Suiting the mature woman

Colours, style, neckline, legline, skirt or no skirt, all this matters when you’re looking for flair in swimwear.

I recently returned from a brief vacation in Los Cabos, Mexico. The weather was beautiful, the food great and the accommodations were quite spectacular. It was hard to believe that I had left behind severe wind chills and freezing temperatures, but it didn’t take long to adjust to the warm weather. As I love to swim, the pool and the water were the first things on my mind and I spent a good deal of time lounging in the warm water and reading books on the pool deck.

I didn’t realize that February/March in Mexico was the mating and birthing season for the migrating whales. To my amazement, we didn’t need to join those evening whale boat cruises because the whales came so close to shore that we could see them right from our balcony. It was an amazing show as the whales leaped out of the water, slapping their fins and bodies on the water so hard that the “bang” could be heard far and wide. Believe me, it was a real parade!

Swimsuits on parade

Yet there was another parade that took my attention this particular trip. That was the parade of women walking up and down the beach and along poolside wearing very attractive swimwear. I found it strange that I hadn’t ever paid much attention to swimwear before. In my mind a bathing suit was a bathing suit was a bathing suit! I had never viewed it as “swimwear” and/or as a fashion statement. In fact, I had never thought much about a bathing suit having any particular style, colour or shape.

So, lounging on the deck one day I approached two women whom I had noticed wore different and beautiful swimwear every day. Like me, they were mature women who had lost their suave bodies some years before. To my surprise, they told me their strategy was to mix and match tops and to shop to match their body shape. It seemed to work well for them so I vowed to go shopping when I returned home. After all, my bathing suit was several years old, losing its shape and was frankly an embarrassment. My elderly mother would have called my swimsuit, “saggy Aggie!” Thank goodness I had a colourful “coverup” when I wandered around the pool!

My Winnipeg network quickly directed me to their best choice of swimwear boutiques, Peepers Swimwear, a boutique newly relocated to 888 Corydon Avenue. I promptly made a beeline for this unique little store and of course, the first thing I saw when I walked in the door was so many choices and colours that I didn’t know where to start.

However, before I could turn around and leave, the owner, Donna Anderson, welcomed me with her gracious smile and personal exuberance, offered me a cup of tea and brought me over to a comfortable corner to inquire about my needs. Gosh, I no longer felt like that short, overweight, mature grandmother but instead, I felt just as important as those young ladies in the television show, “Say Yes to the Dress!”

Style makes the difference

Actually, I had given up thinking mature women could look good in a bathing suit and so it was at this point that I confirmed, yes, there are indeed stylish alternatives. It was for real! More importantly, I learned that purchasing swimwear needs to be as well thought out as purchasing a wedding dress. Colours, style, neckline, legline, skirt, no skirt etc, all really do matter. Wow, what an eye opener!

Let’s face it; most mature women have some sort of body issue; a little overweight, a few wrinkles here and there and perhaps some childbirth stretch marks that failed to fade away. Not only that, not many of us look forward to walking into a store, disrobing in front of a four way mirror and taking stock of what is before us. It’s a wonder any of us stay long enough to get the right swimsuit!

According to Donna Anderson, most women find her store has so many attractive swimwear outfits that they don’t know where to begin. That’s why she sits her clients down and asks gently what they are initially drawn to. She then guides them to the right fit and the right cut of outfit by considering their body shape.

It’s the illusion that counts

Donna suggests that it doesn’t matter if a woman has a pear, apple, or athletic shaped body, and/or larger hips, or a smaller/larger bust area, her strategy is to ensure the design, colour and cut create a perfect balance and draw the eye away from problem areas.

Strangely, I hadn’t previously connected the need to create the sense of illusion with my business wear to the strategy of purchasing and wearing swimwear. Thankfully, my recent experience on the Mexican boardwalk demonstrated that mature women can indeed look attractive in the right style of swimwear. The only challenge now is that those two prime tourist ladies I used as an example also owned five completely different outfits, one for each day! Lucky for me there were more options at Peepers Swimwear to choose from. Sunny beach, here I come!

Barbara J. Bowes is president of Legacy Bowes Group and of Career Partners International – Manitoba. She is also an author, radio host and a print columnist. She can be reached at

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