Bikini, One Piece, Tankini – Swimwear for Proud Women in their Prime

Look. It’s not the first thing on our minds (we’re not obsessed or anything) but at this time of the year, when the talk gets to holidays, a question that often crops up amongst we Mrs Muttons is, “Am I a bit too old to wear a bikini?”  

The very thought! I bet the Mr Muttons aren’t sitting round worrying if they could still get away with budgie smugglers.

Cab for Mrs Mutton firmly believes we should all wear exactly what we like as long as it makes us feel happy. Who cares whether it’s a bikini, burkini or two corn plasters stuck on a bandaid. If it makes you feel strong and confident, then bring it on.

Not everyone agrees. Janet Street-Porter stated in an article last week that no one over the age of 20 should wear a bikini. Ever. Well, twenty year olds DO look great in skimpy swimwear – they look great in pretty much anything. If we’re excluded from wearing something just because the under 20’s look better in it, then say hello to a wardrobe of fleeces and fitflops.

But there’s more to wearing a bikini than whether you could cut it on the catwalk at Victoria’s Secret. It’s about attitude. It’s about confidence. It’s about pride. Walking around in your skinnies, with everyone watching, is the real life equivalent of those nightmares where you’re on stage, haven’t learned your lines and are stark naked – enough to make you wake up in a cold sweat. Like ageing itself, it’s not for babies. 

We need to woman up, here. Being too old for a bikini makes about as much sense as being too old for a hat. Or skin. If we hide away our middle aged bodies, we’re sending the message to those 20 year olds that there’s something shameful about them. I don’t want Ms Lamb and her friends to feel that getting older is the end of all fun. I don’t want to feel that myself. 

One of the great advantages of having a few years under your belt is that you know your body (you’ve been through enough together). And with that and some shrewd shopping, whatever kind of swimwear you choose, you can cut a dash at any age.

So here is the Cab for Mrs Mutton guide to how to find the best bikinis, tankinis, burkinis, swimsuits, whatever beachwear you fancy, for women in their prime.

First get your head in that space somewhere between “Sass” and “Sod it!”. Whatever you wear, once you get onto a beach full of people, you’ll stop caring, so why worry?

Secondly, don’t rush into a high street changing room the day before you are due to set off on holiday, to try on bikinis. I did that once, after a day visiting fast food outlets for a work project. Nothing looks good on you after that many chicken twizzlers. I left with only a bag full of low self esteem. Online shopping has changed all that. You can stick on some Summer tunes, get into the holiday mood and actually enjoy working out which looks good on you.

To that end, be picky. With only a couple of scraps of fabric to work with, you need those babies to work hard. Think about what you need from them to make you feel your best. Personally, I like enough padding in my bikini top to double as a buoyancy aid. Some of my curvier friends look great in vintage-styled tummy covering bikini bottoms. The basic rule is, if it works for you in underwear, then it should work for you in swimwear. 

So what to buy? Well, set yourself a budget before you start. There are some very pricy teeny tiny bits of swimwear out there. Then, if you’re not looking for something particularly expensive, try the high street. It won’t let you down. 

I would check out Toast (they do a nice line in high waisted, more retro suits); Boden are very wearable as are M&S (though you have to get there early if you want anything in a smallish size). 

Boden ruffle bikini top, £29 and fold down bikini bottom £29

Although you may think of them as really only for the Lambs, H&M have a surprisingly good and varied collection most years, though they don’t tend to be very structured. 

Floozie from Frost & French in Debenhams has a retro, girlie vibe. If that 50’s style is something you like, don’t forget check out your local vintage store. There are plenty of original pieces around – though probably best kept for lounging decoratively by the pool.

French rose top £26.50 and bottom £18.50 by Floozie at French & Frost 

Amongst the specialists, try for their famous bust enhancing gel bikinis. They could create va-va-voom from a vacuum. The downside is they can be rather heavy especially when wet. That woman wringing her breasts as she gets out of the pool? She’s definitely wearing a gel bra top.

Jewel gel bikini set from Maxcleavage, £95

A straw poll suggests great things of the following brands but I haven’t tried them myself. Check them out, let me know what you think.

Seafolly has become the go to brand for well cut, long lasting swimwear. They have an amazing range of styles and colours. They are increasingly widely distributed in the UK.  Find their range at ASOS,, John Lewis and all the big department store.

Seafolly, Mesh About, high neck swimsuit, £120 ASOS

Other newer Aussie brands look interesting. I recently discovered We Are Handsome which has some very witty pieces with digital patterns and photography – I like the bikini bottoms with lions and bears on them, though they are more daring than my usual navy stripes.

We Are Handsome, The Gathered Basic, £100

By comparison,  Zulu & Zephyr look like shy girls, but they have some lovely simple pieces.

Zulu & Zephyr, Pebble bralet bikini, $90AUD

I know people who are addicted Melissa Odabash‘s range, which is as expensive as it is extensive. However, The, have a smaller, discounted range.

Bora Bora bandeau bikini by Melissa Odabash, top £100, bottom £100

Geijo is a hip US brand, all mismatched patterns and interesting textures.

Two more uber cool US brands are Kiini and Sea Dreamer. Kiini have a very distinctive look but they are rather skimpier than I personally favour, but don’t let me stop you.

Kiini hand made bikinis, tops around $165, bottoms $120

Sea Dreamer however has a lovely feminine range, featuring a lot of crochet. Very pretty but I fear the effect on me would be that of a bag of satsumas rescued from the bottom of the shopping trolley.

Sea Dreamer, Uluwatu, crocheted one piece $89 AUD

And finally, if you want something minimal and cool, try Hackwith Design House. Their plain jane two pieces are chic and flattering to all shapes. Snaps to them too for using normal sized models on their site.

Hackwith Design House Black & White halter top $95 USD and black & white panelled pants $65 USD

All of the above brands do one pieces, tankinis, rash vests (i.e. t shirts you can swim in) so there’s sure to be something to suit everyone.  But not burkinis. If that’s what you’re after, then go no further than Modestly Active, suppliers of full cover swimwear as modelled by Nigella, in her Mrs Saatchi years (£69.99). 

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