Autostraddle’s Swimsuit Issue: Butches, Bois, Femmes, Dykes, Grrrls and Otherwise-Identified Beachgoers


Part Three: The Femmes


3a. Hotties With Bodies: Queer Fat Femme Swimwear
By Bevin from Queer Fat Femme

The folks at Autostraddle asked me to write a guest article providing their readers with my opinions about swimwear and a guide for fat girls to feel confident so that they will go out to the beach and flirt with editor Becky.

Let’s be honest–wearing a swimsuit is practically like being naked in public except that it affords you the opportunity to lift or bind in areas you want to and decorate your body with swaths of fabric in as subtle or flamboyant a manner as you wish. And a lot like being naked in public, wearing a swimsuit can be extremely nervewracking and cause much anxiety.

It’s really important both politically and for personal sanity that fat folks and people with all sorts of bodily non-normativity (trans people, gender non conforming people, dis/abled folks, older folks, etc…) have the same access to public swimming facilities like beaches, community pools and debaucherous queer pool parties.

The trick is to find a suit that minimizes the anxiety provoking experience of being next-to-naked in public and carries with it the personal expression that is so crucial to style.

I’ll start with my own favorite swimsuit. I got this number from Torrid 3 years ago. I love it because it reminds me of wearing a dress, since it is a halter and has a cute skirt. I think it’s the first time I’ve ever found a bathing suit with a skirt that actually looks like a dress and not like a cast off from the old Roaman’s catalog.

Photo by Shameless Photography.

Every year Torrid comes out with a variety of really cute swimsuits that I think embody a retro chic style with a little bit of a girly punk edge. They’re still selling the halter skirt suit with the bow in front, this year in a couple of different fabrics. And they don’t just do one pieces, they also have separates if you are different sizes on top and on bottom.

What I like also about Torrid suits is that mine has lasted for so long. Even though I spent $70 on that suit, it has definitely served well. I think when you really fall in love with a suit it is worth a monetary investment in order to feel good being practically naked.

and Old Navy have plus size swimwear sections, with varying results. There’s a hot suit Target has right now that is black/white and has a retro feel to it as well (as you can tell, I favor retro for fancy femme pin-up style).

Target, Old Navy, and Torrid afford the size 12-28 plus size swimwear shopper in metropolitan USA the opportunity to try everything on, which is helpful. And when shopping in person for swimwear, I suggest doing a full face of make-up (if you wear it), doing your hair, having a good meal ahead of time (to avoid being self-hating and hangry) and bringing a supportive friend. I suggest trying every style on. You never know what cut is going to be flattering on you, and being open to being surprised is a huge key to fashion success.

For those who have to shop online, I suggest checking out the forum on the Fatshionista Live Journal community . It is great to see how real plus size people look in their swimwear, including reviews about online service and custom suiting options. Many people may not realize this, but fat people have widely varying body shapes, and finding someone who is a similar shape to you is really helpful to gauge how a suit will look on you.

I like Monif C swimwear. Her stuff is pricey but it is sooooo foxy. I can’t get over how gorgeous some of her suits are.

Von Hottie photo courtesy Von Hottie runs around the streets of New York City highly accessorized.

I think a big part of creating personal style out of a swimsuit is accessorizing. You’ll often see me at the beach wearing my cute “could almost be a dress” swimsuit with a big hat, a necklace, big earrings, bracelet, cute shoes and sunglasses. Of course, sometimes I eschew the jewelry, but I have very fair skin (hence the hat) and I also find that playing the game of “I’m a 30s fancy lady” helps me to forget that I might be the fattest person at the pool that day. I am also the kind of ferocious Femme who thinks that she should get to wear make-up whenever she feels like it. MAC Cream Color Base is a great way to prevent your make-up from running when you swim.

The most important accessory at the beach is just being there. I wrote an article for the Femmes Guide linked here about how to have a gorgeous beach body.

I will leave you with these:

DO wear a swimsuit that makes you feel good about yourself, or at least helps you “fake it til you make it” until you do feel good about yourself.

DON’T surround yourself with friends at the beach/pool who critique your body or how you look in your swimsuit. Negative body talk is so last century.

