As the weather heats up, summer fashion tends to lean towards less material. Consequently, you may find yourself seasonally inclined (or at the least encouraged by rising temperatures) to show more skin. How do summer fashion norms impact the relationship you have with your body?
I got a one-piece swimsuit with mum from David Jones in late high school, when they were still making the transition from senior’s water aerobics to mainstream fashion aesthetic. As a thick black girl, it was self censoring, but also a utilitarian turn away from underwire that grows soggy and precarious amongst the waves. I settled on a black number that I hoped came off retro or elegant with its scooped back and sweetheart neckline that meets mesh netting up to the collarbone. I was occasionally self conscious of this fabric-heavy choice that differed greatly to my peers. I slipped it back on the other week and was surprised by its binding ‘power netting’ lining, which has not been a feature of my subsequent bather choices. That first suit was trying to tame something, make it curvy in the right way. I love summer and my relaxed, clear-skinned and melanin poppin’ post-beach self. I’m more comfortable in my skin salty and sunned, as dimply, soft and stretch-marked as it is. My past few summers at the beach have cultivated a pragmatic confidence that isn’t unwavering, but is a big come up from the days of seeking power netting.
There was a bad trend for a while where shorts only just went past the knee. Now I don’t even know what’s going on in shorts culture. In my mind, when I hear ‘shorts’ I immediately think of people wearing polo shirts with that little guy playing golf on them, 200-dollar snapback caps with that little guy playing golf on them, and yellow pyramids. My dad used to wear a sarong to bed during summer. I used to be in awe of that, but now I can only imagine him waking up at 3.29 AM every night, drenched in sweat, his legs a labrynthian tangle. As a former ‘wannabe’ ‘goth’ ‘teen’ I still follow the oath of wearing tight dark cloth in summer, and keeping my legs together so nobody can see the tear in the crotch of my pants.
Perth summer is the pits if you’re even remotely self-conscious. Wear something that covers the thighs you hide from the world and pass out in a sweaty mess walking from the bus stop to get your $1 Hungry Jacks Frozen Coke. Pick up something that looks a little less like you’re trying to avoid contracting malaria on a safari and enjoy weight loss billboards all down Stirling Highway, which of course involve a tiny woman with measuring tape around her waist and a very unhealthy looking man. At the end of the day you just can’t win, so you’ve just got to put on your old baggy bathers with the droopy elastic and the bum pilling, head down to Cottesloe Beach, and then swim over and urinate right next to anyone who looks at you for even a millisecond longer than they needed to work out you weren’t a shark.
I’ve been told I have a flat chest a few times here and there. Here and there can be terrible places. I’m older now and have grown to this age in the same body, so we are on amicable terms. In summer I keep purchasing crop tops and shirts that facilitate chest exposure, before bundling them away in strange shapes (these things never fold neatly) into the back of draws and the bottom of shoes. When in store I forget that I don’t like people seeing my chest. Or perhaps the lack of movement in that general area, I’m an expanse without undulation. Which is fine, but also something very easy to think of as not fine. I do like the colour of my skin in summer, watching it become richer in colour like a coconut cream curry broth reducing on the stove. For this, I am happy to wear less.
Every time summer rolls around I think fuck, what am I going to wear anywhere, I can’t wear winter clothes to hide my substantial paunch because I’ll end up a sweaty mess and nobody likes sweaty messes (unless you do, in which case power to you). The last time I weighed myself I was well above 100kg and that can’t be healthy, I need to go for a few runs ay. It’s a catch twenty-two. You could not exercise and go around in the knowledge that you are being silently judged by those around you (the prejudice IS real) or you could exercise, and be quietly not ok with the knowledge that on some level, you are reducing yourself to a body for these people because it’s not for your own appeasement, exercise makes you feel bloody awful, no number of endorphins can shake that truth. And in the same token I don’t actually own any summer clothes beyond a t-shirt, so more often than not I just don’t go out, but when I do it’s with some kind of coat, and people ask “aren’t you hot” and I reply “no thanks I’m cool” but of course, if it wasn’t already apparent, I am not cool.
Art by Marney Anderson
This article first appeared in print volume 88 edition 1 HEAT