Swimming in fashion

The fatkini promises to become even more visible for Spring 2015

Gabi Gregg a.k.a. Gabi Fresh


Spring fashion launches always feel a little hasty in Winnipeg’s February, but they can also be a source of hope. Store windows feature bright colours, lighter fabrics and the promise that one day we’ll be able to bare some flesh without feeling an icy bite.

Swimwear may be the furthest thing from your mind right now, but 2015 is poised to be a massive year for the fatkini. And yes, you heard that right. The term fatkini was coined in 2013 by plus-size fashionista and blogger Gabi Gregg, also known as Gabi Fresh. 

Gregg is a champion of two-piece swimwear that is designed to fit and flatter larger bodies. Her own line, GabiFresh for Swim Sexy, is a collaboration with Swimsuits for All and is offered in sizes 12-24. In 2013, Forever 21 and Walmart also began to offer more fashion-forward plus-size swimwear, although at a more accessible price point.

Last summer, the media began to take notice of the fatkini trend as well as the work being done by fat activists and the body positive movement. Miriam Zoila Pérez wrote on Colorlines that she was inspired to write about the trend after following the fatkini hashtag through Instagram. 

“As a chubby person who has struggled with body hatred and fat acceptance my whole life, I was really drawn to these (mostly) celebratory and beautiful images of women embracing their bikini bodies,” Pérez writes.

Meanwhile, in Winnipeg, we find ourselves with both chain stores and independent boutiques embracing the fatkini and plus-size fashion in general. Plus-size retailer Addition Elle is promoting their own line of swimwear, Cactus, as well as Jessica Simpson’s line. They offer some classic basic black offerings as well as sexy cutouts, playful flounces and bright patterns.

The Foxy Shoppe is bringing swimwear back this summer, and carries many of their items in sizes XS-XXXL. “The very first day The Foxy Shoppe opened, we carried the size range that is currently available. I have never thought to do anything else,” Pamela, owner of the shop, explains. “I see the beauty in that diversity and in diversity itself.”

“It really comes down to a solid belief that in this world women (and people in general) are simply not one size or shape. Under-representation of any one size or shape and the glorification of another has, in my opinion, created some very unhealthy emotional and physical issues,” Pamela says.

To counter these unhealthy attitudes, fat activists work to create visibility and start discussions. The mantra and hashtag “Lose hate, not weight” was started by activist and author Virgie Tovar. She also edited the anthology Hot and Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion.

When asked about what 2015 might bring for the fatkini, Tovar responded, “The only trend I foresee is MORE - more people buying fatkinis and more skin! I’ve been eagerly anticipating fatkini season. I’ve already acquired two!” 

Published in Volume 69, Number 21 of The Uniter (February 18, 2015)

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