Every Body Is a Bikini Body
The bikini has been around forever—it’s literally ancient! But this famous swimsuit’s connotations have shifted dozens of times since Roman women first rocked the skimpy two-pieces, which they mostly wore while posing for fancy portraits or participating in sports (a strange combination of activities, we know). The silhouette then took a long hiatus—during which these unlucky women were forced to wear floor-length wool dresses to go swimming—before it eventually returned in the 1940s as a symbol of badass girl power.
What first began as fabric rationing during World War II (hence their itsy bitsy cuts) transformed into a style statement of its own. Whether it was a movie star like Audrey Hepburn, or your grandma, women of all sizes rebelled against conservative swimwear by baring their midriff. But despite this empowering statement, things changed around the ‘60s. The emphasis moved from the bikini to the body that was wearing it, and made swimsuit wearers suddenly self-conscious about what they were sporting to the beach.
This brings us to the “bikini body,” a term dreamed up by (ahem, male) ad execs in the 1960s. According to the weight loss “salon” that first ran the ads in 1961, this bod entailed “High firm bust—hand span waist—trim, firm hips—slender graceful legs—a Bikini body!”Needless to say, strict requirements like these left most women in the dust (thanks, guys) and millions of would-be bikini wearers were alienated. The average woman in America today wears between a size 12-14, and it’s taken a long time—like five decades—for the fashion industry, magazines, and social media to finally adjust.
The good news is that they’re budging, slowly but surely. Ashley Graham recently became the first plus-size model to land the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. There are also the social media-centric movements like #BodyPosi or #SpeakBeautiful, which intend to celebrate rather than berate the female form. But maybe the best news is that now there are swimsuit options for everyone. Blogger-turned-designer Gabi Gregg (aka Gabifresh) helped pave the way with her plus-size collaboration for Swimsuitsforall, proving that all sorts of bodies look great in swimwear. “There are fashion-forward, trendy girls who love showing skin and aren't ashamed of their bodies; these bathing suits are really for those girls,” Gabi said of her latest collection.
The key? Confidence—which, of course, is easier said than done. Megan Crabbe of @bodyposipanda recommends embracing what you’ve got. ”Taking pictures celebrating my belly rolls when I sit down and my cellulite in a bikini shows me and other people that these things are okay,” she said. And those who still feel a little shy can look to role models like Gabi or Ashley for inspo. Tabloids haven’t stopped dissecting the female form (sigh) or critiquing how everyone should dress, and they probably won’t in the future. So push this dusty old concept to the back of your mind, pull out a shiny new swimsuit, and let Spring Break begin.
This story is in partnership with our pals at Dove.