Product Review: Free Country Swimwear

free country racerback tankiniOne of the most exciting parts of losing weight is selecting new styles of clothes to wear that you wouldn’t dare try on before. A 2-piece swimsuit was one I dared to try this summer. I was contacted by Free Country to choose a some swimwear to review on my blog, and it was the first time I looked at a site at said “I don’t need to order from the plus size section anymore!”

Because this is my first two-piece, I feel like the review needs to be in two parts. One is for the experience with the Free Country website and ordering process. The other is about what it’s like to go from an industrial-strength shaping swimsuit to a cute little two-piece.

From the tag on my swimsuit:

“Free Country. Where fashion meets function. Free Country’s designs express individual style wherever your spirit moves you. Active fashion and performance quality reflect your lifestyle and ensure comfort under any conditions.”

free country swim skirt cloud_grey-aqua

The pieces I selected are from Free Country’s Inter-Changeables line: Interchange our swim separates for endless styling possibilities. I selected the beach bonfire racerback tankini in citrus and cloud grey in size XL. The tankini has elastic under the bust bands for extra support, and removable soft padding in the cups. The tie-front accent swim skirt in cloud gray aqua was my choice for the bottom piece. This swim skirt design has a little slit with a contrasting color tie-front accent, and built-in brief that matches tie. The combo seemed like a cute and sporty look for the beach or poolside.)

With all Free Country swimwear, the tops and bottoms are inter-changeable for fun styling possibilities. You can mix and match to find your unique style! I love the aqua, lime, and gray combination. My order was processed quickly, and I had my shipment within a week. The garments are well made, with attention to little details (like how the stitching on the bust lies flat and doesn’t add any unwanted bulk). The racerback top is very comfortable, the straps fit in place, and I think it’s a pretty flattering design. The swim skirt didn’t fit me quite right…the rise wasn’t high enough and didn’t cover all the parts I needed covered. It’s a cute design, but doesn’t work for my body.

nicole free country racerback

Now for my review of going from a one-piece to two-piece swimsuit.

I’m used to wearing swimsuits with a ridiculous amount of compression. I’m used to throwing down $80+ to get a suit that is so tight I can barely get it on. I don’t like my body to jiggle, especially when there is already so much exposed while I’m bathing. So while I was in the upper echelons of plus-size swimwear, I bought the one-piece suit that was the most flattering (without much attention to my personal style). This suit by Free Country felt like a whole new experience because IT SHOWS OFF MY BODY, whether or not I’m ready for it to show. The cups have a very thin removable padding to help hide any nipple-showthrough, and I don’t think I’ll ever remove the pads. The part that blew my mind is that the midsection of the tankini was only one layer thick. One layer of print and stretch material between modesty and baring my belly. My body is long, and and extra 2-3 inches in length would have made me more comfortable. But I would have been okay with wearing the top if the bottom worked.

With my massive weight loss, I have a pretty significant pannus (squishy belly skin overhang). I rarely go out of the home without underwear or Slimpressions or some other clothing item that gives me some tightness in my belly. Despite the “skirt” of the swim skirt, the rise just wasn’t high enough to cover all my bits and pieces comfortably. I thought of how I could find a compression garment that could probably work well under this swimsuit, but it kind of kills the whole reason of having swimwear – having something that’s easy to play around in the water with.

free country racerback topI REALLY like the pattern and colors of the tankini, so I looked all through the swimwear sections at department stores through the summer to find some swim bottoms that would work with the top. For anything with the coverage I want, I either need to invest in a fatkini (and all of the styles and colors I liked clashed) or I’d have to go with black. There’s nothing wrong with black. I’ve worn lots of black in my life. But I really wanted something fun and spunky, and I didn’t have any luck with it this summer. There are other options that Free Country offers that look cute with the tankini, but I’m fairly certain they won’t work with my body. That’s a flaw of my body and my self-consciousness, not of the swimsuit :) I wore the suit out with some black bike shorts (thrilling I know) and will continue looking for the perfect bottoms for the suit.

