I must have a new bikini for my trip to Byron Bay. Yes, I know it will be covered up at all times by the body obliteraing rashie but it’s a confidence booster for me just to have it on. At least I can satisfy myself with the secret knowledge that there is a potentially desirable, if scarred, body lurking beneath the lycra. And you never know, maybe some gorgeous male person will invite me for a spot of night swimming.
I drive to the dreaded Westfield, Bondi Junction. This ghastly conglomeration of mediocrity long ago obliterated the local charm, not to mention the street layout, at the same time sucking the life-blood from all the small businesses in the adjoining neighbourhoods. Stepping out of the lift from the subterranean car park into the sanitized, muzak-wafting concourse I reflect that this must be what it is like to know the gentle oblivion of a frontal lobotomy. It’s Prozac purchasing for all.
But Samantha and I had seen a collection great bikinis here a couple of weeks ago. Or at least that is how have reinvented them in my mind’s eye. I make a beeline for Zimmerman, a middle-of the road boutique with a somewhat Max-Mara-ish flavour. After beelining up and down for fifteen minutes, realising that I must be on the wrong floor, or in the wrong tower, or in the wrong universe, I stumble through the doors of the shop. Sure enough, the fabled bikinis are there. And they are more or less how I remember them. Zimmerman have the sense to sell their bikini tops and bottoms as separates so one can mix and match styles, colours and sizes. I work through the rails with a forensic eye. “May I try these on?” I ask the sales girl as I hold about fifteen bikini bits aloft.
Now the process of elimination begins. The bandeau top is too flattening. The simple triangle too boring. Another draped style looks great on the hanger but the volume of fabric just overwhelms my boobs. A softly padded classic halter top is the winner. I discard the string-tie pants and the boy-shorts. A pair of Ursula Andress style hipsters balance the halter top perfectly. “Ok” I say at last to the very helpful sales girl, “I’d like these styles, size two in the bottoms and size one in the top, either in electric blue, watermelon pink, emerald green, pewter grey or midnight blue.” Off she scoots and returns with another armful of brightly coloured Spandex. But amongst all the many combinations, there is not one matching set in the correct sizes. After much hopeful trying on – maybe the size three pants with the size zero bra? – we both have to admit defeat. The sales assistant consults her stock computer. “We have a size two bottoms in our Paddington store,” she offers.
What am I waiting for? Twenty minutes later I march confidently into the Paddington Branch of Zimmerman. “I know exactly what I want,” I announce and describe the style and colour of the bikini that will make my life complete. “My name is Maria,” replies the sales assistant, “may I ask your name?” “It’s Lily,” I reply, slightly thrown off course. “Ok Lily. I’m sure I can help you. I will just go to the stock room.” Maria return shortly looking slightly abashed: “I’m afraid we don’t have the size two, even though the computer says we do.” Undeterred however she continues, “Would you like to try on some of these?” She dumps an armful of assorted bits of cozzies on the counter top. I’m exhausted with trying on so instead we lay them all out on the glass and try to make a matching set. It is soon apparent that my dream bikini does not exist in Zimmerman Paddington. “We can get one shipped in from another part of the country,” Maria says. “No! I need it today,” I reply. “You could try David Jones,” she suggests.
With the single-minded determination of the hardened addict I return to Westfield. Minutes later I am in the swimwear department of David Jones. But they have moved into winter collections. The bikini range is a dirge in black, brown, white and navy. Boring! I want sexy. I want drop dead. I want the bikini that is going to change my life.
I march through Westfield like a robot on speed, scanning and rejecting rail upon rail of swimwear: Seafolly; Cotton-On; Speedo. No. No. No.
At the far end of the mall lies the door to Myer. Now, if you don’t know, David Jones is a practical department store with pretensions of style, possibly John Lewis meets Harvey Nichols. Myer on the other hand is the Aussie equivalent of House of Fraser. By this time my hopes are pretty much dashed. I will try anything. I ride the escalator up. Myer’s swimwear department, it turns out, is an Aladdin’s treasure cave. Beautiful bikinis in jewel colours, leopard prints and sexy styles are piled up with gay abandon. Most of them are marked down to less that half price.
Back at Watson’s Bay Lyla and Lily are agog to see my purchase. I proudly hold up two bikinis. One is a padded halter style in a red-and-white Ikat print. The pants have a sash that ties at the hip. Very good for diverting the eye from any tummy wobbles. The other has a cute balconette bra in dark blue with a vivid print of large pink roses. “Would you like me to do a fashion show for you?’ I ask the girls.