Sun smart swimsuits

Followers on Instagram have already had a bit of a sneak peak at these swimsuits, but they deserve a better description, I think.

I have been swimming laps and found that my arms, shoulders and back require sunscreen, and I frequently forget, so I wanted a leotard style swimsuit. Now keep in mind that I am not really going for speed but just fitness and toning. My PB from my thirties is about 9 minutes faster than my current time, so I wasn’t too concerned if these slowed me down a bit.

I was inspired by this pattern from the 1990s and thought that if the legs weren’t quite so high and sleeves were included, this would be my perfect pattern.


I thought I’d take it to Sarah at Workspace Fashion and Design School to see if she could help me make the amendments. Sarah looked at the drawing and then looked at me and I knew we would be starting from scratch. She has been developing a swimsuit block for her business Pattern Union, and we decided to test it on my swimsuit. We had a lovely time deciding on features. Little boy legs, tick; princess seams, tick; exposed zip at the back, tick; high neck, tick; sleeves, tick; and on we went. Before I knew where I was we had a lovely pattern block drawn out.

I had also carted all my lycra over to her. I have quite a bit of lycra and she deemed it all substandard for my needs. This was a bit disheartening, but we decided on an excursion to Spotlight so she could educate me on the best lycra, which cheered me up no end. Much of what she told me is about feel but I found this article, which might help if you feel the urge to sew a swimsuit. I wasn’t certain that we would find what we needed at Spotlight, but there on the clearance table were three candidates and two of them were perfect! These lycras were reduced from $25 a metre to $10 a metre. How lucky and I bought the rest of the bolts, not that there was a huge amount on them, but we were able to fashion not one but three swimsuits from what we bought.

Sarah suggested that we double the lycra for the bodies of the swimsuits. This gives a certain degree of security and also keeps them really firm.

So how did they go? Warning: if you can’t face seeing a middle-aged woman scantily clad in a swimsuit, look away now!

I have put them to the ultimate test by pounding up and down the pool in them. First up are the regular leg, princess seamed version. This pair combines the two fabrics I bought at Spotlight.IMG_0724

I think this shape is quite flattering. The zip is sewn into a seam at the waist and there are no centre seams at the bottom.


I was a bit concerned that they would fill up with water and sink me, but was quietly hopeful that they would work a bit like the Speedo Sharkskin or Fastskin. No such luck on that score, but I didn’t feel as though I was working too much harder and they were extremely comfortable to wear. Sarah showed me how to fashion a zip cover so that it wouldn’t rub on my neck and we put long strings on the zips so I could get them up and down. I can get them down but I can’t get them up, so I have to be helped in this regard.


I thought I would include one photo of the swimsuit wet to show that it held its shape perfectly. In fact, it looks better wet than I do!


I couldn’t face having too many photographs taken at the pool as I felt that I was making rather a spectacle of myself, and having Mark telling me to “work it” didn’t really help, so the rest of the photographs are taken at home.

The boy leg version is made from the same combination of lycra as the first swimsuit. The inside of these suits is as neat as the outside, with the seams of the bodies hidden inside the lining.


I thought I’d stretch it out here so that you can see the design lines (no, not really trying to look thinner :D).


The last pair are made from a single fabric, which is ombré style. I love this fabric. This suit doesn’t have princess seams but has bust darts to give some shaping.


This style of swimsuit is a must in our climate, and several people have commented that they have been looking for such a pattern. I was wondering whether a leotard pattern would work, although leotards tend to have low cut back necklines, which reduces the effectiveness somewhat.

I’m not sure if I will wear these for social swimming, but I can imagine wearing them at the beach if I was going to spend any length of time in the water. I haven’t yet felt the need to add legs, but I am wondering how I can stop my face catching the sun as I swim – Sarah and I actually discussed a bathing cap with a nose piece!




31 thoughts on “Sun smart swimsuits

  1. Lovely bathers Sue, and very sensible! I’ve got a Kwik Sew high neck leotard pattern that I’m hoping get the same effect with!

  2. Love these Sue. I don’t wear the boy leg.. mostly because my legs are thicker there and they ride up … but I love them on you.
    I actually have a Jalie leotard pattern (with legs and a zip front) and thought I’d cut the legs off a swimsuit pattern. I had some many years ago like this. Lisa Curry-Kenny the swimmer had a swimwear range that was excellent quality and the cuts were well thought out. After my Christmas sewing it’s on my list. I’m a bit envious of your great lycra score!

  3. I love these, Sue! And you look fabulous. Saving the Lycra link… my one and only swimsuit was an utter failure…. with two layers of material (blue and lime)… it still ended up basically see through when wet.

  4. These are so brilliant. I would be very keen on something similar to keep the sun off. Hilarious that Mark told you to ‘work it’. I can just imagine the audience you’d be attracting!!

  5. I can predict that many women at the swimming pool will ask you where you bought these, for they are totally genius! I particularly love the one with the little boy legs, most of my panties are like this. Once again, I am impressed by your Sarah’s knowledge. And once again, I smile when I see how your Mark is just like my Richard. “Come on, work it!” is something I get at each photo session! Great pics, BTW. What a magnificient silhouette you have!

    1. Working on the silhouette as it’s gone to pot in the last few years. I love the little boy legs too. I might make some panties in this style. Do you make yours?

      1. I have tried different patterns of boycut panties (lots of freebies in the Web) but haven’t found what I want yet. I might end up sacrificing one of my RTW pairs to get the fit I’m looking for. Will DM you a pic of my favorites. It’s from a Canadian company called Mountain Equipment Coop (MEC).

  6. Great results Sue, and perfect for your climate. I burn easily so would need to consider these issues too but just how far can you take it? We do have a lady in our pool who swims in a burka type suit faster than i do in my standard cozzie 😞.

  7. I think it’s great that long sleeve bathers and rashes are back in fashion. It’s near impossible to ensure you’re completely covered in sunscreen if you’re going to be in the water for a longer period of time. And these look so good on you!

    I have to say I’m laughing at the image of you posing at the local pool while Mark directs, “work it!”

    1. It was so embarrassing trying to look composed. I have lots of unflattering photos of me trying to work it! We need more of this style of bathers in the shops. I notice slicks of sunscreen in the ocean!

  8. You’re so clever! What a great idea, if I will ever start swimming outside in summer I will totally copy you! Right now it is freezing here! I also like the fabrics you picked.

  9. What a great idea! I am pretty sure that you will be asked by others where you got them. You can wear this style so well. I like the zipper neck detail. A front zipper is probably a good idea for independence😂

  10. I love everything about these swimsuits, especially how you took a basic design and made it appropriate for your purposes. I had a similar struggle to find running shorts that I wanted and was so pleased with my final design. The mass market barely adapts to all our requirements – I am sure that there is a call for all the variations you have already conceived, and more. And I love the colours and you look amazing with your super legs. How lucky you are to be able to swim in hot sunshine!

    1. Thanks Kate, I am so pleased with these, but might make another pair with a front zip – if I have the energy! It is nice to swim in the sun, although I also love to swim in the rain!

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