wOw’s Question of the Week: What is it about women and bathing suits?

Join Candice, Marlo, Liz and the wOw Women and tell us: What was your best and worst bathing suit experience?

Joan Ganz Cooney
I remember as a teenager always being self-conscious in my Mabs (I think that was the name) good-looking one-piece bathing suits, although I probably looked OK. When I was in my 40s I had just become comfortable in bathing suits when I had to have a radical mastectomy (those were the bad old pre-lumpectomy days). Then began an endless search for bathing suits with a prosthesis pocket and those suits were really, really ugly. I have a couple of them still but almost never put them on. I just sort of gave up and have been happier ever since.

jonievansSMSQ_0.jpgJoni Evans
When I was a young book editor in the ’80s, I was assigned to work with Doris Day for her memoir, My Story, and I lived a full week at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Each day when my editing work was done, I went to the famous pool (where announcements came over the address system: “Mr. Zanuck, line one”) and swam. I had a slim body then and wore a two-piece bathing suit easily. I was VERY proud of my diving skills so I had no problem stepping out onto the diving board. But, one time, I walked onto the board and just before I dove in I realized that practically everyone at the pool was staring at me. Gulp. I was sure the top of my bathing suit had come down revealing so little in breasts … but I sneaked a look and nothing seemed wrong. So I dove fast to get out of their prying eyes wondering if they were just looking because I had such a great diving form or what???? When I surfaced, I looked around to see if I could determine what it all had been about. And there it was … the next diver, who had obviously been standing right behind me waiting for me to get out of her way: Anita Eckberg!


Cynthia McFadden
I have never worn a bikini. Not even as a child. Whether it was the cold waters of coastal Maine or my good Yankee parents, even as a child my swimming costumes were rather under-whelming. My favorite bathing suit memory is of my son as a toddler asking to wear his “baby suit” – a rather good analysis.

SheilaNevinsSMSQ_1.jpgSheila Nevins
A bathing suit is now for other people
I would not dare.
Once I was a bikini person
Now it is an island in the Pacific
The question regarding this garment is for other people.
Like tap shoes and braces
I once had crooked teeth and tapped
Also ballet slippers
On toe I was. So –
If I was to swim
I would have to be a mermaid
A mermaid suit is the only way to go
Out of the embarrassment for my stunning largesse. You see –
This question is for other people
Sorry. Wrong number. Ring again.
Next question pleeze.


Liz Smith
Bathing suits! Well, trying them on is horrible because you get the full impact of your uncontrolled tummy, your ass, your thighs. You might as well be naked. Every try-on before a mirror is death to self-respect.

I have a drawer full of bikini tops, no bottoms. I can’t figure what happened so I finally bought a lot of black and white little miniature trunks to wear with my assorted bra tops.

My worst experience was a bikini that was very attractive, chic, black and white, but when I wore it I saw the crotch hung down too far. I had to creep off the beach. My best experience is – this very year I see kids wearing mismatched bottoms and tops. So I am right in fashion.

Just another old woman who doesn’t know enough not to get into a two-piece now and then because one-piece bathing suits are quite claustrophobic.

You have to forget about yourself and relax!


Marlo Thomas
Is it the bathing suits or is it the mirrors? They just get worse every year!

My best experience was when I was seven running around the beach without a top. Free as a little sprite. My worst was when I was a teen in a teeny polka-dot bikini and the top got ripped off when I fell off a surfboard and I had to dash to my towel, which seemed to be miles away. It was easier when I was seven.


Mary Wells
I was born with Norwegian legs – long and good for dancing, running, snapshots – so I was comfortable in bathing suits until six years ago when I fell down the floor inspection hatch of my boat that was open but covered with a thin rug by mistake. I am extremely lucky I did not lose my legs or my head so no complaints, but now I have scars as well as more age to make me shy in a bathing suit. My best bathing suit memory is of the late ’80s when my husband, on Mother’s Day, gave me little bikinis that read MOM worn one way and WOW upside down.


Candice Bergen
Well, there just is no “best” where swimsuits are concerned. Not in my case. And my legs are Swedish, unlike Mary’s which are Norwegian. (Whatever that means). What I have resorted to now, at this stage of the game, is board shorts!! At least some of the time. The only good memory I could dredge up is getting my first bikini when I was 13 in Hawaii and feeling just insanely grown-up. But my legs were always muscular and when I was in high school during the summer, the boys would call me “Vic Tanny.” As if being a teenager wasn’t humiliating enough …

JoanBuckSMSQ_0.jpg Joan Juliet Buck
Since we’re talking about nationality and provenance of legs here, mine are Polish-Russian-German-Jewish with a dash of Plains Indian and ten percent east Asian, according to the DNA test I did a few years ago. We’re not talking gams here.

I have never found a bathing suit I like. Like all women I hate the backs of my thighs. I never have to see them, but other people might, on the beach, at the pool. A black plain thing with little biking shorts over it is the only solution – and if I didn’t know that, those bathing belle suits we made of knitted wool, I’d try to get one made for me.

My idea of a nice bathing suit is a length of dark cotton from my shoulders to my feet. When I was 17 – skinny and a good enough shape – I became allergic to the sun. I stayed in the shade and read, protected by applications of something called Nicobion. I remember the Nicobion better than I remember the bathing suits. But if you had asked about the hats, I could tell some stories!

2 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Chris Glass` says:

    Growing up my favorite was a one piece tank suit. Everything stayed in place in those self-conscious years. What I didn’t realize at the time was most of my peers felt as awkward as I did. As a middle aged woman I have a staid one piece that hasn’t seen a pool in over three years.

  2. avatar Joan Larsen says:

    Early on, I knew I was blessed with broad shoulders — the Esther Williams look – that made the rest of the tall body drop to just the right curves in just the right places. From a young age I swam competitively — and was back stroke champion (the best stroke to perfect for a beautiful shape) at the university. But unfortunately, God must have sunk all into my body — and I never was to have the face to go with it.

    I kept up swimming long after others gave up — swimming every morning in an indoor Olympic size pool into my 50s. . and beating anyone, man or woman, in sight. But what I learned is that in anything good for your body, you never stop for any reason — as the older you are, the faster you lose “the look” and you cannot get it back. WHY oh why did I stop??? And then start again a year later: I looked like an older woman trying to again look like a kid — and I gave up swimsuits and swimming — but it was so so good while it lasted.

    Never did I put on a swimsuit again as I am determined not to be discouraged — and there are other sports where you can keep covered, like skiing. Let’s just say that I “moved on” — but while it lasted – and it was over half a lifetime, OMG, I felt pretty wonderful!!!!