Bathing Suit Shopping- Decisions, Decisions!

It was time to face the challenge of buying a bathing suit after thinking ahead to a possible Tri-Ess cruise next February and realizing there would be snorkeling and pool time,  Becoming ship-shape is a more complex a task than I had presumed so I’m sharing some of my dilemmas, adventures, and conclusions.

What to buy

First, the male anatomy presents many challenges:

  • how to deal with hair normally not visible and often hard to reach, such as on the back.. from Phoebe’s account of waxing, this is an option I personally will avoid! Some suits have higher backs than others, but employing a shaver that can bend over the shoulder or a hair removal product seems essential for most of us;
  • how to fit a 38 x >38 x 38 form into something other than a cardboard box or giant bowling pin;
  • how to hide the family jewels.

gaffe and skirt for bathing suitAs to the last item, I know of only two obvious solutions:

1) a gaffe;

2) a skirt.

A “gaff”, by definition, is “a blunder”. Imagining the discomfort, inconvenience, and, to me, the seeming impossibility of this solution, for reasons which I will leave to the imagination of the reader, I dismissed this option, foreclosing many suit options available to women. This left me with the question as to whether a one-piece or two-piece would work best.

Key advantage of one piece bathing suit:

The indignity of an involuntary separation of top and bottom is minimized. This could lead to a disastrous snorkeling trip. I am notorious for losing skirts at embarrassing times due to my above-mentioned block-like form.. i.e., lack of a waist to impede the law of gravity. Imagine what I could do in the water! However, that DOES lend to more adventure, colorful stories for future Belle articles, and comic relief.

Key advantage of two piece bathing suit:

1) Easier to deal with the call of nature;

2) More options to mix and match. My top is a 16W, while my bottom is closer to a 12. It is hard to find a one-piece in these proportions.

Either way, the beer belly is tough to hide. Looking fit as a fiddle when you look like a cello is a losing proposition. With no clear winner, I looked at both options.

Through experimentation I soon realized that either situation would, in my case, require disguise. Something had to be done to avoid displaying a gut that has little resistance to the charms of sweets, potatoes, and beer. I found that layers of frills can cover some sins, while adding a touch of femininity. Apparently enough women face this issue that it is easy to find options that, while not creating an hourglass look, at least don’t stop a clock. Some garments have tummy control… helpful but far from a cure for the seriously afflicted.

What to do about the bust?

This is a more complex matter, but something with which we already have at least SOME familiarity. A few options:

  • BBWSeek a suit with built-in cups… most don’t have enough natural shape or support, forcing one to consider other alternatives;
  • Sew in padding;
  • Find a mastectomy suit;
  • Use forms that adhere to the flesh (OUCH!!);
  • Find a suit capable of holding forms. Not many I have seen would give me comfort that I would not be a disaster ready to happen… I can easily visualize silicone floating to the surface after a dive, assuming it is not so buoyant as to prevent a dive!… a useful spare life preserver in the ocean perhaps, but maybe not ideal for the pool.)

In my case, option 2) seemed feasible. Time will tell.

I perused catalogues and ordered a one-piece from Venus that has remote possibilities (i.e., great if I lose 10 pounds- not going to happen on a cruise!.. deckmates stay clear of IEDs!). So off to the malls I went.

The shopping adventure

A trip to Florida provided a perfect opportunity to shop incognito. I spent about 5 hours trying on suits at Sears and Penney’s, while Barbara shuttled back and forth to seek out and return supplies, appraising my looks whenever returning. A female appraiser is an invaluable asset! In the end, I purchased two one-piece swim skirts and one two-piece.

bathing suit

Of course a woman’s decision is seldom final, and two stores barely scratches the surface. So we went to Dillards’ the next day to browse some more for a bathing suit. This time Barbara determined that an attentive sales-lady should be told the truth of our situation. She asked the clerk if she were open-minded. When told “yes”, that led to two female appraisers. I learned that four female eyes is better than two and a lot more fun! The suits bought the previous day were quickly dismissed as being inferior to a two-piece outfit, the result of many more changes and appraisals. This of course meant that the other outfits had to be returned. But the quest was at least closer to a conclusion.

After being outed I took the opportunity to ask if the clerk regularly deals with crossdressers. She has done so before, although I gathered it is not too common. As part of their training the clerks learn how to treat TGs and to make others feel comfortable, whatever their gender or shape. To this end, all trainees are required to remove all of their clothes and fit other clerks a la fresco! I presume this is done after hours but will likely be more vigilant as I wander through Dillards in the future! I always thought Dillards was TG-friendly. Now I am beginning to understand why!

Upon returning home we made one more round through the local mall. As I walked by a clerk while carrying a dozen swim skirts she remarked that I’d look cute in them. This started a round of “Is she or isn’t he?” At one point she was chided by her manager for embarrassing a client. Barbara thinks the clerk was onto us even if her manager was not. It may have not gone unnoticed that I used the men’s fitting room while Barbara shuttled in and out to bring in new garments and return the discards. I was tempted to model the final picks but thought that might be pushing the envelope. My identity would be abundantly clear when finalizing the purchase and it is, after all, a small town.

The next stop, Macy’s offered the excitement of dressing room doors that would not close and giddy teens flitting from room to room. I found a great cover-up before calling it a day.

This experience was almost too much fun not to repeat. I am beginning to understand the women’s creed: Vini, vidi, visa (I came, I saw, I shopped), a mantra which requires frequent repetition.

Rhonda Lee in swimsuit

Rhonda’s final choice

Rhonda Lee in black coverup

Rhonda Lee in black coverup

Other adventures await, such as:

-dealing with swim cap issues: does one wear a cap over the wig? how does one hide and store the wig when required and reverse the process when necessary?;

– is it possible to swim without removing so much make-up as to emerge as a man in a woman’s bathing suit?

– is it feasible to devote the time necessary to apply and later re-apply make-up?

Inquiring minds want to know!

No doubt there is plenty of literature already on such issues, but for me this opens up new vistas, adventures, and possibilities for more colorful tales.

This could be chapter 1 of a new adventure novel. Stay tuned!

Rhonda (aka Ms. Nemo)

Rhonda LeeRhonda Lee

Rhonda is the Outreach Director for Sigma Epsilon, the Atlanta chapter of Tri-Ess. She has been active with churches, universities and support groups in promoting the understanding of crossdressing. She’s an active author and participant in research studies and regularly hosts dinners and other events to encourage closer relationships and inter-actions between members of the broader TG community and the general public. She’s a late bloomer so can relate to the mature crossdresser as well as helping those new to the experience. She can be contacted at

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