It’s not because I hate my body. It’s not that I can’t find a bikini I like or want (I have), or because I think they’re slutty (I think it’s safe to say that nowadays we’re all pretty desensitized to nudity, and anyways, if we’re not, we should be). For me, it’s a matter of style, and of preference. Diana Vreeland famously said the bikini was “the biggest thing since the atom bomb,” and she’s not wrong, but in this case, call me a pacifist. Yes, I, the not-particularly-conservative Alessandra Codinha, am an unapologetic champion of the one-piece swimsuit.
Since variety is the spice of life and all that, I have dabbled with all of the other cuts (though the only monokini I ever liked was this Pucci one on display at the Met, and it obviously wasn’t for sale). Some bikinis are great-looking, and, certainly, there are locales where a two-piece just feels right—for me, for some reason, it's Tulum. And while a few of these stringy suits have crept into my maillot rotation, most of the times I’m beach-bound, such as last Wednesday, when I fled the city to join my family in Nantucket, it’s a sleek, slim-cut one-piece all the way. Technically, four sleek, slim-cut one pieces. (Remember what I said about variety?)
Hearing this, ITG’s own Emily Weiss didn’t believe I was only packing full-coverage suits, and she has her reasons: you may recall her photo documentation of my beloved short-shorts parading all over Dumbo. “Why would you cover up that bod-ay?” she asked. (Yes, she said it exactly like that.) And to be fair, not everyone ‘gets it.’ I’ve had girl friends and boyfriends attempt to suss out what they’ve perceived to be body-image issues, or assume that by abstaining, I was also passing judgement on their decision to wear a two-piece (this, only from women). Once, a guy who didn’t care one way or the other just gave me the ol’ up-and-down and sneered, “So is this a 'trendy’ thing?” (In that particular instance, to be fair, I was wearing a Chanel swimsuit covered in interlocking Cs, so it probably was sort of a ‘trend thing,’ though I maintain he was rude.)
There are lots of people who wear bikinis and probably shouldn’t, and there are lots of people who wear one-pieces because they don’t like their physiques: I'm OK with my physique, just not in a bikini. (This excludes the undeniably awesome Disney “Princess Jasmine” bikini I wore incessantly from ages five to six, before which most of my time on the beach was spent nude—sorry I’m not sorry.) I inherited a sort of genetic weakness of the abdominal muscles and a ribcage that slightly protrudes, which meant that, regardless of my weight during my childhood and adolescence, I was constantly trying to suck in my stomach as I walked down to the water. Lying down at the beach meant endlessly adjusting the swimsuit ties at my hips and neck; sitting up made me feel like my stomach looked like a puggle’s face—all those adorable little skin rolls, not so adorable to a teenager. I knew what Britney Spears (circa "Slave 4 U") looked like in a bikini, and that was not what was happening. I was fine if I could stand up and lengthen my torso, but that’s posing, and who the hell wants to do that at the beach? So, I invested in a lot of attractive beach cover-ups, which I am thankful for, but that’s not the point.
I slowly moved past Britney, realizing that I didn’t have to wear what CosmoGirl told me boys would like (this, obviously, was part of a bigger revelation), and that I could find a one-piece that wasn’t made by Speedo or one of the mumsy, skirted styles favored by the aquaerobics set. And buy them I did: now, my favorite Eres suits have low fronts and backs and are (for my body) cut perfectly; I visited my best friend in Cartagena last year, and wore Pucci suits under my shorts during the day. Last summer, I wore a sporty Lisa Marie Fernandez style (strapless, black neoprene, with a zipper up the front)—a friend of a friend took to calling me “Bond Girl body” for the entire July 4th weekend. And with only a sliver of décolletage showing! Even J. Crew makes classic cuts that are easy, even cool, to wear. Straps can be slipped off your shoulders, the whole thing rolled down to your waist for tanning (see? So not a prude). To me, there’s a refined, under-the-radar sexiness about a one-piece. They’re simultaneously classic and modern, and when they look right, they look sophisticated, a word not normally invoked at the beach.
Someone told me once—and I’ll never forget it—that as wonderful as clothes can be, whatever you choose to wear shouldn’t outshine you. Sure, there are exceptions: you want people to remember your wedding dress, or what you wore on your first date with the love of your life, but at the end of the day, people should just recall that you looked beautiful. Eventually, everybody figures out that you look your best when you feel the most comfortable (whether that means HotPants or muumuus or who-knows-what). And at the beach, I want to be able to sit up and have a picnic without worrying what my stomach looks like, or dive into a pool and swim for as long as I want without fearing a Seventeen magazine Traumarama moment and losing my top. I need to feel ready to run into the waves, play with my dogs, or to try (however halfheartedly because, oh my God am I bad at it) surfing. My one-pieces are not, as Emily suggested, “covering up that bod-ay,” but empowering it, flattering it, and ensuring that I’m able to do what I want, whenever I want.
Introducing Alessandra Codinha, ITG's new associate editor! We're four people now, meaning that we're perfectly poised to roam the halls of a high school in a mid-nineties teen movie (we'll go with The Craft since it's in keeping with fall's slightly goth trend), or form a boy/girl band, and/or play a mean game of Scrabble. —E.W.