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Bathing Suits and Body Love

Bathing Suits and Body Love

by Nicole Phillips

Finding Freedom Poolside and Beyond in “Shrill”

I am 35-years-old, a size 24 and I own over 20 bathing suits. Recently, watching Aidy Bryant jump into a pool of beautiful fat bodies on Shrill, the Hulu series inspired by writer Lindy West’s book Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, was one of the most relatable moments I have ever watched on TV.

To be clear, I didn’t always own this many bathing suits. There was a time in my life that the thought of wearing a bathing suit made me break out into panic sweats. I have always loved being in the water and going to the beach, but also spent countless hours and several summers sitting on the edge of the pool in jean shorts and oversized tee-shirts battling the agonizing inner voice in my head urging me to just jump in. The day usually ended with me bone dry and fantasizing about having the pool or beach to myself so I could just enjoy the water with abandon— not obsessing over my body. The scene in Shrill where young Annie floats happily in the pool on vacation was an idyllic but distant scenario for me.

Bathing Suits and Body Love
Hulu

Being 16 years old in a size 18 body didn’t help. Especially in 1999, when stylish bathing suits in my size were non-existent and I was unaware of the body positive movement, girls like me were limited to skirted suits with straps so wide you’d think that our bodies were carrying around cantaloupes.

Over the years, through immersing myself in the Los Angeles plus size community and working for a plus size fashion brand, my confidence moved upward. I started to venture out of jean shorts and into sheer caftans and wraps around my bathing suits. I still stayed out of the pool though, unable to find the complete confidence I needed to move effortlessly in a bathing suit between the pool and my lounge chair.

It wasn’t until a weekend away in Palm Springs with other plus women that I’d felt inclined to walk around in my bathing suit. Our group had rented out an entire hotel and coined the weekend, #plussprings. We spent a weekend drinking frozen daiquiris and not one of us was concerned about the dimples in our butt or the size of our arms. When I think about liberating experiences that helped shape my journey in body-love, this was definitely a huge turning point. It was a revelation and akin to the scene in Shrill when Annie realizes that she is the only person preoccupied with her body. There was something about being surrounded by women who had spent earlier summers like mine, who had struggled and wrestled with the same nagging voices in their head convincing them that their body was not worthy of summer fun.

Conquering the summer was one thing. A few years later, I was struggling with infertility and developed a brand new reason to hate my body. It was keeping me from the one thing that I had always wanted — to carry a life. I started undergoing IVF and I felt like I did not have ownership of my body, until I experienced another poolside moment where I witnessed full figured women take their towels off, dance and swim. I began to feel my body move and let the music take over. Just like Annie, it was truly liberating and for once in a very long time, I felt like me again. I made a promise to myself on that day that I’d do my very best to love every part of me — fat body and all because if I was going to be a mother, that child might inherit my thick arms or wide hips. How could I carry hate for my body if this child would be part of me?

Bathing Suits and Body Love
Social Media Manager, @nicole_bette living her best life with daughter, Aubrey.

Last summer, I spent my time swimming with my family and friends, chasing a toddler on the beach and not giving a second thought about what anyone thought about my body. I needed to show my daughter that I am having fun in my body, as it is. That she deserves to take up space in this world and that existing in our bodies is not just about existing — it’s about living and loving and enjoying life in them. And that we’re privileged to be able to run and feel the sand in between our toes or jump into a cool pool in the middle of the hot summer.

I keep replaying the moments of when Annie feels the music at the pool party and turns off those nagging voices of self-doubt in her head and just dances. I want to see my daughter live in those weightless moments, to be free in her body and to have a drawer full of bathing suits that await all of the pleasure summer can bring.

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    Lauren
    dot
    Fri, Apr 12

    Love this so much! It’s so true, our kids will model what we do and it’s important we love ourselves so they learn it’s okay to do that in a world telling them why they shouldn’t. Proud and inspired!

  • dot
    Lya
    dot
    Mon, Apr 8

    This is simply beautiful. Encouraged, inspired, and fully determined to live this out.
    Thank you. :)

  • dot
    Alison
    dot
    Mon, Apr 8

    Oh I loved this piece and could relate to many parts of it. I think others can do and really thank you for sharing your story!!

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