The Trouble With Shopping for Swimsuits on Amazon

I’ve been spending more time than I should on AMAZON DOT COM lately, looking at swimsuits and ball gowns and trying to figure out which, if any, I should buy.

This is, of course, for the upcoming JoCo Cruise, and to be fair I already own one functioning swimsuit and one gorgeous ball gown, but I know from past experiences that I need two functioning swimsuits to make it through a week of repeated swim opportunities, and my other swimsuit — the amazing bikini that I got in high school and that includes full-coverage boyshorts that cover all of my butt, not just the top half — finally, after fifteen years, wore out.

(It was such a good swimsuit.)

The trouble with Amazon — and should we say that this is just one of the many troubles with Amazon right now, considering the labor issues and the publication industry issues and the rest of it — is that their clothing listings are getting more and more difficult to navigate.

It’s weird to think about the concept of “trusted brands” as if it were a thing you actually believed in, but when you’re looking at rows and rows of Amazon swimsuit listings, there it is: you see a bunch of retailers you’ve never heard of, alongside digitally altered models who are clearly not wearing the suits that have been photoshopped onto their bodies, and you can’t trust any of it.

It’s even worse for ball gowns (this, by the way, might be the most pompous statement ever typed into The Billfold). You click on a gown that looks amazing, and all the reviews are “I DID NOT RECEIVE WHAT WAS PICTURED” or “CHEAP FABRIC, DISAPPOINTED” and you sadly click away, even though you also know that Amazon reviews can’t always be trusted, that they can be as photoshopped as the models.

So you start to get angry with Amazon, because you wanted to buy something quickly and easily and have it arrive at your door within 48 hours, and instead you’re going through page after page of items that you suspect are cheaply made and don’t look like their pictures — but you can’t tell for sure, because you also suspect much of this is faked, from the models on down.

And then you start thinking about your own internalized racism and distrust of a globalized marketplace, because you keep using the word trust to describe your experience on Amazon, and the reason you don’t recognize these brands that you “don’t trust” is because they aren’t American brands. You see, attached to many of the clothing listings: “Please note our size is Asian size, it is smaller than US size, please compare our size to make sure it fits you.”

And you feel weird about that, and then you feel weird about feeling weird, and then you feel sad, and then you wonder if you should just shop at L.L. Bean instead, and then you feel gross, and then you think about globalized marketplaces some more.

Well. That got deep quickly.

I was trying to think of a way to take this story that didn’t walk me straight into “facing my own internalized racism,” because there are a lot of quips to be made about swimsuits that don’t fully cover your butt, or the concept of women’s sizing as fantasy novel (with a link to yesterday’s Buzzfeed piece about a woman trying on 10 different pairs of “size 16 jeans”), but when you start shopping for swimsuits on Amazon that’s where you end up.

Or, at least, that’s where I end up. What about you?

Support The Billfold

The Billfold continues to exist thanks to support from our readers. Help us continue to do our work by making a monthly pledge on Patreon or a one-time-only contribution through PayPal.