Becky, I hope you get hella flirted with by lots of hot fat girls and bois at the beach this summer.

Bevin Branlandingham chronicles the relentless pursuit of her joy at queer fat femme dot com


3b. Just Your Average Everyday Girls
by Autostraddle Style Editor Becky

Femmes, you have your own problems. You can’t go to the beach without guys hitting on you and laughing at you when you say you’re a lesbian and winking at you and saying they can change that. But in regard to availability of swimsuits that fit your style–girl, you are golden. Here’s a quick breakdown of stuff you probably already know with a few suggestions about what’s, you know, “hot” this summer.

One Pieces & Tankinis

Le Blanca has some great swimsuits you can find over at your local Macys or Nordstroms.

If you’re less into the “sex me” look and more into the “girl-next-door-but-still-sex-me” look, check out UjENA for their wide selection (seriously they have like a bajillion and a half choices) of bathing suits, including one of my all time favorite styles: the “Monroe”


Oh hey, ladies. If you like cute, inexpensive bikinis that can sometimes act as a push-up(?) head on over to Body Double Swimwear and check out the bikini tops they have for only $10. Why these things are on clearance I really don’t know. Probably because summer is already over in the fashion world or something ridiculous like that.

Also, because eco-fashion isn’t just a fad, take this time now to explore more green options such as Eco-Panda (pictured above), BTC Elements, Nickster, and Green Is Black.

My advice for bikinis and swimsuit pieces in general is this: mix things up!

I always wanted to be that girl who wore some teal bikini top of one bathing suit and some white crouched bottoms of another. So one day I just did and there was no going back. Well, there is occasionally, but my point is experiment. Have fun. Wear a bikini top with board shorts. Live la vida loca.


3c. Get Fit for a Fucking Femme
by Fit for a Femme

If you lean to the femme side of swimwear, you know there’s a lot of fug out there to wade through. Not just outrageous, American Apparel-esque fug, but really pedestrian fug, too. There’s also the fact that bikinis are tiny scraps of whatever and REALLY, REALLY fucking expensive, so while we all might lust after a dozen various swimsuits, we tend to have to commit to one or two, and like we really want to see our scraps on some other girl at the beach, amIright?! Plus, you want it to be flattering to your body type. All these factors really limit us fancy dykes, don’t they? Well, fuck that noise.

TIP #1: You know what can be super foxy? The one-piece.

It feels like the designers are paying attention to the one-piece like never before, which is GREAT. I’ve never seen so much variation in design or had so much difficulty picking favorites.

Modcloth Retro Sailor Monokini, $124.99
Anthropologie To The Nines Maillot (Pink/Black), $198
Red Carter Coral Diamond Colorblock (Belted), $196
Marc by Marc Jacobs Coral Ikat Halter, $119
Marc by Marc Jacobs Ruffled Halter Maillot, $121

I know I don’t need to double dare ya to kill it in a bikini, take a look at these:

Fuck yeah, man.

OndadeMar Sky Kaleidoscope Bikini (twisted bandeau), $72
Modcloth’s Gentleman Prefer Plaid
(regular and plus-size), $89.99
Lucky Brand Earth Love Bikini (black print w/ grommets), $116
Anthropologie Striped Transverse Bikini, $136
Anthropologie Loping Herd Bikini, $116
Anthropologie Inextricable Blue Bikini (with full coverage bottom), $176
Juicy Couture Felicity Floral Bikini (navy/red with rosettes), $161

PS. Is it just me and my snark or are tankinis the capri pant of bathing suits?

You can read more Fit for a Femme at!

Thanks everyone for contributing! If you want to give up and just go get a Speedo like the ones the cute girls wore in swim team, then that’s okay, I bet you’ll ROCK IT.

Pages: 1 2 3See entire article on one page

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I'm Becky. I write about style because I think anybody can look great and I think everybody usually does. I'm into self-expression. I'm into being expressive. When I'm not writing about style for Autostraddle I'm usually trying to make a film. I'm also a dancer, so I will Gahu with you anytime, anywhere.

Becky has written 1 article for us.


