The swimsuit of my dreams
I have made the swimsuit of my dreams! Sometimes sewing makes me feel very satisfied, sometimes it makes me feel frustrated, and sometimes it makes me feel like I single handedly invented an environmentally friendly rocket and won a race to the moon. This project falls into the latter category.
It all started when I saw this swimsuit online. We had a lot of outdoor swimming planned this summer, and although I have a long sleeved swimsuit that I love, it can be quite fiddly to get in and out of it on the bank of a river when you're shivering. I browsed the Matches website to look for swimsuit inspiration that was glam but practical.
This Marios Schwab swimsuit jumped out at me (they were only selling the one on the left, I've just found that its available in other colours, and weirdly the colour I made mine in). The ticket price was £435. What the heck, fashion!?
Anyway, this swimsuit sparked a vision. I saw monochrome marbled fabric for the lower part, and luscious olive for the upper. I searched everywhere online for marble-print lycra, but couldn't find it, so I decided to make my own. Many weeks later, I had designed a whole collection of fabrics inspired by rocks, and could order my own marble lycra.
I searched long and hard for a vibrant shade of olive lycra too, and eventually found this. The shade is 'Savana' and the fabric is called 'Life Recycled.' They have an incredible selection of colours in this range, which are made from old materials like fishing nets. I love it! It is incredible quality. I will probably only ever by plain lycra from this range from now on.
So with fabric acquired, I set to work on the pattern. I took an old leotard that I bought from American Apparel years ago and drew around it on newspaper. I compared the bottom part to the Nettie body suit pattern as well as to a homemade bikini. I cut that out, then cut another exactly the same. I trimmed the front right side away, looking at the original Marios Schwab swimsuit to get the proportion roughly right. Then I lay tracing paper over the 'empty' bit and drafted the asymmetric part.
I made a toile in some lycra from my stash, and then did loads of adjustments to the paper pieces. I actually wanted more bust coverage than the Marios Schwab suit, and my toile ended up pretty skimpy. As lycra stretches so much when you wear it, gaps can become much bigger that they look when the fabric is lying flat. I scribbled down some measurements whilst wearing the toile, then added more depth to almost all my pieces by sticking on extra bits of paper.
I was ready to cut. Always a tense moment when you're using precious Spoonflower fabric.
These are the final front pieces. The back pieces were pretty similar.
I sewed the two front pieces (olive and marbled) together, then did the same with the back pieces. I sewed the front and back together up the sides with zig zag stitch, to test the fit. I was intending to recreate the gathered/bunching affect in the Marios Schwab swimsuit, so added some pleats to the front olive piece at the shoulder. When I tried it on it didn't look great, so I unpicked those and got rid of them.
I also took loads of height off the marble pieces at the shoulders of both front and back. This was just the start of an epic number of fittings for this project. I think I tried it on at least 40 times and made little adjustments bit by bit. It was a very experimental process!
You can see below that I sewed the shoulder seams together even though the widths didn't match, to figure out the best place for the two sides to sit against one another.
I finished most of the edges with clear Prym elastic, sewing it to the inside then turning it in on itself and sewing again to conceal it. I find this elastic has very little give, and it particularly distorted the upper edge of the olive section, creating strange drag lines that I wasn't happy with.
Everyone on Instagram was very helpful and encouraging throughout this tedious process of micro adjustments, so thanks everyone for being there! I ended up unpicking the Prym elastic and using some other clear elastic I had kicking around which is super soft. I didn't have quite enough so had to do about a 7cm section at the back with the Prym stuff. I wish I knew where I got that soft elastic from... I can't really express how long the fitting process took, or how many times I unpicked elastic and sewed it back in, but my waste products give a suggestion of the whole ordeal.
Adding a gusset was one of the las things I did. I just cut a bit of black jersey out, overlocked the ends and stitched it in. I finished the leg openings with a folded band of lycra, which I stitched to the right side then flipped outwards.
The swimsuit was ready, and it had quite the day ahead of it, with three outdoor swims planned. It made its first appearance at the Saltdean Lido Doggie Swim. Our friends booked us all in to go with their dog Bow, who it turns out doesn't love water, or other dogs really. Here is the swimsuit making its debut.
This is what Saltdean Lido looked like before 150 dogs and their owners arrived.
This is what it looked like with dog chaos in full swing.
Here I am no doubt pointing at a ridiculously cute dog doing something ridiculous.
The only picture of the swimsuit in the pool has a blob of water on it, but you can't really stay in control of anything at a doggie swim! Swimming with so many dogs was delightful and I recommend trying it if you can find a furry friend to take you there. It only happens once a year, at the very end of the swimming season before the lido is closed for winter. It is already in my diary for 2020.
We got quite a bit of actual swimming done despite the canine madness, and the swimsuit held up really well, keeping its shape and not revealing anything (always a worry with a weird homemade swimsuit!) Our next stop was the beach. In classic British style, the beach did not feature any sand, just lots of rocks and concrete.
You can see that sewing much softer elastic into the olive section of the swimsuit got rid of some of the awkward drag lines. I quite like the remaining folds as they flow in line with the pattern piece and give it a bit of texture.
I heart my swimsuit!
I'd quite like to open up the back seam a bit more so the gap between the upper and lower part runs pretty much all the way across the back. Not sure if I can be bothered though! Maybe next year.
There's quite a good expanse of the marbled fabric at the back.
The sea swimming was grlorious. The last swim of the day was at Pells Pool, an unheated lido in Lewes. My boyfriend waited outside with the dog whilst we swam, so I don't have any photo evidence of that one. I brought a spare bikini with me on the trip as I thought I might not fancy getting in and out of a wet swimsuit three times. I love my swimsuit so much though, it accompanied me on all of the day's swimming adventures. What a hard worker.
I think this is one of my proudest makes. I feel pretty chuffed that I copied a designer swimsuit but made it for loads less money. I'm pleased that I went to the trouble of making the fabric I had envisioned, and that that process ended up producing a whole load of other fabrics too. I'm glad to have found the 100% recycled lycra. And most of all, my swimsuit is comfy and I love it. Yay! I love you sewing!
Footnote: had to include this picture of a badass child photobombing my swimwear photoshoot. He has got batman wheels! What a dude.