Love Letter from the Fatshion Trenches: Swimsuit Edition

Dear Bathing Beauties,

I recently discovered the the H&M in my work neighborhood now offers a plus size section! I am not quite sure what H&M’s deal is, because I used to shop there back in 2005, when they carried up to a size 18, and then for a while they seemed to only carry up to a size 12, and now they have this teeny-tiny plus size section squirreled away at the back of the store.

Readers, I must say I was not exactly blown away by H&M’s plus size section, for the following reasons:

1. It’s TINY. A miniscule fraction of the store, it takes up about half of what used to be the lingerie section. And the  majority of American women now wear plus sizes, so this makes sense how?

2. It’s only women’s clothing. Oh that’s right, because men’s clothing doesn’t feel the need to segregate clothes for bigger men to a tiny fashion ghetto in the back of the store.

3. It’s expensive. The rest of the store has racks of $5 tees and $15 sweaters. While the stuff in the plus size section is not prohibitively expensive, it’s not exactly a hotbed of bargains, either. A cute dress will run you $50.

4. The sizing is weird. I wear an 18/20 which is a 2X or a 3X depending on where I shop. The H&M 3X leggings were huge on me. But when I tried on a size 20 dress, it was too tight in the bust and hips (and I have not gained weight since the last time I went clothes shopping.)

5. Most of the stuff is BORING compared to the fun stuff in the rest of the store. It’s all flowy blouses and teeshirt dresses. Gag.

One thing I don’t hate about the H&M plus size section? They carry a plus size bikini (one style only, but still). And they carry it up to a size 24.

This is THE FIRST TIME in my life, that I’ve seen a plus sized bikini in a mainstream brick and mortar store.

There is a general assumption that fat women would NEVER EVER want to wear a bikini (which probably IS true for many women), which means you find a lot of plus size one-pieces and “tankinis” which seem like a fucking copout to me. Why not just wear a one piece?

I sees it like this- if I’m already showing my thick thighs at the beach, there’s no harm in showing some belly, too. I’ve cobbled DIY fat girl bikinis from tankini bottoms and bras made from material that can pass for swimsuit fabric. (I have a huge chest, so even bikini tops specially made for plus size women don’t usually fit me right.) And thankfully, there are lots of places you can buy these online now, but almost NEVER in stores. (Check out Gabi Fresh and Brazilian designer Lehona’s line for additional fatspiration!)

DIY fat girl bikini: Lane Bryant Bra and Tankini Bottoms from Target

I HAVE taken serious shit for being a fat girl in a bikini. But as with any other situation, I honestly have no patience for people who think it’s their job to tell me my body is inappropriate.

So of course, I had to try on the H&M bikini. it only comes in one style- black with polka dots, with a halter neck and high waist. It’s cute, and looks kind of 1940s style.  I didn’t wind up buying it though because again, not enough boob support.  Nevertheless, I am stoked the H&M is selling this, and hope they offer more styles in future.

All bikini talk aside, I also love retro-style one piece suits. The one at the left is from H&M, the one on the right is from Old Navy, and I’d happily wear either to the beach. (And I currently live a 10 minute bike ride from Lake Michigan, so I intend to be at the beach A LOT this summer). That said, neither of these would be really ideal for swimming, as I’d probably have some undesired boob spillage.

So, fair readers: swim suit shopping! Love it, hate it, or indifferent to it? One piece vs. bikini? Weigh in in the comments.

From Chi Town with love,

Bianca James

UPDATE: XOJane posted this rad gallery of fat girls! More inspiration!

Read last week’s Fatshion Love Letter here!



  1. Love this post! I’ve always worn black one-piece ’cause that’s what I like. I love retro-styled suits, so anything with a swim skirt is right up my alley. I also have a scoop-neck tank suit covered in fringe — very Lenny Kravitz-rock&roll style. Not great for swimming, but fun for walking on the beach.

    Love all the bathing suit posts I’m finding these days. Everyone has summer fever! I just wrote about the new suits I got… I love Land’s End because you can buy tops and bottoms separately.

    Thanks for sharing the news about H&M. It’s pretty awesome.

  2. shannonhumphreys says:

    I got my first one piece like, ever last year, and it made me feel hella frumpy! I can’t wear it this summer because I’m pregnant, but I’m going straight back to two pieces. I don’t care what kind of deflated flabulous nonsense I have going on after this baby vacates.

  3. I really like the polka dot bikini! The black halter one-piece comes in second. Too bad your boobies are trying to escape!

