able to sew I feel I have other options. This is an attempt to create a swimsuit I feel comfortable in, even — shock horror! — to wear in public. It is a very personal choice, catering to my insecurities. Yours will be different and you may therefore prefer a very different solution to the problem. But you get the idea. There are alternatives to deprivation. No need to play dead yet, as they say.

But before I take the drastic step of displaying myself scantily clad on the internet, I want to put things in perspective. Nobody,  but truly nobody, looks like the swimwear models in the advertisements! To see real women you need to look at the beach, but of course you only see those who are young enough and/or brave enough to be there. And even those who look fabulous aren’t happy with their figure.

So get over it! Don’t swallow hook line and sinker what the fashion industry serves up as what a woman ought to look like. It’s all fake.

Dont believe me? Then look at these pictures. First the photoshopped version:


… and then what the models REALLY looked like.


Ah, but they only photoshop plus size models, I hear you say. Really? I mean, seriously?

All I wanted was something I could feel comfortable in, maybe a bit sporty looking, something that would be kind to my far from perfect figure and hide as much of it as I thought I needed. I couldn’t quite find what I wanted, so in the end I went for a very simple pattern, Jalie 3138, that I would be able to hack to my hearts content.


I particularly liked the boy leg and it would be easy to extend to a longer length, in my case to below the knee. Yes, you did not misread this, I did say below the knee. I have no great love for my thighs and I am hiding them because am a sewist and I can!

As I was making a swimsuit and not a leotard, I lowered the back neck edge quite considerably and I took the instructions from another suit to make a shelf bra using a layer of lining.

My choice of fabric proved to be not ideal, as there was unfortunately no print I liked enough to buy when I visited the one brick and mortar store within reach selling a reasonable selection. I settled for a plain turquoise blue, which, as I soon realised, had to be lined in order to avoid arrest after getting it wet.

To add some interest and as an attempt to make the suit visually slimming, I added a wide cobalt blue stripe along the whole side of the suit, from under the arms to the leg hem. To do this I shaved 4cm all along the side seams of both the front and back pattern pieces and inserted a 9cm strip of the cobalt blue. So there are now two side seams where this strip joins the main body of turquoise at front and back. Looking at the photos the dark stripe could have been even wider.

The necessary lining for the turquoise is sewn into the seam joining the cobalt. I lined both front and back to be on the safe side. I must say that it does make the suit slow to dry. Next time I will try harder to find a dark print for the centre panels, which hopefully will make the lining unnecessary. The side panels can be as light and plain as you want, as there is nothing sensitive that could show through.

To lengthen the legs I just continued on from the bottom of the boy leg to the length I wanted, narrowing the front and back centre panels progressively from the hip down. The pattern had a rectangular crotch piece, which I lengthened all the way down both legs to the hem. I used the cobalt blue for this too, creating a contrast stripe on the inside leg as well as the outside.

I finished the suit with special swimwear elastic around the armscyes and neck edge, sewing it onto the wrong side with a zigzag stitch and then new folding this to the inside and topstitching with a triple zigzag. This stretches as much as it needs to and looks rather nice. I did not want elastic at the leg, so I did a hem with my coverstîtch.

I have reviewed this pattern on PatternReview, if you want o read more about the construction details.

The suit is quite wearable but I have to say that there is still room for improvement. The centre panel is a bit of a wide expanse of fabric that could have been broken up a bit, maybe with some diagonal panels. The calf-length legs work for my comfort level, but here too diagonal seams would be a plus.

It has to be said that people tend to look because this suit with its longer leg is visibly different to what everyone else is wearing. If you prefer not to be noticed it may be better to stick with the boy leg or maybe lengthen it only to shorts length.

From a sun protection point of view, this suit is fine for indoor pools and less intensive European ultraviolet rays, but in Australia I would certainly want an empire length, long sleeve rash jacket. I planned one, but have not made it yet. Wearing it over the top I would only have to put sunscreen on my face and neck, and maybe on my lower legs if I am in the sun for extended periods. Beats having to oil up all over and still worry about getting burnt!