Susannah Shops: In search of the perfect bikini

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The Independent Online

It’s that time of year again – the holiday season – marred only by the fact that shopping for swimwear rears its ugly head once more.

At this point I can only thank the Lord that internet shopping – not always the most creative or indeed discerning way to buy clothes – exists. How completely brilliant to bypass the experience of gazing in despair at a nearly naked, sun-starved body in a badly lit changing room, most likely blasted by air-conditioning and covered in goose pimples to boot. Why do they do that?

Then there are the sales assistants. In my experience, brutal, on this most sensitive of all shopping occasions, doesn’t cover it. One can only assume that given most women’s neurosis where exposing their bodies in public is concerned, the harridans that staff the swimwear departments are just over it but do these, our sisters, not have hearts?

So, this might sound profligate, but the trick with buying swimwear online is to buy more than one bikini/one-piece/tankini, depending on your preference, and then return anything you don’t want, safe in the knowledge that, unless you have worn the same brand for years, and are pretty sure of your shape and size, you’re unlikely to stumble across the perfect fit first time.

Being Probably the Most Boring Woman in the World where this summer staple is concerned, I was looking for a black bikini – a sun-kissed stomach that’s seen better days is better than a pale one, to my mind, however challenging that first outing poolside may be. I didn’t want an underwire – it has something of the exploding air bag in effect. I didn’t want ribbons, bows or frills. I’m not 12 or driven by a subconscious desire to channel the dancing hippos in Fantasia. And I didn’t want elaborate hardware, or indeed any hardware. It’s bad enough on bags but weighing down a mere sliver of fabric and digging into sensitive places, it’s far worse. I was looking, then, for the ultimate minimal bikini. And, lo, I found it.

It’s black. It has a single clasp (also black). It has an ample, sporty top, with reassuringly broad straps so there’s minimum chance of accidental exposure, and it comes with an optional pair of boy shorts to maintain a modicum of modesty should that be needed.

I have Melissa Odabash to thank for my bikini and, truly, a woman couldn’t wish for more.