  1. OMG, I seriously needed this blog. I haven’t even finished reading but I had to comment… I HATE the beach! And not because of the water, or because I’m an albino. Its because I NEVER know what to wear and end up feeling uncomfortable and refusing to take of my clothes ’cause I don’t want to look beach-inept or stupid.

    THANK-YOU! I gotta go find a shirt to cut the sleeves off of now…

  2. Thank you so so so much for the in-betweeners section, especially brand recommendations.

    I was already kinda leaning toward the halter top/boyshort combo, but I never even thought about men’s short trunks! Genius. I know just the place in town to shop for those.

    Thank you Autostraddle, for making swimsuit season stress-free.

  3. I really like the idea of men’s short trunks. Maybe my friends will be able to get me into a swimming pool this year. I still don’t know quite what to do for a top though. I cannot do a halter bikini thing but maybe if I found a tankini that could cover my gut?

    I liked the rash-guards but do any come as a tank? Also how hot do they get? Is the material like a bathing suit or like a scuba suit?

    Also where was this website when I had 9th and 10th grade swimming class (or as I like to call it a special kind of hell)?

    • I’ve worn basically a full body version of those (stinger suits – they are important when swimming in the Great Barrier Reef to avoid evil jellyfish) and they’re actually not that bad. They’re very lightweight, and not lined like a full swimsuit is.

  4. I am so grateful that the wonderful ladies at Autostraddle are slowly and meticulously teaching me how to dress because I KNEW NOT HOW :(

    However, you have all I need from accessories to headphones to pics of supersexy butches that I aspire to be and now butch swimwear?!?

    Thank you so much, and excuse me while I change my underwear. This blog is better than a foreign accent.

  5. “Probably because summer is already over in the fashion world or something ridiculous like that.”

    omg becky you are so right, american eagle is starting back to school on july 6 or something, shoot me in the face.

    anyways, this article is wonderful. makes me want to try on my bathing suit. also i hate swimming and want to find a bikini that doesn’t fall off when i jump in the pool.

  6. I dunno. I kinda feel torn. I do NOT have abs, and I’m like, at least 20lbs heavier than I wanna be, and I’m no where NEAR as skinny as half of the tomboys in this issue..however, I’m not fat…I’m not nearly as big as any of the girls on the 3rd page…so..I’m still stuck on what to wear for beach.
    I liked the halter top though.

    • I know what you mean. I’m not fat but my stomach isn’t flat either. Tankinis and rashguards with board shorts or something would probably be best for us.

      I don’t know how to swim, though, so that takes care of that problem. No bathing suit for me.

      • i didn’t learn how to swim ’til I was 18! srsly. ’cause i was afraid to wear swimsuits. fitforafemme recommended some hot one-pieces. i actually, if i had to buy a bathing suit, which i obviously cannot do as i cannot even buy myself breakfast, i would get one of those old-school one-pieces with the boyshort bottoms and all the extra scrunchy fabric and stuff that was like a romper practically. LOVE IT

    • When I saw the cute one-pieces (that didn’t resemble Ellen’s brown p.o.s.) I was excited.

      Caprina: you and I feel exactly the same about ourselves. I went over to and found some cute suits with “shirring”. It’s that bunchy stuff in the middle? Anyway, I think they are gonna be cute (who knows though, I may get there and do myself in in the dressing room).

      Anyway, before I read this article today, I always thought of a one-piece as something girls had to wear when they weren’t hot anymore, or when they were too old for a bikini. As of today, I will rock the one-piece, and seriously “fake it til I make it” when I show myself in it.

      I have to go to Vegas in 5 weeks, so I need a new bathing suit fast. I don’t care what little girls in bikinis I see, I will wear it like it was my FIRST CHOICE, not the alternative because I don’t think I’m hot enough for a two piece (they don’t need to know I’m not!)

      We can fake it together :) Get that one-piece!

