The Search for Lycra

Edinburgh has many shops that claim to be Purveyors of Sporting Goods, but not many of them contain items suited for actual sporting purposes. There's football strips (soccer shirts) galore, endless tracksuits in unnatural fibres plus all manner of shiny white trainers. The sort of things people wear when sitting on their arses to watch other people do sporty things. Or this sort of thing:


Granted, it's the end of August and so it was quite possibly THE WORST time of year for me to go  looking for swimwear. But I swear, it's not just pool gear! You rarely see actual rackets or balls or bats or goggles in these so-called sporty shops. Last year I was desperate for a new pair of cross-trainer shoes for the gym, and every sales assistant I asked didn't know what a cross trainer was, or why a running shoe wasn't the same thing. Instead they offered me the latest trendy white trainer, saying there was a variety of coloured stripes to choose from. I ended up lugging back a new pair from our honeymoon in San Francisco. Americans! You know your sporty shoes.

Since then I have found some great specialist shops like Run And Become, but I had no idea where to go for a cossie. I tried three big department stores, but only found flimsy bikinis that are fine if you're just planning to lay very still for two weeks on a Spanish sunlounge with a Jilly Cooper novel. But no good if you actually need to MOVE.

By the time I'd been to seven different shops I was getting cranky. All I wanted was a plain, utilitarian swimsuit suitable for actual swimming. It made me think of Gareth's fantasy of living in a communist country so he'd never have to worry about what to wear. He could just rock up to the People's Warehouse once a year and say, "One set of Clothes please, size Medium". He'd be quite happy to don the same sombre uniform every day. I imagine the People's Swimsuit would look a lot like this:


My last resort was Marks and Spencer. That's where I'd bought my last swimsuit way back in 2003, a boring old size 20 tank, so I could go wallow in the Blue Lagoon in Iceland. I've since become such a penny-pinching Scot that I considered dusting them off for my Learn To Swim campaign. After all, I'd only worn them once!

But that was many kilos ago. Now the shoulder straps slip down and there's massive gaps at the hip/thigh intersection where blubber used to be. And the fabric stretches comically across the blank space between boobs and pubes, where my tummy rolls once protruded much further. I wondered in a particularly frugal moment, Maybe I could get them taken in? But what tailor would touch such a skanky, faintly sulphurous garment?

LagoonHello, my name is Pumpkin Head!

So I pressed on with the search.

Most of the summer stock was gone at M&S. There were a few stray bikinis with loud patterns, like they'd been used to mop up parrot roadkill. I found a single one-piece and tried it on out of desperation. What the bloody hell was I thinking? THE HORROR! Check out this picture – see how that models boobs just sit up perkily, beaming out at the world? When I put on that suit, there was a an unflattering flattening effect. My boobs were reduced to two wee deflated balloons, making  my stomach look enormous by contrast.

The only good thing about that moment was that I could laugh at my ridiculous reflection, as opposed to bawling. I've finally matured enough to realise that some styles just don't suit ya, so there's no need to plunge into weeks of self-loathing.

In the end I turned to my old friend The Internet. There's some brilliant online retailers in the UK. I ended up getting this plain and sporty number from Wiggle. I ordered it at lunchtime yesterday and it arrived this morning! Ziiing! The size 14 fit like a charm. I wished I'd asked the internet in the first place and saved the trauma. The internet always knows best.

So now I've got the gear I've got no excuses. We're away for the next couple of days but I've spoken to the Swimming Teacher Lady and she is going to get back to me with a time and date for Lesson One. Eeeeeeek!

20 thoughts on “The Search for Lycra

  1. Yeah but no but yeah but no but yeah but you picked a very nice pair of togs so shut up! haha… gotta love vicky pollard.

    Amanda πŸ™‚

  2. So glad you were successful! And such style…I have a friend called Sue here in Oz and her passion is designing swimsuits – she has a website
    and best of all, she delivers anywhere in the world, very fast service.
    If you’d like a second cossie, check it out.
    I recommend her swimsuits highly ’cause she knows we have “busts, bottoms and tummies” and us girls want “swimsuits that fit”.
    Hope the site helps many of your readers.
    Love always

  3. Oh my! What a mega crazy hassle to get your swimsuit – glad that you managed to find one in the end.

    I’m not sure whether I’m looking in the right places in NZ, though the fashionable swimsuits seem to be far cheaper than the sports ones, with exactly the same life span. Bah!

    Good luck with your first lesson! And with all your lessons, for that matter!

  4. What a run around for you! At least you got some!

    Just a suggestion for the next time you’re in need of bathers, try an aquatic centre if you want to try them on first before you buy. They usually will have a lot of bathers in stock, most of them chlorine resistant, and they can be discounted if you buy them out of season.

