I heard this pithy saying a little while ago: “progress, not perfection.”
For me, it was a lightbulb moment. I’ve always struggled with the paradox of simultaneously accepting who I am and wanting to be better.
There is even a Zen koan that deals with this issue: “All of you are perfect as you are, and you could all do with a little improvement.” But try as I might to understand this paradox, it never clicked.
I’ve long struggled with this, in relation to my body, my habits, my work, just about everything in life. It’s difficult to simultaneously want positive change and NOT beat yourself up for falling short. Or compare yourself to others who seem to be doing better.
How can change and self-acceptance co-exist?
But when I heard these three words, I realized that the answer is obvious. Look at what you’ve accomplished and celebrate that. Let that be what guides you forward.
Why hate doesn’t help
Today, I’ve got a swimsuit to show off, but first I would like to share a little of my story with you in regards to my body.
I was not an athletic kid. As an introvert, team sports held zero interest for me, and I just didn’t think of myself as a physical person. At all.
Couple that with being constantly surrounded by junk food (seriously, how is it possible that Pizza Hut and Taco Bell can sell food on school campuses?) and some pretty gnarly emotional eating problems, and I was not a healthy young woman, in body or in mind.
In fact, I hated the way I looked. I also felt divorced from it. I rarely looked at my body clearly in the mirror, it was so painful. I also had the added impact of my scoliosis to make me feel abnormal and at war with my physical self. I just wanted to forget about it all.
I never decided to make a big physical change. But I did decide to stop hating myself. I remember reading Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth and feeling the tragedy of so many women’s internalized misogyny and self-loathing. And I simply decided I didn’t want to be one of those women.
Slowly, I overcame my depression and emotional eating problems. I was now living in New York City and walking miles a day for transportation. I discovered that I really liked cooking, and I even might like exercise. Over the course of the next year and a half, I lost a good 40 or 50 pounds.
I never dieted; I never even set out to lose weight. But once I started, I loved seeing the progress just from making better choices, and that kept me going. I exercised more, found new activities I enjoyed, learned more about nutrition. It was a positive feedback loop.
But first I had to stop hating myself. It’s the exact opposite of what they sell you, that if you compare yourself and hate yourself enough, you’ll have the motivation to do better.
It’s a lie. You know why? Because the hate won’t stop. Self-flagellation might help you make some changes, but once you accomplish what you set out to do, you will not magically feel good enough. The hate will still be there. I’ve been there, many times.
So today, I am celebrating progress and saying to hell with perfection. I’m not going to point out every “flaw” in my body to you, as much as I want to. I will look at myself and be proud of a body that has run a marathon, can do pull-ups, and hikes in the forest, no matter what its size, shape, or level of symmetry.
It won’t be around forever. I want to enjoy it while it lasts.
Now, on to the swimsuit!
I found this amazing cloud print fabric at Spandex House online. It’s a poly-spandex blend and it’s absolutely perfect for swimwear. I lined it in swimsuit lining fabric. I’ll warn you that ordering from them is sort of a weird process where you have to give your credit card over the phone. I have no idea why they don’t just use paypal or something, it’s really strange.
I drafted the pattern and decided to make it in the style of a longline bra. Traditionally, swimwear would have more covered elastic rather than the decorative elastic with the little picots and whatnot, but I had it and it looks cute, so whatever.
I added underwire for support, but no foam in the cups. The spandex is so sturdy with the lining that it really didn’t need foam.
I struggled a bit with what do to with the back of the top. I wanted to use a swimwear hook, but because the top is longline, I didn’t want to taper the back from several inches at the side seams to only 3/4 inches at the back. So I hit upon the idea of doing two sets of straps in back.
I rather like the unusual look, and it helps provide quite a bit of support. I have to fix the fact that the top strap rides up, though.
This suit is all kinds of adorable. I love the longline style and the simple style lines let me use this crazy print. The fabric was awesome. The cut is perfect for me.
Overall, I love it and want to make more variations!
What I’d change
Fit wise, it could use some minor tweaks. The cups are a bit minimizing, so I’d probably deepen them a little. I’d make the back band tighter. And I need to angle the top back band, because you can see how much it’s riding up.
I also would sew the bottom elastic band differently, since the cups wanted to sag over it a little.
I stretched the elastic slightly when sewing the waist and leg openings, and that really wasn’t necessary. So I’d sew it 1:1 next time.
One final note: Before you ask, this is not supposed to be a preview of an upcoming pattern! At least not any time soon. This is definitely more of a fun experiment right now. I wouldn’t mind hearing if you’re interested in sewing bras or swimwear, though. At the very least, I can recommend some great books.