The last bikini

As most of me now refuses to move after several days of ‘extreme gardening’, I thought I’d share an old one that made me smile at the memories it raised when I came across it…

scotland trip jan 15 012

“Mais, non!” The elegant, if scantily-clad figure oozed disapproval. “You cannot wear a one-piece swimsuit!” This, I thought, was a little unfair. She herself was wearing a one-piece. Granted, it had been a bikini when we had left the villa, but the top half now graced the prow of the little boat drawn up on the Corsican beach, while the only thing to grace the top of my determined employer was the sun.

I hadn’t worn a bikini for years. I didn’t even own one. It wasn’t that my figure was unworthy of such apparel. Back then, all the curves… and they were legion… were exactly where they should be.

There were three very good reasons why a bikini had not found a place on my packing list… aside from the lack of ownership. The first was simply that it seemed inappropriate for the English Nanny/Housekeeper to wear one when on a working holiday with her employers, their friends and their children. It was enough to be invited to share their beach and the sun.

scotland trip jan 15 732

The second was the nature of bikinis themselves. This was the mid-80s. Bikinis had shrunk. No longer the decorous two-piece that owed more to upholstery than high fashion, they were now little more than bunting… handkerchiefs held together with string. The logistics of fitting abundance into a handkerchief and expecting it to stay there were beyond me. In this case, there was only safety in numbers if you stuck to a single figure and went for the swimsuit.

The third reason had to do with the fact that I like to dive. I would dive from anywhere that had a deep enough pool beneath it and my local swimming pool had high-diving platforms.

I had, on one never-to-be-forgotten occasion, climbed the concrete steps to the very top. Poised gracefully on the edge, I looked down at the crowded swimming pool and the very solid-looking expanse of water far below and called myself every kind of idiot except the one I hadn’t thought of.

Flexing my knees I sprang lightly into the air, soaring, suspended for a glorious moment, before plunging down to the liquid embrace. I cut the surface cleanly and continued straight down through the crystal depths. Touching bottom, I turned and kicked, propelling myself once more to the surface… which was when I realised that the G-force had stripped me of the G-string and the top had gone with it…

Even worse, in the frantic retrieval operation that followed, I only found half of it.

For some unknown reason, I developed an aversion to wearing bikinis about then…

weymouth 020

So, the swimsuit was what I had chosen to pack for Corsica. Tan lines could always be hidden and anyway, I had already discovered that the roof-terrace of the villa was not overlooked… there would be no tan lines. Still, the modest garment had drawn down the ire of my employer. A beautiful and eternally elegant woman, there was steel in both her eye and her backbone. If Madame, pointing a dismissive finger at the discrete black number said, ‘Mais, non!’ I already knew there would be little point arguing. But we were miles from the nearest town… there could be no hurry…

“Mais, non!” said Madame.  They could not, it seemed, allow my so pale English flesh to tan unevenly. Not at all. It would be, she said, too horrible. Of a certainty, they would immediately contrive. Madame and her friend collected the missing halves of their bikinis and their reluctant victim.  Leaving their husbands and children to the sandcastles, they contrived to whisk me off to a couturier, where the most diminutive scraps of cotton strategically placed on shoelaces represented my entire monthly salary.

Madame shrugged and waved a hand, dismissing my objections in typical Gallic fashion. It would be a gift. They would help me choose. The proprietress of the establishment wafted over and, without so much as an introduction, proceeded to explore my curves with the eye of the artist and the hand of the invader.

My employer and her accomplice, both tall, slender women, were already selecting their suggestions from the rails. It seemed there was an inverse relationship between the price and the amount of fabric used to create these confections. The less fabric involved, the higher the price… and my employer wasn’t skimping on cost.

Heysham (209)

The panicked English rabbit caught in the glare was hustled into a changing room. Not alone. Madame la propriétaire came in with me… and proceeded to tweak, push and plump my assets into bikini after bikini. Each one was then paraded for approval or dismissal, each becoming less and less substantial as the afternoon wore on. Coffee was produced. I’d have rather had a stiff whisky by this point. Perhaps Madame la propriétaire took pity on me, as she eventually dived back through the draperies of the tiny torture chamber with a rather more substantial creation in bright red.

Other than the colour, it looked like a copy of Ursula Andress’ famous bikini from Dr No and was the first I had tried that didn’t remind me uncomfortably of dental floss. It covered and held and fit where it needed to. I indicated my relief. Madame beamed. My employer shrugged gracefully and I departed clutching the tissue wrapped scarlet two-piece in which I enjoyed the sun for the next three weeks. It was the last bikini I ever wore.

