This article was originally published in the Drexel Triangle in April 2005
By: Leslie Pasqualone
Last month, I brought my mother along on the most dreadful shopping mission of all: bathing suit shopping. I am sure there are some of you out there that enjoy the act, but you are probably the type of person who works out constantly or are just blessed with wonderful genes. I, unfortunately, do not fit into either of the categories, so I brought my mother along based solely on the fact that I knew she would tell me the truth.
If it was up to me, I would only buy a new suit every three years. However this year, I was fortunate enough to be invited to Hawaii for spring break. My mother pointed out to me ever so quaintly three days before departure that I needed a new suit.
I am never one to turn down a shopping excursion. I have, however, never had a good experience buying a bathing suit. I have on many occasions bought suits that faded, stretched out, or even worse, did not stay on. I have bought bathing suits with embellishments that have begun to rust from salt water. I have bought bathing suits that have fit me in the store, but once on the beach had minds of their own. If it were up to me, I would be in shorts and a t-shirt all day long based on my past experiences.
In any event the first problem I encountered was where I could get a suit in the first place. I needed a nice one, which will last me a couple years until I am inevitably forced to buy another … I suggested going to the mall for a quick easy fix, but my mother suggested going to a place that specializes in bathing suits and active wear. The deal was this: if we didn’t find anything there we would hit up the mall for back up. Fair enough. I agreed to the plan of attack.
My mother heard from a friend that there was a great place near our house called Shirley & Co. They have two locations on in the Hunting Valley Shopping Center (215-663-8588) and also in Newtown, PA on RT 332 in the Clemens’s Shopping Center (215-579-7005).
However my first impression was that of nervousness and anxiety. As soon as I walked into the place, the agony and agitation of this task resurfaced and began to increase. Where do I start? What type of suit am I looking for? What colors work well with my skin? How much do I want to spend? It was a one-room store with racks upon racks of swim wear and two very animated saleswomen. Exactly what I wasn’t in the mood for: two really happy people jibber-jabbering about bathing suits. I began to feel faint.
Right away, one of the saleswomen, Rina asked me a series of questions. What type of suit did I want; one piece, bikini or tankini (a bathing suit with separate top and bottom that look like a one piece)? “Bikini,” I replied automatically. Much to my dismay, I was going to Hawaii where almost no one, except tourists, wear one-piece bathing suits.
All of the sudden Rina was directing us to the left wall of the store. Apparently, the right side is only one piece suits. Suddenly, it was like that autotrader.com commercial, where the customers are shouting out car features they want and then suddenly millions of cars are narrowed down to one, perfect car. It was quite amazing.
The rest of my experience was smooth sailing. The next series of questions had to do with shape. Did I prefer under wire in my tops or would I prefer triangle (string bikini) tops that work better with smaller busted women? Would I prefer a short-type bottom or a more or a skimpier bottom optimal for tanning?
The shopping experience as a whole was quite extensive. But much to my approval, I walked out two hours later with two bathing suits that I absolutely loved (my mother ended up picking up one herself as well). A specialty shop like this is convenient because of a couple of reasons. First and foremost, these women knew their product, higher-end bathing suits set to last season after season. The customer service I received there is something I would never be able to find at the mall.
Rina did all the work for me. She kept pulling and grabbing all different types of bathing suits until we (and I stress the word we) found the perfect ones. All I had to do was try them on. Buying a bathing suit can go from fairly cheap to just down right expensive. My suggestion is to spend a little more money because I guarantee the satisfaction is worth it. If you want a bathing suit that is only going to last you one season, this is not the place for you.
All of the suits at Shirley and Co. are lined, comfortable and worthy of recognition. Make a day out of it, bring a friend, a loved one, a mother, whomever.
My final words on this subject are these: buy a bathing suit that not only fits your body but flatters it as well.
I know that it may be obvious to some, but I will be the first to tell you that the bathing suits I would have liked to wear are far different from the bathing suits that I actually bought. I cannot tell all of you which bathing suits are better for different body types because the fact of the matter is: every one has different preferences, expectations and levels of modesty.
One last note: take into consideration what you will be doing in the bathing suits. For example, when sunbathing the skimpier the suit, the better. That way you can maximize the sun exposure on your body (with some sort of sunscreen, of course). However on the same note, if you are planning on snorkeling or swimming in the ocean per say, the sturdier the suit the better because skimpy suits have a history of dismembering themselves from your body. Believe me, I learned that lesson the hard way.
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