Wednesday, 22 July 2009


The ghastliness of summer is full upon us, and unless you've spent the last six months in the gym, or have the kind of self-control that means you never say yes to a Malteser or a second glass of wine, your self-esteem will join mine on the floor at the very thought of having to remove vast amounts of clothes in favour of The Swimming Costume.

Bikini season ought to come complete with a special prescription of Prozac, to anaesthetise one against the pain of putting on show a non-photo-shopped body. And if you've had children, then perhaps a side-order of hemlock might go well with the SRI's, because the words 'bikini' and 'post-baby body' don't appear to belong in the same sentence together. Not for me, anyway.

Unless you're Natalia Vodianova, pregnancy takes its toll, if not physically, then at least on the way one feels about oneself.

But what's the answer? Does one just resolve to try not to care, to get over it? Or does one opt for a punitive diet and a rigorous gym routine - though, frankly, who has the time? Or perhaps a 'Mummy Job' is the answer, taking a surgical route to restore one's body to its ante-partum glory? Tempting, but in truth, if I had several thousand pounds lying around I'd have the bathroom done rather than my boobs, it being on show a lot more often than my embonpoint.

Fortunately, there is a fourth option: decent swimwear. I'd heard friends rave about Heidi Klein, but couldn't quite bring myself to part with the money, until a tempting discount on their Facebook page, and the trauma of a forthcoming holiday, made me wonder if a well cut costume could be the swimwear equivalent of a pair of black opaques. Reader, I can't tell you the joy of the Delfi one-piece (pictured above, in espresso brown, which is very flattering if you're extremely pale like me). All thoughts of hiring a Victorian bathing machine, or of taking up mountain climbing in an attempt to avoid the swimming pool/beach moment, vanished: the fabric is thick enough to smooth one's stomach enviably flat, the clever halter-neck and well-thought out stitching under the bust cheerily re-perks my boobs, and the gold thingywhatsits on the straps can be moved up or down, depending on how deep a cleavage one is willing to show.

Mothers themselves, Penny Klein, and her business partner Heidi Gosman, know exactly what women go through when the holidays are looming. The success of their range is partly to do with the quality of fabrics used, but it's also about the way its designed by women for women, with the express purpose of making real bodies look and feel fabulous, on the beach, in the sea and by the pool.

The website is extremely good, but I love the store experience even more- there's one in Notting Hill, and one in Chelsea, and each offers a complete pre-holiday experience. Not only are the staff utterly expert in finding the perfect bikini for you, but you can also have a spray tan (everything looks better brown, and since I start off pale blue and don't get much darker, a professional fake tan is my number one holiday essential), a fab pedicure, and find gorgeous cover-ups to take you from beach to bar for pool side cocktails, great jewellery to dress up bikinis and casual beachwear, sandals and those ultra cool hats that look so effortlessly chic on a beach-side Elle Macpherson.

I'm not a fashion writer, but even I can see that there are some ultra-clever figure fixers in the Heidi Klein range that would work particularly well for the post-baby body: The bottoms of the Antibes fold up or down, an ideal fix for a mummy-tummy.

If you're small-breasted but in need of a boost, or generous bosomed in search of support, its top has sideboning and can be tied both behind the neck and at the ribcage to raise the bust and lengthen the torso. What's more, the Antibes top - and several others - go up to a G-cup.

Although I've been a life-long devotee of the bikini, I find it's not as practical a solution as it once was now I'm chasing after two infants, one of whom thinks it's hilarious to pull down pants or pull up bikini tops. How we all laughed. I love the Delfi, but had I been in need of a little more support up top, I'd have gone for the Bamboo one piece, which has sexy low back with self-ties, so you can adjust the fit to offer more support around your rib-cage to lift the bust. It's also very chic, and shows just enough skin to be alluring, yet leaves enough to the imagination to maintain the illusion that all is just as it should be, and in aubergine, it's a colour that again works well if your skin tones are a little too celtic for fashion.

At around £140, I'm not going to pretend that it's a particularly frugal solution. But when I think of the money I've spent on buying several less flattering outfits, and how much more attractive I feel when pool-side, it feels like money well spent. And, unusually, so does Mr Trefusis.