So, are you beach body ready? I am, because I have a pareo. Actually, I have three, so I must be triple-ready. A pareo, just in case you were wondering, is a large piece of silky, cottony fabric that you wrap around yourself on the beach, as a cover-up.
You can call it a sarong if you like. Thanks to David Beckham, men are allowed to wear them too, like a skirt – although maybe not to go High Street shopping on home turf, no matter how hot it gets.
The recent Are You Beach Body Ready? advertising campaign by a weight-loss product company sparked an impressive, thought-provoking and entertaining public backlash which saw billboards defaced with creative retorts – “Yes I am beach body ready – because I have a body” – and a swimwear protest turn-out called “Taking Back The Beach” in London’s Hyde Park. Companies including Simply Be and Dove have come up with their own versions of the yellow-background advert using plus-size models.
All power to them because, as I know only too well, finding model images that don’t make many women feel unrepresented and uncelebrated is a tough and tall order. That’s true of almost all fashion images but especially so when it comes to swimwear. Many fashion companies pay lip service to the notion that their average customer is not really a size 6, 5ft 11in tall and aged 18 to 24, but few will create model-shot photography that reflects this fact. We the customers just have to imagine how the various clothes are going to look on our own bodies, and get to know what suits us by trial and error – sort of “be your own Gok”.
Women (and men) should not be made to feel inadequate or even dissuaded from swimming, going to the beach or doing anything they would like to do, on holiday or anywhere.
It is fair to say, however, that many of us don’t like to feel overly self-conscious as we lie on the sand or paddle in the waves, which brings me back to pareos, sarongs, kaftans, beach dresses and shirts. The choice of cover-ups is fairly comprehensive these days, and most options double as a day or evening wear piece of some kind or other, more than justifying their place in the holiday suitcase. I advise taking three pareos at least – a plain one, a patterned and an embellished – in shades that co-ordinate with the rest of the holiday capsule wardrobe that you have, of course, so carefully assembled over the season, mixing in new key pieces with classic tried-and-trusted holiday favourites.
Pareo is the Tahitian word for a wraparound skirt and it can be worn in many ways, including as a halter-neck dress, a short or long skirt, or you can even make shorts out of it (I have no idea how). Plus they make a great mosquito-protecting wrap in the evening.
A beautiful kaftan and/or beach dress is another beach holiday must, so make sure you spend time choosing something that makes you feel glamorous, even decadent, because it’s your holiday and you deserve to experience fabulousness. Spend time too selecting THE perfect swimsuit, or bikini, because it will make all the difference to your holiday. And if you do decide to take one that’s filled with suck-it-all-in and push-it-all-up figure-shaping qualities, just make sure you take a simple one as well, one that’s easy to get off when wet – the last thing you want to do is pull a muscle.
As ever, don’t forget sunscreen, comfortable sandals, a glam floppy hat and fabulous sunglasses. Happy holidays.