  7. I never knew that there were such cool boyshort/brief type suits! Those seem perfect for surfing because I have no idea how pro surfers like Alana Blanchard wear brazilian bikini bottoms and continue to rip without them completely falling off. For me, bikini bottoms are def a no-go for surfing. They fall down the minute I duck-dive under a wave, and then I’m paddling and trying to hold them up, but since I’m only paddling with one arm, I can’t get anywhere, and then I’m just like, fuck it, and let the top third of my bum hang out, and then it gets burnt. So ya, thanks for saving me from a bum-burn this summer!!

  8. My little sexy butch was afraid of the beach because she didn’t know what to wear. I got her a pair of these:
    and she goes topless. It is hot! I am glad Aja agrees with me. I suggested this on the afterellen (swimsuit styled out) and got thrown off the site. They thought I was a troll! Whatevs, Autostraddle is better.
    Viva la topfreedom!

  9. So this article is PERFECT for me ’cause I’m getting married in Hawaii next year and I’m thinking my normal racing suit + board shorts so I don’t have to shave thing’s not gonna cut it. I’m lusting after this… nngh.

  10. riese, I never ever want to be an angry lesbian commenter who intimidates you from posting ever again.

    Please put everything on the internet by you for us to read. You’re great!

    Also this post changed my swimsuit life. I wish I had $90 for the Gentlemen Prefer Plaid Two Piece in “plus size” because honestly if I could design my own swimsuit, it’d look just like that.

  11. i absolutely love this.

    i just bought a rashguard for a surfing trip that went array [the resort/city we went to had a no-alcohol policy (it was a dry city! wtf), so we had to leave as i wcouldn’t have been able to stay more than 6 hours, obviously] but i still totally recommend the rashguard approach.

    also, this article/issue is awesome. also, i really like the RVCA trunks.

  12. I’m lucky enough to fit into large boys’ stuff. This means that I have a collection of the sweetest board shorts ever. Plus, boys clothes are super, super, super cheap. I have robots, sharks, dinosaurs, crazy patterns, and plain basic colors. I pair them with bikini tops or beaters, depending on what I’m doing.

    Another good thing about boy board shorts: free gifts! They tend to come with pool toys, swim goggles, or badass waterproof wallets.

  13. okay, so help me here. i’m on the femme side of things, but bathing suits *don’t fit me*. like, size 14 AE girls jeans, 36c/34d bra, and way need support. i have no idea what to wear to the beach!

  14. I’ve always wanted to rock board shorts instead of a femmey, plus-size bathing suit with a skirt (because I feel like an impostor when I wear the skirt-suit I own), but wasn’t sure what to do about my top half. Never thought about a sports bra and tshirt/tank top! Now let us see if I actually make it to the beach this summer (I live a mile from Montrose Beach but haven’t been once yet this year.)

  15. it’s so true! bathing suit tops are made for people with breasts which is something that i don’t have. there’s this trick i do to make a regular string bikini look 5 times fancier and not fall off. american apparel sells a suit made to be worn this way, but you can do it with other bathing suits as well. it’s hard to explain, but i’m going to try:
    1: move the triangles so that they are closer to the opposite ends of the string that would normally wrap around your ribcage.
    2: the ribcage string is going to go around your neck instead and the bunched-up strung-up part of the triangles are going to be the sides of the triangles instead of the bottom.
    3: once you tie the string behind your back, you should have two more strings attached to the triangles that are flapping around the front. cross the triangles over and wrap the strings around and tie them in the back as well.

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  17. Update:
    bathing suit found! Cute black one-piece with shirring. Makes me look slim and gives great cleave!!!!! What more could I ask for.

    SRsly, thank you. I would not have run out today and tried on bathing suits had yesterday’s article not prompted me. NO JOKE.

  18. this article is as awesome as epic. I’m actually considering buying a one-piece again for the first time since ages.

    I mostly do identify as some sort of femme, but I have been, when not feeling too comfortable with my body, wearing simple boy shorts since I was a teenager. It’s a great solution if you don’t feel like strutting around half naked. (though, the upper half still is rather naked.) anyways – a bikini, and sometimes boy shorts and a bikini top.

    also, I had the perfect theory going on for bcw, thinking it was dara nai commenting under cover on autostraddle and being just awesomesauce. however, neither dara w. nai nor bad w. machine sound convincing.
    have to make up another theory.