    Having said that, you’ll love swimming πŸ™‚ Oh yeah, here’s some trivia: I once swam in the same pool at the same time as the Scotish Commonwealth Games swim team. They were visiting Bendigo (Australia), man they are FAST!!!!!!!

  5. Hey DG, as they say on the Alan Jones show, “Long time listener, first time caller”…Your blog is great, and you bring back memories of my months living in Edinburgh. I lived in a lopsided shanty above a pub in Rose Street. But enough of that. Next time you need a 100% fabulous swimsuit, do as your Mum says and try the ladies at Sue Rice, in Sydney. Yes, yes, I know you’re in the ‘BURGH, but they mail, as she said…

    No, I don’t work for them, I just have 3 pairs of their swimmers and they are great. Tops. Make me look like the M&S perky boobie woman. And these pups aint perky. Unless I’m hanging upside down…
    Actually one last BURGH story…I used to be a member of a hotel’s gym in Rose St (got a cheap membership for 6 months) and really got into swimming. I was the only person who ever used the pool…until one night when I got there and there was 35 HUGE men there, doing weird arse stuff like standing in wheely bins full of ice. I thought ‘screw you, pretty boys, this fatty la-la is swimming!’ and they moved over a lane and off I swam. Turns out it was the SOUTH AFRICAN RUGBY TEAM! That’s my only claim to fame, apart from drinking a snakebite with a member of the Dandy Warhols…and not recognising him…despite just seeing him and the band at a concert…Thank God I wasn’t wearing the t-shirt! crankybee

  6. Well done on the swimsuit. I can’t find a racing one here in Australia and it is the start of summer. Perhaps I will lash out and go to a specialised shop this time.

    Have fun in the water – it is the best!!


  7. Way to go! You got the “racer-style” back – *that alone* even makes you sound like you’re already a fast swimmer πŸ˜€

    Good luck with it all! And, finally, you’ll be able to relinquish the “Only aussie who can’t swim” title πŸ™‚


  8. Don’t they have like swimming squads there and that kind of thing? How frustrating!

    I bet you see bathers everywhere now you have a pair. You’ll walk down the street and bather shops will be springing up everywhere – it’s always the way.

    Good luck wth the lessons.

  9. Yabutnobutyabut…glad you found a suit. I’m glad we’ve both matured to the point of recognizing not all suits suit. Otherwise, I would have been heartbroken by having my boobs escape from a hideous walmart number last year. πŸ™‚

  10. Those ‘sporting goods’ stores are all over the UK and it’s really frustrating. I went into one a couple of months ago looking for a pair of cycling gloves as I’d dropped one of mine somewhere on the way home. I quick wander around showed they only stocked ‘fashion’ clothes and shoes. Aargghh. I ended up getting my gloves from that megalith, Tesco.

    Anyway, I had a similar problem with searching for good supportive swimsuits earlier in the year when I was doing aqua aerobics. For aqua you need some support. The usual beach type swimsuits can cause black eyes or knock outs! I had an idea of some sporty Speedos but when I did find Speedos in stores, they only stocked up to size 14, so not a lot of use to me. I know that in NZ we used to get large size sSpeedos but here, presumably if you’re a large girl trying to do water workouts, you’re stuffed…

  11. Hey – I’m glad you found something! I always buy on-line too, I usually go for Really, it is very hard to find a decent swim suit for lap swimming in a dept store! They are fashion swimsuits, cute but not good for lap swimming.


  12. Hey – I hope Run and Become thank you for the plug πŸ˜‰

    I wonder if you can get them to give you some free trainers!

  13. I’m glad you have the courage to wear a swimsuit. I am still gathering all my strengths to wear one. One day I’ll be able to share the experience. I hope that that’ll be sometime soon.

    I love your blog. Inspired me to not give up. Keep it up. Mwuah!

  14. You go girl… Bathers… hmmmm I am soooo not ready to go there… 18 months ago I was 20 kilos lighter and used to swim 60 laps once a week.. oh dear.. what happened to those days… enjoy it.. I am working on getting back to my 60 laps… when i can struggle back into my togs .. hehe….

  15. What a releif to hear that someone else agrees with me about chavwear shops. I work in the fitness industry and find it really difficult to get proper kit. My success’ have been with TK max – who sell branded stuff at good prices (I go through ALOT of sports stuff and don’t want to continually pay Β£100 for one set of work clothing!) and also go into the health clubs they usually have stalls.Try the Holmes Place (including Edinburgh) where they have ‘First retail’ (I work for HP and we stock cossie’s. Hope this helps

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