    Melissa– I love your disclaimer on the bathing suit photos.

    • Oh, my boobies escaping is only a bad thing if I’m trying to swim 😉 they have a mind of their own- they have a way of stealing my food and boob dialing people on my cell phone, as well.

  4. Marissa Goldmark says:

    While I’m more than fine with wearing a bikini in public, I find that for swimming I gear towards one pieces mainly because it’s hard to find a bikini that will stay on while I’m swimming… I’m an amazon, 6ft 1in, big boobs, big ass, small waist and as a vigorous swimmer… well I think you can do the math. lol

  5. I think I might be in love with you.

    (And also, just so this isn’t the most awkward comment you’ve ever received, I found this post / blog through Yvonne Wontons. She and I went to high school together.)

  6. I am a fan of a simple one piece ONLY because I swim and do water aerobics so my swimsuit has to survive lots of chlorine (at public pool dosage) and not get in my way while I’m splashing around with water weights, noodles and kickboards or working on my backstroke. I also burn really easily and thus prefer a suit I can just throw a tshirt over at the beach so I don’t burn. Oh and thanks to the chlorine my suits only last about a year so nothing so stylish I will be heartbroken when I have to get a new one. All that said, I’ve already picked out my next one-teal to bring out my eyes 😉

  7. What a great post! I also have taken flack for wearing a bikini. I’m not quite as big as I used to be, but non-the-less people think it’s odd for someone my size to be in a bikini. Fuck ’em. My best friend got me into one four years ago and I’ve never, ever looked back!

  8. It’s refreshing to see not just someone “plus-size” but with my ACTUAL body type (belly, hips, big boobs and all) proudly wearing a 2 piece. You look gorgeous and the confidence is contagious. THANK YOU!

    • Awwww, thanks! I have all the lumps and bumps and cellulite and whatever, and it did take some courage to put these pics up for the public to ogle (and this piece has gotten more hits than anything we’ve run to date) but I think people are starved for images of big, beautiful people embracing their bodies with love and confidence!

      • It is refreshing to see real, non airbrushed bodies in bathing suits. The models in plus sized catalogs and web sites are either NOT plus sized in the real world or are so ridiculously toned and Spanxed and airbrushed that it is not possible to picture myself in their clothes or bathing suits.

  9. Personally, I love the purple one piece. Love the color and it really suits you!
    Polka dot comes second.

    Thanks for sharing.

  10. Your review of the H&M Plus size section is just how I feel about the forever 21 plus size section. Its a sad day when beautiful women with money to spend get a few measly racks of clothes to the literally 2 floors at my local Forever 21 store filled with cute shit that would only fit a 12 year old. Your bravery in these pictures and the gals over at xojane inspire me!

  11. Anonymous says:

    I love bbws. I find them to be the most sexy of any woman out there.

  12. I have totally been looking for a swimsuit. I do not swim a lot but I know its time for a new one and I def want a retro swimsuit I think they always look so cute. Thank you for being brave and showing off the goodies in that cute bikini. As confident as I have become through my blog I am still wrestling with showing my belly. I recently wore a cropped shirt that showed a tiny bit of my belly and was surprised to get compliments. Swimsuit is a whole different thing,but I am in love with all these high waist bikinis this year I think I will have to bare it all.Glad I found your post and blog.

  13. I love swim suit season. I don’t like to wear clothes and love that a two-ply pair of underwear and soft cup bra get to count as such in the summer time. I’m by no means a little girl, 5’2” and 165lbs, and covered in dark fuzz. This girl is a hairy bitch, but it never deters me from getting half naked in public in the tiniest bikini i can find. Women really have to get over their concerns of what other people might think and just get to loving themselves. Self love and self confidence will put in you in all the clothes and places you never thought you could be in and keeps you from being the girl at the beach saying, “What the fuck is that girl wearing.”

    She’s wearing whatever the fuck she wants to.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I really love what you posted here! I just found your blog on the internet and it takes so much courage to do what you did! YOU LOOK AWESOME ROCK ON.

  15. You can certainly see your enthusiasm within the
    work you write. The world hopes for more passionate writers such as you who are not afraid to mention how
    they believe. All the time go after your heart.


  1. […] H&M+ (Apparently, you can even find a plus-size bikini at H&M stores!) […]

  2. […] been wearing bikinis while fat for about eight years now, and it’s exciting that plus size retailers are finally catching up […]

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