Free Country not only offers swimwear, but a lot of options for winter outdoor wear. I’ve seen a lot of their clothing at Kohl’s and plan to try on a bunch next time I’m in store.

Have you tried Free Country swimwear?

FTC Disclosure: I was given swimwear from Free Country with the express purpose of completing a product review. Estimated retail value of product is $84.00. No additional compensation was given for my review. All opinions are my own.

Wearing Pants To Church On Sunday

mormons pants on sunday

I’m a Mormon.

Did you know that? Although I’ve been a member of the Church for my entire life, many people have said that this surprises them. While  I dress modestly, avoid coffee and alcohol, go to church almost every Sunday, live in Utah, and refrain from swearing (usually), I’m used to getting a startled look from my acquaintances who have assumed that I’m not Mormon.

My sense of humor has an edge of crassness that I can’t deny. I have opinions, and as a blogger have found a good platform for speaking my mind. “Slightly inappropriate” is part of my blog’s tagline. I have a progressive view on many topics.

So, why don’t people think I’m a Mormon? Maybe it’s because I didn’t do a profile for the “I’m a Mormon” campaign.  Maybe it’s because I have friends of various ethnicities, sexual preferences, and walks of life. More than anything, I think it’s because I adhere to LDS Church doctrine, but I’m not a strict adherent to every facet and social norm of Mormon culture. Especially Utah Mormon culture. I’ve lived in six different states around the US, attending church outside of Utah for most of my life.
So. Let’s get to the topic.

Wear Pants to Church Day.

If you aren’t familiar with the hullabaloo about Wear Pants to Church Day event , read up here. Or here. Or here. Or here.

The Wear Pants to Church day is not challenging a rule, but it is against the Mormon social norm. Nothing in Mormon doctrine nor official church policy says that wearing pants to church is wrong or breaking a rule. But it’s the cultural expectation in the Mormon church, especially in Utah, that women must wear dresses and skirts to church.

I will admit. I lean toward the feminist side. Not necessarily because I think that all women have been disenfranchised, but because I embrace the divinity of womanhood. I am proud to be female, and I am glad that there are things about me that make me different from a man. That being said, I am not a raging “Femi-Nazi”, or even an outed Mormon feminist. I am not wearing pants because I want a change to official Church policy, but I am wearing pants because I’m concerned about the harsh ways people are treated when they don’t fit the social norm at church.

From Feminist Mormon Housewives:

“What makes social norms so powerful is that they often are not enforced by the hierarchy or someone in formal position, but rather we all enforce them on each other.  We do this by treating people who break the social norm as deviant.  This can be as clear as screaming hate speech at them or telling them how wrong/awful they are, but it can also be as subtle as the sideway glance, the fake smile or the cold shoulder.  Alternatively, those who follow the norm can receive more acceptance, quicker dinner invitations, more visible callings, faster friendships.   Often social norms don’t operate as clear bright lines, but often in matters of increment and degrees.”

mormon modesty short dressThe topic of modesty has been an oft discussed topic in the LDS bloggosphere (AKA the Bloggernacle). It is a cardinal sin in Mormon culture to be deemed immodest, but there are so many opinions on what is modest and appropriate attire for Mormon women (and token Mormon men, too). There is too much shaming in the church over modesty. And while modesty isn’t the topic of this post, it’s definitely related – It’s likely that you’ll be shamed or judged if you wear the wrong thing. Especially if you’re wearing the wrong thing to church.

For this reason, there is a proliferation of modest boutiques in Utah, which specialize in clothing items that cover up the parts of your body (like your shoulders) so that temple garments are covered. Although there is some cute stuff on their website, it cracks me up that a store called Sexy Modest even exists. I like to wear clothes that fit my body well, and sometimes trousers and a blouse look dressier than a dress.

My friend Sue gave a wonderful summation of her thoughts on the Pants to Church issue on Facebook yesterday. It’s lengthy, but worth reading:

I plan to wear pants on Sunday, if I go at all.

