Swimsuit Selfies: Yea or Nay?

By Jenn Rose Smith

Cocacabana Swimsuit from MikohI read an article once in “The Age Issue” of Vogue featuring a very stylish over-sixty living in New York. When asked what fashion advice she would give a woman in her early twenties, she didn’t miss a beat: “Put on a bikini and don’t take it off until you’re 35.” The cold hard truth of that statement struck a chord with me — there’s a relatively short window in life to be a young thing on the beach, and there’s no time like the present to strip down and feel the sun on your skin. That said, now there’s another pressure we have riding on us this summer. Is it okay to document and share these moments on social media, or should we (to use my mother’s term) “cover up” before going online?

Honestly, I can see both sides of the argument. Once an image is on the internet, you don’t really have control of how it’s used or shared by others. And within the people you do know, how will these photos affect your image? I worked at a big ad agency and once overheard a higher-up saying, “No, we’re not bringing her back for a second interview. She’s got bikini pictures all over facebook.” Yikes. Even so, I’m still firmly in the camp of YES when it comes to swimsuit selfies. But it’s a yes that comes with a lot of ifs….

It’s hard to articulate exactly what makes an image “tasteful” or not. I lied awake in bed thinking about it last night and decided that it has more to do with how an image makes you feel, less to do with any specific visual guidelines. The kind of images I like aren’t overly posed or self-aware. They could be topless, cheeky, or completely nude… as long as they come from an artful perspective that respects the subject as a complete human being, not just a sexual object. (I’m one of those free spirits who believes the human form is beautiful, and that our society could really benefit from a healthy dose of tasteful nudity.) I mean, have you ever seen anything more wonderful than this collage art photo of Bianca and Mick by Peter Beard?

Mick and Bianca photo by Peter Beard
So it’s a bit nebulous. For me, it just has to feel right as an image more than anything else. That said, it’s still tempting to try and come up with a set of guidelines for tasteful swimsuit selfies. My rules are as follows:

1. You need to be at an actual beach or pool setting. No dressing rooms or bathroom mirrors, please.
2. It’s much much better if the photo feels candid, so no actual selfies. Have a friend or boyfriend take the photo for you.
3. Wet hair is good.
4. Awkward sucking-in or standing on tip-toes is bad.
5. Even if you can pull off a bikini, never underestimate the sexiness of a maillot. And (let’s hope it goes without saying) that any sort of heeled shoe calls for an immediate “unfollow”.

In defense of the swimsuit selfie...
Of course, these are MY rules, and they reflect what I feel comfortable with. At the end of the day the choice is personal: it’s your body, your image, your life. As American women, we’re lucky to possess the freedom to dress however we want at the beach (and on instagram.) I’m already throwing my Vogue mentor’s rules to the wayside: I turn 35 this year and have no intentions of hanging up the bikini. I’m excited for an upcoming girl’s trip to Tulum and I splurged on this “cheeky” swimsuit from Mikoh (seriously, if you haven’t tried on one, they are the BEST).  But enough about me…

We’re dying to know, what are your rules when it comes to swimsuit selfies?


image sources top to bottom: bikini bird, peter beard, tessa barton