Everything I learned from working in a swimwear store.


For a brief but depressing period I was employed at a swimwear store.

It wasn’t a fancy boutique, but they stocked all the well known brands in a range of different styles.

The building was enormous, with wall to wall bikinis, tankinis, fancy one-pieces to sip mojitos in, baby bathers, budgie smugglers, man-trunks and your classic serious, sporty racing togs — basically, the place was hell on earth.

I am a firm believer that acquiring a bikini body for Summer takes one step: put a bikini on your body.

A handy visual guide to dressing for your shape.

Sadly however, sometimes finding the bathing suit that best fits your body requires entering an ill-lit changing room with a pile of bikinis so large, you ‘d be forgiven for wanting to string them all together to hang yourself.

Here’s what I learned from working in a swimwear shop one horrible Summer:

1. Nobody likes shopping for bathers.

You may think it’s just you, but truth be told, most people find shopping for togs confronting.

Even when you’re feeling great about your body, whether you’re super fit or comfy just as you are, sometimes staring at your bum from five angles under a set of harsh fluorescent lights will still reduce you to tears.

And that’s okay. In fact, it brings me to my next point.

Listen to Jo talk about her experience on the latest episode of Mamamia OutLoud:

Listen to the full episode here.

2. It’s okay to have a meltdown.

It’s normal to have insecurities about your body, especially when it hasn’t seen the light of day for months. Or you’ve just had a baby. Or you look up at the glowing swimwear model, with her freshly bleached teeth and digitally enhanced thigh-gap staring down at you from the wall.


It’s absurd, because you are clearly a beautiful goddess, but sometimes it happens and it’s totally normal.

Just remember what I said though: You are a beautiful goddess and once you make it to the beach and feel the sand beneath your toes, it won’t matter what the f*ck you’re wearing.

Shopping for bathers, basically.

3. Never go bathers shopping with your mother.

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that shopping with your mum is sometimes rough.

Even the most well-meaning mother can have an knack for picking the worst possible option from the rack of clothes or accidentally pointing out the 5kgs you hadn’t noticed gaining.

It’s not always terrible, but I’d avoid it. To be on the safe side.

4. Women with big breasts have it tough.

The shop I worked in had a wall of ‘separates’ for women with large breasts, the idea being, that if your tops and bottoms are different sizes you can tailor your togs to your shape.

The options for women with D cups or larger are incredibly limited and even when you do find a top with adequate support, odds are you’ve compromised on style or the colour.

This sucks and someone ought to fix it and make themselves a million dollars.

5. Humans shed a lot of skin.

The rejected bikinis came back covered in all kinds of human detritus.


I can’t tell you how much dry skin exactly, but enough that you’d be grossed out.

6. Don’t shop for bathers while you’re free-bleeding.

Accidentally bleeding on something is an occupation for many women, but the sheer number of bather bottoms that would come back covered in menstrual blood might surprise you.

7. The hygiene liner is there for a reason.

Don’t stick it to the wall/the mirror/the carpet/the stool/the counter/the poster/the staff.

Just leave it, it has a job to do.

8. The importance of personal grooming.

This is personal learning, apparently, people don’t like to buy bathers from grubs.

Keep in mind while I worked in this shop it was high Summer, I was 19 and I worked every day.

Perhaps I wasn’t bathing as regularly as I should have, and this did not go unnoticed by my employers, who left this instructive message in my locker while I was out for lunch one shift:

A proud moment for this retail sales assistant.

I was the only member of the “Staff” who received it. I especially enjoyed that they co-signed it.

9. Where possible, don’t work in retail.

See points 5-8.

10. It does get easier.

One of the most surprising and delightful aspects of the job was helping older women buy bathers.

The older ladies were totally no fuss, un-self consciously stripped off and seemed very at ease with their bodies, which basically taught me: that there’s hope.