That was over thirty years ago; these days, I demand full coverage and substantial upholstery. And warmer seas than Britain usually offers. I seldom get the chance to swim and my decorous black suit gradually thinned and died. When my son said we would have to start going swimming, the hunt was on for a replacement. This time, I shopped alone… and thought of Corsica… and realised it wasn’t half as much fun; sometimes two is better than one.

weymouth 017

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at scvincent.com and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email: findme@scvincent.com.
This entry was posted in Life, Memories, Photography and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

60 Responses to The last bikini

  1. NJ says:

    This such a great memoir 🙂 I had few chuckles in between 😀 I wish you could have posted an old picture of you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. willowdot21 says:

    Well that a great memory, the bikini has been a thorn in my side too. Mainly because I do not tan well. Tending towards lily white, cooked shrimp pink or lobster red! But I did have one or two in my time!
    Your memory is lovely, your employer must of valued you highly. 💜

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I chuckled as I read this, Sue and I am with you completely on the lack of photographic evidence. ❤

    Like

  4. joylennick says:

    I loved that, Sue. Beautifully written and very humouress. Being the age I am, I was a mother of three by the time bikinis were fashionable, so a few extra pounds of lily-white flesh, would have been an unpleasant experience for any ogler…Over-ripe boobs earlier on were such a nuisance: melons in a gym-slip, and when two lads shouted “Show us yer tits, love!!” while out walking in Leadenhall St,London; fully dressed I might add, I clung to my one-piece at the beach like a life-line. A great memory, Sue. xx

    Liked by 1 person

  5. jenanita01 says:

    Bikinis or one piece aside, right now I need a swim!

    Like

  6. Well, that made me smile. Loved the descriptions! I’ve never felt particularly grateful for not having to consider wearing a bikini before, but I do now! That said, I hate to frighten innocent bystanders (and family members) too much and try to keep as covered up as possible anyway.

    Like

  7. Paula Light says:

    Fun story! I never cared for bikinis. I feel much more comfortable in a one-piece, at all ages.

    Like

  8. Sadje says:

    Wonderful read! Sounds like a fun trip, even when you were forced into a bikini.

    Like

  9. Funny! No one in their right mind would want to see me in a speedo – then or now! I’m glad you survived the trauma and enjoyed yourself anyway. BTW – has your son heard this story??

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  10. Great post Sue.
    I don’t own a cozzie at all, and think I only wore a bikini once, I was never the shape for it.
    A SW member has asked if I’d like to go swimming with her once or twice a week. The last time I swam in a pool was in NZ in 2010. I could buy a cozzie, but an extra £5 to £10 a week on an already stretched budget that is likely to diminish further isn’t really practical at the moment.

    Like

  11. What a funny story, Sue. I was going through some old photo albums yesterday and my bikinis were scandalous! Ha ha. Floss and handkerchiefs is about right! Thanks for the smile. 🙂

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  12. V.M.Sang says:

    Great story, Sue. I remember my first ever bikini. It was quite substantial by later standards, and was blue and white stripes. It’s amazing no one tried to sit on me, looking, as I must, like a deckchair. I was very nervous to be seen in it!
    Later ones shrunk, as my confidence grew, but now, we’re back to the one-piece. I would no longer fit the handkerchiefs and dental floss! I have photos, though, but NOT to be shared.😄

    Like

  13. Alli Templeton says:

    Great story, Sue! I’m not surprised that early diving incident put you off wearing a bikini – what a nightmare! Great memories of shopping for a new one though. 🙂

    Like

  14. macjam47 says:

    Oh, Sue! This was such a fun read! Ichuckled as I read it.
    I gave up bikini’s after my third child was born. Yes, I could wear them after 1 and 2, but by #3 and being nearly 40, I opted for a nice one-piece that was revealing enough to satisfy my husband but covered enough to not embarrass my 12-year-old son (my three boys were each 6 years apart). A couple years ago my daughter-in-law, who is married to my oldest son, talked me into a tankini. Well, THAT didn’t work. The waves just lifted the tankini top enough to show my stomach. Just as I didn’t want to show it off, I figured no one in their right mind wanted to see a 70 year old belly.

    Like

  15. Mary Smith says:

    Can’t remember when I last wore a bikini! Your diving story made me laugh and reminded me of when my mother was teaching my sister to swim in the local pool. She was walking along supporting my sister when she sort of noticed out of the corner of her eye something whiteish bobbing about – on further inspection she realised her boobs had escaped the top of her swimsuit. It’s a wonder my sister didn’t drwon in the ensuing panic.

    Like

  16. Eliza Waters says:

    Hehe, great story, Sue. I loved my bikinis, and amazingly, my first pregnancy left no stretch marks so I could wear it still. Then the second baby came along and bikinis were history. I guess we had our day in the sun. 😉

    Like

  17. dgkaye says:

    Lol, I loved this Sue. Great memoir! And good humor. I left the bikini world in mid 20s lol. I’m much happier in a one piece, made well to hold in the bits and bobs, lol. But seriously, I’m from the less is more thinking. 🙂 ❤

    Like

  18. Widdershins says:

    Heh, heh, heh … great story 😀 … may your current aches and pains swiftly pass. 🙂

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  19. The identical thing happened to my cousin when we were in Ste. Martiine, only it was her top that went astray. It took a lot of diving before locating it, too.

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  20. Jennie says:

    Delightful story, Sue.

    Like

  21. noelleg44 says:

    This got a HUGE smile from me. I only wore a two piece when I was a pre- teen. My mother made me a two piece suit which I wore once for a swimming race I was in – you’ll have to read my blog to find out what happened, but I’m sure you already know!

    Like

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