Here’s what I don’t understand about the furor over the event. It wasn’t a protest. The church, as lately as last Tuesday, has already said that pants are fine at church. So there is no rebellion in it. It was a simple, quiet way to show solidarity and support with those who might not be totally orthodox. A way to perhaps quietly identify other women who struggle with the same concerns about what it means to be a woman in the LDS church. There is nothing attention seeking in showing up at church in a pair of pants. There is nothing disruptive about it. It was just a nice, harmless thing. A way to say, you know what, feminist lady who often feels alone and disenfranchised at church – we support you. We’re quietly here and around you. We recognize that not all women share these concerns. Some women feel valued and loved and respected in the church. Nobody denies that. But there are some women who do NOT feel that way. This was, as Courtney said, about outreach.

But people went absolutely bat-crap crazy about it. Some of the responses from conservative members were hateful and cruel and vicious. My friend Stephanie Lauritzen received death threats. DEATH THREATS for encouraging women to wear pants – SOMETHING THAT IS TOTALLY ALLOWED. And then it did become about standing up for something.

One thing that makes me sad about this are the many, many comments inviting people to leave the church if they don’t like it. TO LEAVE. Let me ask my true believing friends and family this question, because I really don’t understand it. If you believe you have the one true path to God, how can you justify inviting someone to step off that path? If you believe that the church saves people, and brings us back to Heavenly Father, how can you justify encouraging people to leave the church? Aren’t you then working directly for the adversary, trying to lead people away from his church? Please explain that line of thinking to me. You are uncomfortable with how someone else thinks/feels/believes/works through their Mormonism, and so, instead of embracing the fact that we are all in different places in our faith journey, you INVITE THEM TO LEAVE. I don’t understand this.

I’ve also heard a lot of complaining about disenfranchised/inactive/former Mormons being involved in this. When you leave the church, why can’t you just leave it alone, they ask. Here are my thoughts. It is really hard to “just leave” the church. There are a lot of good reasons for staying and trying to make it work for you. Maybe you are married to a member. Maybe your kids are Mormon. Maybe you are afraid to lose your friends. Maybe your entire social structure is built around Mormonism and you don’t want your kids to be ostracized. Maybe you love a lot of the religion and see good in it and want to make it work, but have a lot of concerns that you are trying to work through. Maybe you are intellectually connected to Mormonism. Maybe you are angry because you feel lied to. Maybe you love the people. Maybe you HAVE left, but you have parents, family members and friends who still judge you for it, admonish you for it, mourn over your inactivity. Maybe you have parents who remind you every week that they are putting your name on the temple rolls and are praying for you to return, making you feel like crap. Maybe you are tired of being judged for your beliefs. Maybe you love green jello and roadshows. Maybe it is your spiritual and cultural home and you are trying very very very hard to make it work, because it is a big part of who you are, and at the same time, knowing that the church DOES change and evolve, you are hoping to see it change and evolve in this regard as well. Maybe. Maybe a little of all of those things. It is really hard to just leave and leave it all behind. That doesn’t make people angry and possessed by Satan, that makes them human.

One thing this pants event has taught me is that you just can’t disentangle the culture from the religion. I have had so many well meaning true believing friends respond to some of my objections by saying “that’s cultural, not doctrinal”. Well now we know what happens when you push back against the culture, even in a totally harmless way. It seems like the culture is just as much the religion as the doctrine. It makes me really sad, and it makes me feel a whole lot less welcome and able to continue attending. But I won’t be pushed out until I am ready to leave and convinced that it won’t harm my family to do so. So l will quietly sit behind the piano again this week, fulfilling my primary pianist calling. I will be there in body if not entirely in spirit, and I will continue to allow my patient, understanding bishop to have hope that he will eventually win me back over to the right side mentally, however futile that hope might be.

And I will be wearing pants.

Can you see why wearing pants isn’t a bad thing?

