The Swimsuit Issue

by Ella Foote

Finisterre True North Marea

2017 has seen a revolution in women’s swimwear – four new brands, all aiming themselves at proper swimming, in the great outdoors. Plus some eco friendly fabrics, and new items like long armed costumes and sea leggings. The OSS team put them to the test.

Finding a suit that fits in all the right places and you can swim in is a real challenge. Sizing, boobs, bottoms, and tums – they are all big issues for women seeking the right suit. Then you need to consider what type of swimming you want to use it for – crossing the channel? Social swim? What suit is most comfy to leap into the sea? Which rubs on endurance swims? What suit is brilliant in the pool but snags on rocks? Which is made of eco friendly material, and do any cover up more of you if you’re worried about skin cancer?

This year four new brands (Blackfish, Deakin & Blue, Davy J & Kinamara) have entered the market bringing out sporty swimwear designed specifically not for swimming, rather than looking good on a lounger. In addition, Finisterre – traditionally a surf brand – has brought out swathe of new items (sea leggings, long sleeved costumes) which work for outdoor swimmers as much as surfers.

We didn’t need asking twice: we got ourselves some samples and jumped in.

oss-swimsuit-finisterre-true-north-marea Finesterre True North Marea swimsuit & Sea Leggings

LONG SLEEVED SWIM SUIT – FINISTERRE 

Who are Finisterre?

Based in Cornwall and founded by Tom Kay in 2003, Finisterre designs functional, sustainable products for those who share a love of the sea. That’s us folks! My Finisterre rain jacket has been a trusty companion for years, so I was keen to try their swimwear.

The product

True North Marea Long Sleeve Swimsuit £95

 

Style & Fit

Visually I love everything about this swimsuit. It looks sporty, yet sexy in a Bond Girl kind of way and best of all it covers the arms, giving more sun protection for extended periods in the water. A few of us in the team had skin cancer scares last summer so had been wanting a costume like this.

When I first tried it on, I thought I’d never be able to use it as the fabric immediately slid right into my bum. Yet upon entering the water, I realised the fabric was forgiving when wet and it stretched over the needed bits. The zip was easy to use due to the long pull element, and closed similar to a wetsuit.

It covers the arms, giving more sun protection for extended periods in the water. A few of us in the team had skin cancer scares last summer so had been waiting for a costume like this.

Activity Factor

The suit allows for good movement on all strokes, however when swimming breaststroke, the upper, neck area segment felt a bit bulky.

Fabric

The fabric made in a factory which takes pride in sustainable production methods, feels soft to the touch and durable.

Recommend to a friend: Yes

Website: www.finisterre.com

davy-j-matt-austin Davy J The Cossie © Matt Austin
davy-j-matt-austin Davy J The Cossie © Matt Austin
davy-j-matt-austin Davy J The Cossie © Matt Austin

ONE PIECE & TWO PIECE – DAVY J

Who are Davy J?

Davy J is a new brand of active swimwear, which the Devon originator, Helen Newcombe, has ‘designed to survive a dive, pull off a cliff jump or handle a waterfall’.  Hallelujah to that!

The product

The Cossie £110, The Crop £65 &The Briefs £45

Style & Fit

How did someone make a simple swimming costume look so stylish? The brains behind this swimwear launch clearly has style: everything about the brand from the fabric, to the packaging and so cool @davy_j insta feed aches with loveliness. If you took the most amazing jeans you ever had, or that archetypal little black dress and turned it into a swimming costume: that’s Davy J territory.

These are precisely cut to flatter a fit slim body – they don’t have the extra material to cope with bigger cup sizes or taller/ longer bodies. But if they fit you: heaven. Looks fabulous on Sheryl Crow/ Farrah Fawcett type builds, but size 16 and 18 are coming in the autumn.

We turned out to be a little too well endowed, so didn’t get to swim in them. The low down on the sizing is size 8 (30 A/B), 10 (32 B/C), 12 (34 C/D), 14 – (36 D). And in torso length, the costumes would fit 8 (60), 10 (62), 12 (64), 14 (66).

Aches with loveliness. If you took the most amazing jeans you ever had, or that archetypal little black dress and turned it into a swimming costume: that’s Davy J territory.

Activity Factor

Great – this is quality fabric, and the cut is designed for whatever the beach throws at you: “beach runs, open water swimming, sailing undertop, kitesurfing partner”.

