Every Body is a Beach Body

Fashion shapes more than the clothes we wear: it is an integral element of our culture. As the summer season—what many of us equate to “beach season”—approaches, the social impact of fashion is increasingly evident. Why? Because of swimsuit culture: in which fashion and society have caused us to obsess over how we look in swimwear. Thin, tanned female models pose for bikini photo shoots, flanked by equally bronzed and well-toned male models in tight-bottomed swimwear. The ad campaigns leave out the comparably untanned, “unfit” masses. There are many people who aren’t models—including myself—who feel the most pressured by the fashion world’s idealization of thinness.

Despite the fashion industry’s pro-skinny propaganda along with societal pressures to be thin and tan, every body is a beach body. Some ads—such as Protein World’s infamous “Are You Beach Body Ready?” campaign—assert that in order to wear a bikini a woman must have the “ideal,” model-esque body. For men, there’s pressure to sport six-pack abs and bulging biceps. When dressing for the beach it’s important that we disregard these unhealthy, negative messages.

So get inspired by more body positive campaigns! Aerie’s recent feature of model Barbie Ferreira for its “Aerie Real” swim campaign is breaking the swim-culture mold by featuring a woman with a body type the fashion world under-represents: the curvy woman. The campaign’s resonance with people across America is setting an important example for other bathing suit advertisers: representation is relatable and attractive to the masses.

Luckily, women’s swimwear trends have been going beyond the basic bikini. One-pieces, crop tops, boy shorts, and high-waisted suits are increasingly popular for women. These are all nice options for covering up potentially sensitive areas of your body.

If you’re like me, you may prefer keeping your bathing suit of choice covered for most—if not all—of your beach day. Swimsuit cover-ups, sundresses, or even just a pair of shorts and a t-shirt can be fun, stylish beachwear. I find myself feeling the most confident during the summer when I’m wearing an outfit with a bathing suit underneath—my easily-burnt skin is also grateful for covering up.

Guys can take a similar approach by pairing their swim bottoms with a comfortable summer tee of their choice. There’s no need to take off your shirt if you don’t want to, and there’s especially no reason to do so when you’re in a nice outfit!

Mainly, it’s important for all beach-goers to feel confident in whatever outfit they choose to sport for their day out in the sun. The options are endless! Disregard body-shaming media that excludes your body type. And articles trying to advise you on the type of bathing suit to wear based on your body type do not have any say in what you wear if you don’t want them to. At best, they can be nice suggestions, but they’re never set in stone.

Why? Because everybody has a unique body. Each person has a personal style and individual preferences for showcasing their body—this goes for beach styles and beyond. Every single body is beautiful, and everyone can sport all sorts of beach wear because every body is a beach body. Power to the beachgoers.

Illustration by Allaire Conte