  19. Ech, I’ve never really felt even remotely comfortable in any swimwear. I’m pearshaped and that makes me feel pretty awkward in most swimwear. Tiny shoulders = swimsuits/bikinis that slip off. Curvy woman shape = too girlie to look awesome in butchie swimwear. Thankfully I live in a cold climate so I don’t have to actually face up to this particular ridiculous fear.

    I have a foxy androgynous gf who will look super HAWT in some boy shorts though. Note to self: email link to blog.

  20. It was helpful… but not as helpful as I originally thought it might be. I’m really not trying to be the person who’s all like “Well i’m different and you didn’t represent me!”
    I consider myself to be neither butch or femme but somewhere in the middle. I’m also a size 10 with a size 40D chest. So i’m still really kind of lost here… I don’t feel that my tummy is really THAT bad but every bikini i’ve ever tried doesn’t support my chest.
    I DO NOT like the looks of tankinis either… I guess I was just hoping maybe for some good options for bikinis with full support.
    You ladies do great work and I love you all! Please don’t view this as whiny! Because I swear i’m not trying to be!!!

  21. It is interesting that you chose to have three butch swimwear pieces all authored by femmes. i know that butch/femme is really central to how some butches construct their identity, but as a butch who doesn’t do that, doesn’t do butch/femme, I gotta say I’m a little creeped out.
    It’s nice that you acknowledge the weirdness of having *all three* of your butch swimwear posts written by femme- identified people, but still. Dude. What if all of your femme swimwear posts were written by butches? Wouldn’t you find that a little skeevey?

  22. Comment from a lifeguard here. After spending many years in bathing suits watching other people in bathing suits and seeing what fun in the sun can do to said suits, I recommend that you avoid the sports bra. I’m sure it works for some, but being well-endowed myself, I find that the second mine hits the water it might as well not be there. If it’s the route you’d like to take, check out the “workout bikinis” made by racing suit companies. They have the same look, but keep the support when wet. They’ll last much longer too.

    Great place to find them? They have a variety of brands and provide many options for swimming shoppers. I suggest you check them out for any swimming needs as they have a great selection at a range of prices and in plenty of styles. Here you can find board shorts, fashion suits, racing suits, mens suits, even those adorable little trunks. This site always takes care of my swimming woes.

  23. what about if your a tomboyish girl who has a giant rack but hates the uniboob look of sports bras? also, i hate the feeling of my clothes dragging when i swim, but don’t really have the body confidence for a teeny bikini. also, i hate one pieces because they are so super inconvenient! tankinis have gotten smaller and smaller.

  24. As an extremely busty plus-sized lady (14 on bottom, and a 38 H on top) I have always STRUGGLED to find suits the fit, well, MY BOOBS! Old Navy and Torrid never worked for me in this department. I would be in a size 22 suit before the cups in the top were ever close to kind of fitting and the rest of the damn thing was falling off my bod. This year I did some internet scavaging and found that sells swimwear based on cup size! MIRACLE! I bought a really cute 1950’s inspired underwired halter one piece. It’s the best bathing suit I’ve ever owned. SO if you’re like me and stopped being able to fit into Vitcoria’s Secret at age 15 and are desperate for some sweet suits, get yer but over to Seriously. Would I lie to you? No.

  25. Great article! But I wonder if anyone can offer some additional advice about boy shorts styles or brands? I hate my below-the-belt curves and I’ve found that most shorts emphasize them in an unflattering way, or if I buy ’em baggy, they make me look way bigger than I am (I’m actually quite petite). Any tips for hiding my hips and ass without my lower half looking like a circus tent?

  26. the only thing lacking from this article was actual solutions or any mention of boyishly shaped femmes with flexible gender presentation and assigned male bodies. the halter rule is definitely on point for growing chests but what about the terrifying possibility of outing yourself by the pool or the daunting task of passing in board shorts?

  27. I’m so excited to discover this article, but the links to parts 2 & 3 are broken! I’ve scoured the interwebs and can’t find a work-around. Please send me the direct link or let me know when it’s fixed? Thanks!!!

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