Fabric

The fabric uses 100% regenerated nylon yarn from waste including spent and ghost fishing nets. An average of 640,000 tons of fishing nets are left in the oceans every year (1/10 of all marine litter). For every ton of waste nets collected there is enough nylon regenerated to create more than 10,000 swimsuits.

Recommend to a friend: YES

Website: www.davyj.org

Kinamara Zena

CLASSIC ONE PIECE – KINAMARA

Who are KinaMara?

Dawn and Peter are outdoor enthusiasts and swimmers based in London. They came up with KinaMara swimwear after getting bored of same-old black swimwear, unflattering deigns and psychedelic prints currently on the market. They are aimed at the everyday swimmer who loves the outdoors. They make suits for men and women.

The product

ZENA – the classic one piece £75

Style & Fit

KinaMara suits are designed with bold colour panels – I tried the ‘Kingfisher’. I wasn’t sure about the colour to begin with, as a bigger woman I often go for black. But the panels were flattering, particularly from the back. It was very comfortable and didn’t cut in around the armpits or top of the legs. This is big deal for me when swimming! I wore their largest size, but it felt a little short in the body, perhaps because it wasn’t designed for someone quite so big.

Activity Factor

It felt like I wasn’t wearing a costume when I started swimming – in a good way! Really comfortable and not at all restrictive. Jumped in off of the rocks into a bubbling River Dart and it survived. It was quick drying too, so was able to wear again later that day.

Fabric

KinaMara say it is made with premium Italian swimwear fabric which is tough enough to resist snagging, colour fading and the effect of chlorine and sea water. I loved it.

Recommend to a friend: Yes – but not great for really big boobs.

Website: www.kinamara.com

Deakin & Blue Signature Swimsuit

ONE PIECE – Deakin & Blue

Who are Deakin & Blue?

Deakin and Blue is a new British-born fitness swimwear brand aimed at producing stylish, technical swimwear. Founder Rosie Cook is on a serious mission to provide women with A-HH cup sizes with swimwear they can walk around in with confidence, and really swim in.

The product

Signature Swimsuit £105 & Regular Set Bikini £95

Style & Fit

The sizes are based around three muse measurements: Hepburn (AA-B), Monroe (C-E), and Hendricks (F-HH). The two piece is a revolution in the ‘technical swimwear’ market: no one else is offering swimmers bra size two piece options which – if you like the freedom of swimming in a bikini – is a big deal!

The items fitted brilliantly, and were a joy to swim in. The items feel firm and supportive, but not restrictive in the water. The coral colour is a complete winner with the mesh panels.

True to generous on size (although adjustments are still being made, so if in doubt, talk to them when ordering).

The only issue was removal of the bra top: if you have ever found it hard to take off items like neoprene vests before then that may be true of this bikini top as well (nagging rotator cuff injuries and tight over the head items do not go together). Rosie tests the items on her big shouldered iron woman swimming friend, so this is likely to be a small, rather than widespread, issue.

No one else is making bra size bikini’s for swimmers, which is a big deal if you like the freedom of swimming outside in a bikini. Deakin & Blue is a revolution!

Activity Factor

High! In the bikini top you could probably also go trampolining without incidence. Secure fit, and the thickness of the material provides a little extra buffer against the chill of natural water. 

Fabric

Thicker, almost wetsuit body fabric provides extra warmth, and the mesh panels and serious shaping and taping provide a very structured, flattering fit. Considering it’s just a swimsuit, it’s doing a lot of work.

Recommend to a friend: Yes

Website: www.deakinandblue.com

Finisterre Reversible Ren Bikini
Finisterre Reversible Ren Bikini

TRIANGLE BIKNI – FINISTERRE

The Product

Finisterre Reversible Ren Bikini. Bottoms £45, £50 for top. Great price for a durable product.

There is a scene in the film The best little whorehouse in Texas, where Burt Reynolds is given a pair of “sexy” pants. He stretches them this way and that and then turns to Dolly Parton and says, “What is this? A Japanese catapult?”

That scene sprang to mind when retrieving the Ren bikini top from its packaging. I could see the two triangles for the boobs, and the string that created the hold but couldn’t figure out how to crawl into it. I got there in the end. Thankfully my knockers do not equate to Parton’s so they nestled quite nicely into the boob bits provided.

