Swimwear Decisions Aren't Itsy-Bitsy or Teeny-Weeny

By Laurel Dalrymple
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 26, 2008

Every year, it happens: Millions of teenage girls gather their friends and swarm the malls to hunt for that perfect little patch of material that is so much more than a swimsuit -- it is the very barometer of their self-confidence.

Here comes a trio now.

Alyssa Verastegui, Carly Morris and Rebecca Johnson -- all high-spirited, all talkative, all 16 -- are in a minivan headed toward Everything but Water at Tysons Corner. The three are friends at Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax, and they are candidly picking apart the mental processes that define this angst-ridden ritual of summer.

Alyssa hates her stomach.

Rebecca hates her arms.

Carly hates her height.

But they agree on one thing: They all want bikinis.

"A one-piece looks weird," says Carly, a long-limbed and graceful cross-country runner. "No one wears one-pieces unless they're old or on swim team."

Rebecca, a red-headed, freckled softball player with an infectious smile, enthusiastically agrees: "One-pieces actually make your stomach look bulgier."

"I think some one-pieces look good, but it seems like people who aren't confident about themselves wear them," says Alyssa, a petite cheerleader with a creamy complexion and muscular build. "Bikinis are more popular because they're sexier. They draw a guy's attention."

And although they agree that bikinis are the way to go, there is dissension about whose opinion on such decisions matters most and why. Alyssa and Rebecca both list boys' opinions as most important, but Alyssa says her own opinion matters next, while Rebecca says the opinion of her friends is next important. Only Carly asserts that her own opinion matters most, followed by boys' and then her friends'. "If I don't like it, I'm not going to buy it," she states matter-of-factly.

They say their parents' opinions matter least. "Every parent wants their daughters to cover up everything," Alyssa says in a tone that manages to be both bored and incredulous.

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