I have a mental list of designers for whom I would like to test patterns, and at the top of the list was is Rad Patterns. When Rad’s designer, Stephanie Thiel, posted line drawings of a new swim pattern up for testing, it seemed too good to be true: a chance to test my favorite thing to sew for a designer I have a ton of respect for. Score! What followed has been a wonderful adventure in a vibrant test group and now I have three swimsuits to replace the ones I made last year which are now mostly too big.
One Pattern, All the Options
While some patterns include one-piece, tankini, OR bikini, the Rad Corner Swimsuit includes all of those AND maternity options. There’s no need to try to hack a one-piece into a two-piece or figure out how to make things work for a growing baby belly. The shape and construction of the bodice are by default boobalicious, but there are instructions for making the swimsuit more modest included as well. The straps are a classic, supportive cross-back style which can easily be converted to a halter style if that is your preference. The bottoms include lower-rise and higher-rise options. The leg openings of the one-piece and the leg openings and waist of the bottoms can be banded or hemmed with elastic.
As an added bonus, if you use swim fabric to line the swimsuit instead of traditional swim lining AND hem or bind the edges instead of using bands, you can create completely reversible swimsuits to add a ton of variety to your swim wardrobe in a hurry. The picture below shows a reversible one-piece suit. With the five pieces I sewed from this pattern (one reversible tankini, one reversible bikini, one reversible pair of bottoms, one non-reversible pair of bottoms, and one reversible one-piece), I can create fourteen different looks! And as a bonus to the bonus, having that extra layer of swim fabric instead of traditional swim lining makes swimwear more supportive while smoothing out some lumps and bumps.
When I saw the pattern, I immediately wavered about which options I wanted to use. I first wanted to do a tankini with low-rise bottoms for good coverage and the ability to easily use the bathroom (priorities, right?), but the bikini with high-rise bottoms and one-piece options were still appealing. Since I am indecisive and keep a good stock of swim supplies on hand, I eventually settled on trying them all.
If you’re going for the perfect fit, I highly recommend making a bikini first even if you don’t consider yourself a bikini person (and by the time you’re finished, you may have changed your mind about not being a bikini person). If you’re going to need any adjustments to the pattern, it is most likely that they would be on the bodice cups and straps. Also, if you’re not used to working with swim elastic, having a practice round is never a bad idea.
The pictured bikini top is reversible (black on the other side). The bottom inch or so of the bodice cups are stitched together to add some additional coverage (discussed in more detail below). When paired with teal high-rise bottoms, the result is a bikini I’ll actually wear.
The tankini was my first choice and there are a lot of things I love about this swimsuit (remember coverage and the ability to pee?). I even broke out some of my favorite fabric for it. The construction process is exactly the same as for the bikini, so that is a nice bit of continuity if you use the bikini option as a learning experience. This one is fully reversible (black on the other side of both the top and the bottoms).
Making the one-piece completed my pattern trifecta. Since I loved the two-piece versions I made, I didn’t expect to fall so hard for the one-piece. Of the three, I think this one will get the most wear as it is the most practical for swimming sessions with my rambunctious child. As shown above, this is reversible as well and while I love the blue roses print, I assume the classic black will be the side I usually face outward. Removing the need to sew the bottom of a swim top and the waistband of swim bottoms make the one-piece a quicker sew than making a two-piece set.
How Modest Do You Want It?
It would be a lie to claim that I am not a fan of cleavage, but since most of my swimming occurs with my five-year-old son at family-friendly locales, adding more modesty is necessary for me to be comfortable (sorry YMCA lifeguards…). Luckily, the pattern includes methods to increase the coverage in both the front and the sides of the bodice.
Along the sides, it’s as easy as pinning the edge beyond the side seam instead of meeting it, distributing the gathers, and stitching it in place. I prefer to keep the part of the bodice cup that is to the back of the side seam flat and concentrate the gathering on the front.
To increase modesty at the front of the bodice, the instructions specify tacking the cups together two inches from the bottom. For mine, I handstitched using a ladder stitch from the bottom of the outer layer to the point I wanted to stop and then repeated the stitching going back down the lining. I experimented with how far to sew up the bodice cups to provide the coverage I was looking for. In the three suits discussed above, the tankini has no added stitching, the bikini has about an inch of stitching, and the one-piece has two inches of stitching. As an added bonus, adding the modesty stitching adds makes the bodice feel more supportive.
After sewing up three complete versions of the Rad Corner Swimsuit, I can testify to three qualities which put this instantly on my list of favorites. First off, it is flattering. While I know it really doesn’t matter how I look at the local pool, it’s nice to wear a swimsuit which looks good. Second, it doesn’t have features which annoy me. I love the look of halter straps, but they invariably loosen up over the course of an afternoon (and I can’t seem to tie them without including some of my hair). Sometimes it is tempting to hide under a tent of swim fabric, but when I am swimming, I hate having loose fabric floating around me. And finally, it goes together relatively easily. Of the swim patterns I have used, I think this one could be the best for someone sewing swimwear for the first time since it goes together with little hassle while producing a beautiful swimsuit.