Swimsuits are the most revealing garment that American women wear publicly. Yet wearing them affects how women feel about their bodies and attractiveness. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected from convenience samples of Florida women and analyzed in terms of five strata: Competitors (competitive swimmers, beauty-pageant contestants, swimsuit models); College students (Afro-Caribbean, Asian, Black/Afro-American, Hispanic, White); and Adult women (North Florida Black and White; South-Beach Hispanic, and pregnant, as well as older women (doing water aerobics). Anthropometric data (BMI, waist circumference, waist-hip ratios, and bust-waist ratios) were collected and related to Figure Rating Scales and body descriptors, preferred and actual body shapes and sizes, and swimwear types and usage by situations (one-piece, two-piece, bikini, and thong worn in the presence of family and friends or on the beach and in private). Results, matching the literature show participants: (1) overestimate their body size and shape discrepancy from cultural ideals; (2) are affected by the media-depicting “thin ideal. Details of swimwear usage show that for Black and some Hispanic women, constructions of attractiveness are changed to laud larger size to mediate body dissatisfaction and enhance swimsuit use. For Asian women, conservative values rather than body size affect swimsuit usage. But even competitors who enjoy the benefits of swimsuits, as well as women of all ages (body-dissatisfaction continues throughout the lifespan) and ethnic/racial groups, still express body dissatisfaction.
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