Style & Fit

I love how I’m “supposed” to look in the beautiful vibrant coral-red bikini, and it did to some degree make me feel like a surfer chic, even in the waters of the wave-less Italian Riviera. However, there was a degree of “Arsch-frisst-hose” going on (German expression for when your butt eats your pants). Most of my butt was outside of the bikini – especially in the bikini’s dry state. When wet, the bottoms were more forgiving. As for the bikini top – it fits perfectly but sadly the padding is not removable, which surprised me as I thought Finisterre would give women that option. Do we all have to pretend we have bigger, more pert knockers than we really do? The knot at the back is not super comfortable when leaning back in a lounger or lying down.

Most of my butt was outside of the bikini- especially in the bikini’s dry state.

Activity factor

The bikini mostly stays in place when swimming, but is a bit less secure when diving.

Fabric

We have to salute Finisterre for making bikinis made from ECONYL ® recycled yarn, a fabric made from materials such as disused fishing nets. The fabric, which is more resistant to chlorine and suntan products, feels extremely soft to the touch and yet is robust in a way that makes me think it will accompany me on many future swims in years to come.

Recommend to a friend: Yes

Website: www.finisterre.com

Blackfish Snapper Racer Tankini with Swim Shorts

TANKINI – BLACKFISH

Who are Blackfish?

Made in the UK, Blackfish swimwear make performance swimwear aimed at the outdoor market. This is a sporty, purposeful product, using high-tech muscle compression fabric.

The product

The Snapper Racer Tankini (£65) with Swim Shorts (£59) in orange and grey.

Style & Fit

I love the grey/ orange colour combo and wearing a vest with shorts, and think it looks really contemporary. I spent years racing butterfly, and prefer this kind of wider shoulder strap. The shorts fitted well but the top wasn’t appropriate for my shape – a smaller one might have offered more support for my boobs.

I love the ethos of the brand and the compression fabric feel – it wasn’t that easy to get into, but the feel and movement of the compression fabric in water really worked.

Activity Factor

It felt good in the water, no drag on the fabric, easy to move in once on and in the water. Wasn’t restrictive for jumping about in and wasn’t too tight for relaxing in. The feel and movement of the fabric really worked. It fits with the purpose – sporty and stylish.

Fabric

Made out of a compression fabric which is good, strong but lightweight. Not that easy to get into due to the tightness around the seams. It fits with the purpose – sporty and stylish.

Recommend to a friend: Yes, particularly if they had a taller, leaner body shape.

Website: www.blackfishswimwear.com

Finesterre True North Marea swimsuit & Sea Leggings

LEGGINGS – FINISTERRE

Product

Finisterre True North Cayton Sea Leggings, £60. A product you might feel you don’t need but would be quite happy about to own.

Style and fit

It was new to me that you could wear leggings for swimming, but was excited to give these a go. Designed for when you need a little extra protection from the sun or wind, the swim leggings are perfect for days when a swimsuit would be too hot. Made from a quick-drying swimwear fabric, they are perfect for any water activities and were extremely cosy when on.

Activity factor

Very comfortable in all strokes.

Fabric

Soft, stretchy and cosy

Recommend to a friend: Yes

Website: www.finisterre.com

Finisterre Zonda Bikini Top & Bottoms

SPORTY TWO PIECE – FINISTERRE

The product

Zonda Bikini Top (£55) & Bottoms (£45)  – £10 off when you buy the set

Style & Fit

The cut and colour of this sporty combo are a great substitute for any ‘8 week beach body plan’: just put them on and you look instantly fitter, firmer and more sporty looking than when you began. This is great piece of design: two small, lightweight and environmentally friendly pieces of material that you can throw on, feel good in, and then forget all about for the rest of the swim/day. Ideal as an under-the-wetsuit or wild swim bikini, but a little too much drag to be a training cossie. These go up to a 16. Not designed for cup sizes, but did comfortably accommodate them in testing.

Activity Factor

The bottoms are described as an ‘active shorts cut’ which you’ve just got to love if you’re not a huge one for grooming. A fit that’s designed to withstand surf certainly stays in place with all the bending and reaching involved in an average wild swimming expedition scrambling over rocks/ family day by the water.

Slight drag in the bikini top when you pick up speed which might rule it out for serious training.

Fabric

We have to salute Finisterre for making bikinis made from ECONYL ® recycled yarn, a fabric made from materials such as disused fishing nets. The fabric, which is more resistant to chlorine and suntan products, feels extremely soft to the touch and yet is robust in a way that makes me think it will accompany me on many future swims in years to come.

Recommend to a friend: Yes

Website: www.finisterre.com