For the record:

  • I am not in direct rebellion with church doctrine.
  • I am not trying to be a dissenter.
  • I am not possessed by Satan.
  • I am not breaking the rules.
  • I am not rallying for women to be given the Priesthood
  • I am not begging for absolute equality of the genders within the Church
  • I am not asking for a change to official Church policy
  • I have no problem with wearing a dress or skirt
  • I am not asking for others to wear a skirt, but to understand why I won’t be wearing one tomorrow

I am silently showing support for my sisters who feel like they don’t fit in at church. It is a show of respect, not disrespect.

My faith has waxed and waned over the years. I’ve had a difficult time moving from ward to ward, and always being immediately called into Primary (8 or my last 9 callings have been primary teacher or nursery leader). I feel a little out of touch with the workings of the Relief Society (despite doing my visiting teaching, attending mid-week activities, reading the lesson manuals, etc). And I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

However – I am currently feeling the most faithful I have in years. I am excited about the progress the church is making worldwide. I pray. I am temple-worthy. I’m feeling less jaded with Mormonism than I was, say, a year ago. I’ve had recent and magnificent promptings of the Spirit. I feel more faith in mankind. And despite the horrible tragedies that happen in the world, like the shootings in Connecticut yesterday, I think there is so much good in the world.

I don’t think anything bad will come of me wearing pants tomorrow, but I expect it cause some confusion and questions. I hope it will generate some conversation about acceptance, and why social norms and culture of the church are not doctrine. And especially, why we should not shame others or ask them to leave the church over trivial matters.

As the 11th Article of Faith says,

We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege; let them worship how, where, or what they may.

If we allow others to worship how they see fit, it shouldn’t matter if they are wearing trousers.

So readers, tell me. Will you be wearing pants to church tomorrow?

Review: Fresh Produce Clothes

I was recently contacted by a representative for Fresh Produce Clothes, a California fashion retailer. Having lost some weight, I’ve been excited to have new things to wear in my wardrobe. I was told to go on the website and pick anything I wanted. How cool is that?

The Fresh Produce site was full of unique womens tops that were stylish and age-appropriate. After being in the upper sizes of everything available in plus size stores, I was excited to find stuff young and fashionable. Also, can I say how refreshing it is to see a website that actually uses plus-size models? It’s frustrating to see an outfit on a “normal model” and try to imagine it on your larger frame. In many stores and in many websites, even a plain plus-size t-shirt could run me $40, and usually it wouldn’t fit well. For similar prices, Fresh Produce offers an impressive variety of stuff co cute, I could hardly decide on just one thing.

I decided on the Float Above Top in South Beach Blue. This shirt retails for $64 and features “Gathered pintuck details at the gently scooped neckline for a feminine and flattering silhouette. 92% rayon, 8% lyrca, shallow scoop neck, raglan sleeves with gathers, pintuck detailing, made in USA.”

As soon as I pulled the shirt out of the mailer, I knew I’d love it. It’s got the right amount of stretch to emphasize my curves, and the length wasn’t too long or too short. I was surprised that the sleeves have an unfinished edge, but even after a few washings, it hasn’t frayed. My only problem, which was more with my frame than with the shirt itself, was that the scoop neck goes LOW on me. I’m constantly tugging at the shirt so that it doesn’t show the top edge of my bra cup. I’ve tried wearing the shirt with a Shade and a HalfTee, and it doesn’t look quite right. I might have to alter the top seam of the shirt to avoid that hassle.

But overall, I LOVE the shirt. I always get compliments on it, and it’s a good shirt for the transition phases of my weight loss. I got it in a 2x, and the fabric is definitely baggier in the last 3 weeks than when I got it. But luckily, the fitting through the shoulders and arms is just right so I’ll still be able to wear it for some time to come.


FTC Disclosure: I received this clothing item from Fresh Produce clothing free of charge in exchange for a blog post to review the item. Opinions in the post are my own. Estimated retail value $64.

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