Summer fashion is made to help you stay cool, so you have slinky dresses, almost-see-through tops and clingy fabrics. This can make it difficult to find an outfit that flatters your size and shape, is suitable for the season and leaves you feeling confident.
Then of course, there is the fact that summer means heading to the beach or hanging out at the pool - both of which are things I love to do. In order to partake in these activities, however, you need some form of swimwear. Therein lies the true problem for bigger people, especially if they have issues with self-confidence.
In previous years, I have chosen swimsuits that cover as much as possible so that I could hide my wobbly bits, cellulite and stretch marks when I wasn't hiding under a towel or making a quick dash to the water. This year, though, I'm not hiding any more, which is why I have just bought my first bikini since I was 14.
The images I - and every other plus size person - am bombarded with every summer are of slim and fit women wearing bikinis. Whether it's advertising, retail brand images online and in store, and in magazines, this idea of the 'perfect beach body' is prevalent. As I write fashion and beauty as a day job, I end up having to deal with far too many photos of skinny, tanned goddesses draped across golden sand wearing this year's must have itty bitty bikinis.
As a result, my self-esteem in summer has traditionally been incredibly low and I have ended up skulking to the one-piece section of the stores to find a swimsuit with a skirt and the dreaded 'tummy control' panel.
However, in the last year, I have started to feel more confident with my body. While yes I have had a gastric band procedure to lose weight - you can read more about my reasons for the op in this post - this doesn't mean I can't feel confident at my current size. In fact, I think it is better to have a positive body image going into something like this, as you go through a lot of changes and need that sunny outlook.
I figured that if I can wear a bikini now while I'm larger, then I can wear one no matter what my body looks like in the future. In fact, I can wear any summer clothing or swimsuit I like because the body I'm in is nothing to be ashamed of.
So, when I went shopping with my birthday funds, I decided that I was going to buy the bikini that I'd been eyeing up from Yours Clothing for months. I didn't care that the wounds from my operation were still healing, that my stomach was still swollen or that I would have to try out bikini in a size or two smaller so it was ready for my summer holidays; I just wanted to buy it.
In the end, I felt so fab, fierce and free when wearing it in the changing room, I did what I never do and took a full-length photo. I even shared this photo across social media, resulting in a hugely positive and empowering response that made me wonder why I'd been so scared of this style of swimwear for so long.
I am now determined to rock my sassy, rockabilly bikini on the beach and by the pool, flipping the bird to anyone who has anything negative to say. I strongly urge other plus size peeps to do the same, putting aside their misgivings and incorrect assumptions that they can't wear bikinis or revealing swimwear. Be fierce, be awesome and don't feel like you need to hide because you're most definitely already beautiful.