Bikini Commercials Suck. This Startup Wants to Make Every Woman Feel Fabulous
The sexy bikini now fits, so you definitely should wear it.
I'm a little lady, packing all my ferociousness into a whopping 4'8". Needless to say, shopping for clothes--let alone swimwear--ranks right up there with root canals in terms of pleasure, as nothing is ever my size off the rack. Plus-size ladies everywhere know that same frustration, too, with many retailers being just as sparse in bigger options as they are in small ones. That hasn't set too well with plus-size model and actress Elizabeth Claire Taylor, founder of Curvy Beach. She's on a mission to give curvy women back their body confidence, one bikini at a time.
A city inspires
Taylor tells Inc. that, when she started visiting Miami, Florida, she found it incredibly difficult to find the "simple but exciting" style of bikini others were wearing in her own size. Rather than just accept the swimwear choices she did have, Taylor saw an opportunity and decided to create her perfect plus-size bikini herself.
As Taylor sees it, most plus-size bikinis have two big issues. Their excessive coverage isn't always in line with the sassy, fun attitude larger women would like to exude. That coverage also can send the message to larger women that their bodies are something to shamefully hide rather than tastefully show off. The current designs also often force the curvy woman's body into shapes that feel and look less natural, featuring "control" elements that are based more in outdated beauty ideology than physical necessity. To fix those sore spots and provide a luxury swimsuit that broke away from the mass market, Taylor's design features
- A cup pattern that acts as a "sling" for the bust while offering practical coverage not found in the traditional triangle style.
- Fully adjustable bottoms with side ties.
- Soft elastic--no "power mesh" or "control" elements.
The goal was to have the bikini fit naturally over the body and embrace what it is, rather than to try to conform it.
Highs and lows, demand and scrutiny
Even though Taylor very clearly knew what she wanted from a suit, her success didn't come without some doubts. She notes that she still has to challenge professionals in the mainstream media to treat plus-size women with equality during company promotions, with her models being told they needed to close their robes following a television rehearsal. (Other, smaller models appearing on the segment were not told to do so.) And she recalls two specific moments of despair:
"I literally sat down in the fabric store and cried with my head in my hands with the chaos of the store going on around me, wondering if I should really go ahead with this. [And] the last five minutes before my website went live, I was literally in the fetal position in my bed having a panic attack, [thinking] 'No one will buy these! Why did I do this?' Then I said to myself, well, it could be this time this year and you could NOT have done it, and how would you feel now?"
Despite her initial uncertainties, Taylor's design, which sells for around $60, has taken off, earning rave reviews from buyers. A video from Refinery29 helped her sell out her entire stock in 72 hours. The company, which proudly manufactures in the United States, is currently adding colors and in production to make double the amount of the first run. They've also expanded, due to requests, to cover sizes up to a H/J cup and 24/26 bottom. Social media is one of her most powerful tools--Taylor says she does Facebook Live posts almost every day to try to explain to women that they can feel powerful and free in her pieces. The dream, Taylor says, is to become the leader in the untapped plus-size resort wear market, and to incorporates pieces like totes, sandals, sportswear, tops and soft pants that can tie back to the bikinis.
"In addition to loving the style," Taylor says, "Women love how it makes them feel. They have been emailing me the most heartfelt stories and even very personal pictures of themselves, asking advice, etc. It is truly an honor to connect with these women, and it's what I always wanted, more than a bikini--a movement."
And a movement it very well could be
The average woman in the United States is now a size 16 (up from 12-14), having a BMI of 26.5. That's a far cry from the size 0 and BMI of 16 seen on fashion runways, and it means that, although there are individuals who will continue to assert larger women should stick to one-pieces, Taylor has a significant potential market, as evidenced in her Facebook reviews:
"It's about time. Just because we get older or gain a little weight, doesn't mean we don't want to feel good and look good in our clothing and our bikinis."--Cheryl Staley
"Feeling great in your own skin is what its all about and when you are a [curvy] woman it matters and they promote this fully!!! Love you ladies!"--Autume Shonte' Lovett-Fraschier
"Yep, I'm 46 and a mom and I can still rock a snakeskin bikini. Elizabeth Taylor, I give you a DDD salute. These suits are so fun and flattering!"--Lisa Rosato
"I have many, many [messages] from women on two ends of the spectrum," Taylor says, "[Those who] haven't worn a bikini in years [and] women who have NEVER worn a bikini. [...] You can tell they are happy to have someone to talk to about such a sensitive subject, and I want to create a 'safe space' for them. From c-section scars to stretch marks, I'm here for it all."