Summer is approaching. Days are getting longer, shorts are getting shorter, and the rising temperatures heighten the urge to lounge poolside or on the beach. But it’s impossible to dive into summer without first embarking on a sometimes grueling, uphill shopping trek to find the perfect swimsuit.
For many women, what they find in swimwear is passable, not perfect.
In a 2013 study conducted by casual clothing maker Land’s End, 66 percent of the women surveyed said they would be more self-conscious in public wearing a swimsuit than giving a speech.
This is, perhaps, because in the triangle top, Brazilian bikini world we live in, some summer garments leave little to the imagination.
Before swimwear was made to torture, it was made to measure. Tailors snipped, stitched and sculpted apparel down to the inch. But then came the ready-to-wear revolution and assembly lines.
The trouble with factory-made swimwear is that people aren’t factory-made.
“Either the swimsuit is made for a really skinny person or it’s plus size,” said Coast cover model Kate Gibbons, 18, who was born in Galveston and a student at Texas State University. “When you fall in between, it’s hard to find one that fits right. I’ve had friends that won’t shop for swimsuits at all anymore, because they can’t find one that they feel they look good in.”
But new island business Fluid Sunwear is bringing back bespoke, custom designing swimwear for specific body types.
“Over the last 100 years, ready-to-wear has become the way of creating clothing,” said Megan Turnbow, the brains behind Fluid Sunwear. “They use mathematical algorithms to grade patterns and everything is based on the industry standard Size 2. It doesn’t make any sense.”
Turnbow has made it her mission to offer options for all sizes that are fun, functional and actually fit.
“We take measurements to account for mass and circumference, so I will be able to know when I get all of your measurements how much of your hip circumference is your butt and how much of it is hip spread,” Turnbow said. “We’re able to make the bathing suit fit along the bottom like it’s supposed to.”
Turnbow is inspired by vintage swimwear because it was made to flatter a woman’s body, either accentuating or giving the appearance of curves.
Turnbow, however, doesn’t use kitschy fabrics like other vintage-inspired lines.
“Instead of polka dots, checkers or cherries, our fabrics are more generalized to what’s fresh on the market,” Turnbow said.
Fabrics are high-quality and colorfast with a matte rayon-lycra blend, made to withstand UV rays, sand abrasion, harsh chemicals and sunscreen.
Fluid offers a monokini called the Rita; a one-piece, called the Sophia; and five different styles of two-pieces, which are named for screen sirens Marlene Dietrich, Lauren Bacall, Donna Reed, Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe.
“We wanted to name our bathing suits after women in history that were not just fun to watch on the screen, but that were confident and strong,” Turnbow said. “Lauren Bacall was more than just a beautiful face, she was intelligent. Marilyn Monroe was a brilliant businesswoman and a civil rights activist.”
Celebrating femininity is the cornerstone of the Fluid Sunwear brand and it was born of personal experience. Turnbow, like many of her customers, struggles with conventional sizing.
At 5 feet 10 inches tall, she towered over her classmates in the seventh grade and had trouble finding pants that were long enough for her lanky frame.
“I started to feel like fashion was against me,” Turnbow said.
Instead of giving in, Turnbow fought back and learned to sew.
“I kind of just picked up a sewing machine one day and I liked it, because I could create things that fit and that nobody else had,” she said. “It wasn’t long before I was making prom dresses for my friends.”
In her 20s, Turnbow dreamed of moving to the coast and setting up a custom swimwear shop on the beach.
“I didn’t let go of that dream,” she said. “I was determined to move somewhere warm, but I still had to figure out how I was going to survive.”
Her vision was realized when she moved to Galveston last year and built her business.
On her website, Turnbow offers tips on taking proper measurements with photos and video tutorials. This eliminates the guess work for women like Gibbons, who are concerned about proper fit.
“Usually, I’ll go online and look at some, but I don’t like to order them online because you don’t know how they’re going to look,” Gibbons said. “We’re used to seeing swimsuits on these perfect bodies because that’s how they advertise them, but almost no one looks like that when they actually put them on.”
Fluid’s custom-made pieces are meant to inspire confidence instead of dread.
“If women would stop beating themselves up and start to see ourselves for how beautiful and amazing we are, we would actually take over the world,” Turnbow said.
For tips and tricks on finding the best swimsuit fit, visit www.fluidsunwear.com.