Our herCommunity members are the definition of “Take Your Shot” and we are so here for it!
Kim Merrikin is an athlete and advocate for large-bodied athletes and we’re so proud to call her one of our herCommunity teammates! Kim just announced her new collaboration with Hakuna Swimwear: An active swimsuit designed specifically to suit the needs of women in larger bodies who engage in water sports! The swimsuit comes in sizes 6X – XS and is currently available for pre-order.
This is herStory of designing a plus-size swimsuit for active women.
CREATING A PLUS-SIZE SWIMSUIT FOR ACTIVE WOMEN
Clothes, as a fat woman, can be an unpleasant conversation. Swimwear… 🤢🤮.
I have been wearing women’s plus sizes since I was in the eighth grade—circa 1999/2000. It was a different time for plus-size women’s fashion—my options were basically Walmart and Lane Bryant. Loony Tunes or the lady who plays the piano at a rural church.
As such, when I was a teenager, my swimsuit options sucked. They also sucked when I was in my 20s. Aaaaaannnnd they still sucked in my early 30s.
The struggle of finding plus-size swimsuit options
It’s only been really in the last five years or so that women in fat/large/plus-sized bodies have started to have some decent options for swimwear.
But I keep encountering issues trying to find plus size swimwear that fits me—you see, I don’t have the (sociocultural deemed) good kind of fat body—all of my curves are seemingly in the wrong places. I carry my weight on my belly, not my hips and butt. I am tall for a woman, but I am long-torsoed. Most plus size apparel, including swimsuits, are made for a more (sociocultural) idealized curvy fat body.
I typically have two options:
- Buy a suit that is long enough, but is too big in other areas (which, uh, is a problem when we’re talking about swimwear).
- Buy a suit that fits in other areas, but rides up my hiney and causes every kind of wedgie. (Also not ideal.)
And as a woman who carries her weight on her belly, not her hip/thighs/butt—and plus size everything is designed for short-torsoed women who carry their weight on their hip/thighs/butt, I get uncomfortable gaps on most suits. This is why I spent all of my 20s in swim dresses—the dress covered the gaps.
When I started swimming in 2021, I found TomboyX suits—I LOVE their racerback unisuits—and it is PERFECT for spending about an hour in the pool. The moment you have to pee, it becomes less practical.
With a standard one-piece, you can just pull it to the side and do your business. You can do no such thing in a unisuit. You have to peel the whole dripping wet thing off, and sit there naked and soggy on the toilet. Boo.
When I started spending more time in my wetsuit—which I had to order custom because after months of research I found one brand that offers plus size women’s wetsuits, and they were back ordered for several months—I realized the limitations of wearing a one-piece suit under my wetsuit… especially a unisuit style one-piece. It is impractical in many ways.
Not only is there the bathroom issue, but it’s hard to get in/out of in a parking lot under a changing robe. It’s hard to peel off in a bathroom stall (also designed for thin bodies). Wedgies are also a common unpleasant side effect of wearing a one-piece under a wetsuit.
I started looking for a suit that would work in all sorts of situations—under my wetsuit, swimming laps, playing on the beach, paddle boarding. Around the same time, I saw a popular surf brand release a new line of active swimwear, and it looked PERFECT—but of course, it didn’t come in extended sizing. I reached out to see if there were any plans to make extended sizes—no response.
I looked, and looked, and looked—and never quite found what I was looking for.
TAKING MY SHOT TO CREATE WHAT I WISH EXISTED
In my looking, however, I found a brand—Hakuna Swimwear—that made practical designs in prints that I liked—AND were all about eco-friendly and sustainable design/production (my heart!)—but again, no extended sizing.
I reached out—and they responded.
They let me know that while they don’t offer extending sizing in their main line if I ordered a piece and reached out and let them know my measurements—they could make that piece custom for you. WHAT?! That’s friggin’ BRILLIANT.
They also told me about Hakuna Labs, a program where people can design swim pieces to try to get them to market. Ok, that’s cool too. But I’m not a fashion designer.
So I ordered the rashguard I had been eyeing. After discussing with Jessica (founder/designer), we agreed to try their largest stock size, but after trying it, it didn’t fit, so a custom rashguard for me went into production.
Now, optimally, a company would always include extended sizing in their line launches, but for companies that maybe don’t have the capital to launch that way but WANT to be inclusive, this is a fantastic offering.
BRINGING “THE KIM” SWIMSUIT TO LIFE
I also began contemplating participating in their Hakuna Labs program. I wasn’t a fashion designer—but I had some ideas about my ideal suit at this point.
So I did a little sketch—just some thoughts on paper about what I would like to see in the ideal two-piece swimsuit for an active fat woman.
Here were some thoughts I had:
- It needed to be racerback because I have sloped shoulders and straps often slide down. (And I know many women with this issue!)
- It needed to have ample coverage for ample chests.
- It needed to be high-waisted—good for larger women who have larger bums or carry their weight on their bellies (like me!).
- Enough of an inseam to STAY DOWN, protect against chub rub, and make it so I never have to shave that region to be deemed socially acceptable.
As I put more thought into it, I added some little preferences—like making the top longline, making sure it was super compressive, and adding a zipper to the chest for folks with shoulder mobility issues. I wanted it to not just be good for me—but good for as many women as possible.
I took a deep breath, and sent my sketch in.
A short while later, I got a mockup back.
I loved the design but wasn’t crazy about the print. I understand neutrals and particularly neutral florals are in style, but I don’t love wearing things that can be confused for flesh tones, and neutrals just aren’t my vibe. I provided my feedback, and was invited to choose a few pattern options to try the mockup in.
I invited some close friends to weigh in on the pattern—sent my vote-influenced preference in—and waited patiently and sometimes also impatiently.
THE KIM – FULL SUPPORT TWO PIECE SWIMSUIT
Fast forward to January—when I received a very special package: the prototypes of the suit I had designed with Hakuna Wear.
It is absolutely flabbergasting to me that I have a swim suit that I helped design IN MY HOUSE.
Now, this is the prototype—there are some minor adjustments being made to it with the band on both the top and bottom, and some technical function stuff like lining and using a locking zipper.
BUT—these are now available for PREORDER.
Here’s how it works:
- Pre-order will be open for several weeks—around 1–2 months, depending on pre-order volume.
- If there are 20 pre-orders of each piece, the suit will go to production. (And if we don’t hit that target, everyone gets their money back.)
- This is SLOW fashion! The suits will be produced AFTER pre-order closes—it will take a few months to get your order. It is produced sustainably in small batches.
My favorite part: It will be available in sizes XS–6X.