Sewing Projects

A New Sophie Swimsuit for my Trip to France

Bonjour mes amis! If you happened to catch any of my (sorry) countless instagram stories over the past few weeks, you may have noticed I was in the land of rosé at lunch, rosé at dinner, and cheese after every meal.  I had a lot of questions about what we were up to while I was away, so I thought I’d fill you in on on the details before talking about my new Sophie Swimsuit.

I met Guillaume in 2013 through Tinder, never knowing we’d still be together four years later, and I’d be living a ridiculous French fantasy in his homeland for a few weeks every year. I remember googling things like “What it’s like to date a French guy” at the very beginning because he just seemed so different from the North American men I had mostly dated.  I’m not sure how culturally representative he is of Gallic men in general, but in my experience, they say I love you very quickly, tell you the truth 100% of the time whether you want to hear it or not (what I like to call “French Honesty” and being a “food @ssh#le”), truly eat an astonishing amount of baguette, and are extremely close to their families.

I love my family, but I actually laugh out loud when I think about us spending as much time together as Guillaume’s family does. There would be a ridiculous fight (or three), and someone (or many someones) is bound to drink too much wine and cry out of happiness or sadness or some combination of the two. Guillaume’s family really blew my mind when I first got to know them. His mom and dad are no longer together but still spend vacations together, often with their mutual partners (my parents have been divorced for over 30 years and are still unbearably awkward when they’re in the same room). Aunts, uncles, cousins, will all share the same home for days, if not weeks at a time. No one fights. No one drinks too much wine and cries. There is no constant TV on in the background. They just hang out all day long around a huge table and eat and laugh and talk. It’s pretty magical. And it’s basically the only reason I would agree to spend my summer vacation with a family other than my own, because it’s just so damn pleasant to be around them, even if I only understand about 50% of  what they’re saying at any given time (this was definitely the trip that made me re-commit to becoming truly bilingual – I hate not getting the jokes!)

Sophie Swimsuit Pattern in merlot lycra // Closet Case patternsSophie Swimsuit Pattern in merlot lycra // Closet Case patterns

For the first half of the trip, we stayed at Guillaume’s mother’s country house in Lozère. While technically in the south, this region has an elevation of over 1000 meters, so it’s cool, green, a little wild and very isolated. The house is small and has been in the family for a few generations, but since Martine is a sculptor with an amazing eye, it’s filled with beautiful treasures she’s found over the years. We were just with the immediate family (mom, dad, sister, and nieces) before driving further south to meet up with the rest of the family in Languedoc. We mostly hung out at his aunt and uncle’s, one of my most favourite places on earth, and where we took these photos. Jeff is a builder and has done a ton of work on the property since they bought it ten years ago. The terrace is shaded by trees, and you can watch the sun set on the vineyards below when you’re not swimming in the pool and eating figs straight from the tree. I one hundred percent cried like a baby on our last night because the entire family is so lovely and welcoming despite my terrible French, and this home is the living embodiment of The French Fantasy.

I was really happy to have this new swimsuit for our vacation, and happier still to take some pictures of it at this special place. I wore my last Sophie into the ground so it was time for a replacement. While I still love my Bombshells, a highwaisted Sophie bikini has increasingly become my go-to suit. It’s got lots of support and coverage but still feels flattering and fun to wear.

Sophie Swimsuit Pattern in merlot lycra // Closet Case patternsSophie Swimsuit Pattern in merlot lycra // Closet Case patterns

The original plan was to make two bikinis in coordinating colors and mix and match. I found a really funky acid yellow lycra in San Francisco and got this wine lycra to go with it, but disaster struck with the yellow. The lycra was a little too thin and the bottoms were completely unwearable, even when lined (wearing them was like what airport security must see when they make you stand in those scary full body x-ray machines – NOT PRETTY). I ended up just wearing this suit the entire time; I may make another one in black or navy next year if I still want to mix and match.

I’ve put on a little weight in the past year and have gone up an underwire size.  For the bikini, I made a size 10 with the #5 cup and then removed a touch of volume at the apex since I’m in between cup sizes. This isn’t hard to do; I made a quick muslin and then pinched off what needed to be removed and transferred that to my pattern pieces. I also scooped out the bottom of the cradle to make it look a little more “bra like”; it’s a subtle change but I like it. I think the bottoms are a size 14 graded to a 12 at the waist.

Sophie Swimsuit Pattern in merlot lycra // Closet Case patternsSophie Swimsuit Pattern in merlot lycra // Closet Case patterns

I also made a change to the lining; rather than using the same pieces for the inner and outer layer, I drafted the lining in two pieces instead of six, just by overlapping the center and side panels at the curved seam and tracing off a new piece. This reduces bulk inside the suit and also saves time in construction. The silver bikini clasp was from my stash, and the fabric came from Spandex House.

Sophie Swimsuit Pattern in merlot lycra // Closet Case patternsSophie Swimsuit Pattern in merlot lycra // Closet Case patterns

We spent a LOT of our time by this pool for obvious reasons, and the family appreciated the blow-up pool toys I brought with me. I’m not sure Rocket Pops are really a thing in France but everyone seemed to enjoy hanging out on it, while the pretzel didn’t even last 24 hours, sigh. We finished up the trip with a few days in Paris (staying at Martine’s apartment on the outskirt of the city) and I’ve been home since Monday, trying to get back into the groove of things. This trip is turning into an annual tradition so as sad as I was to leave, I know we’ll be back again next year. Hopefully with much improved French language skills on my end; I start lessons this fall.

I was sure I was going to come home with a few pounds of blue cheese glued to my butt but surprisingly not! I think the reason most people keep a handle on things in France is because they don’t snack. At all. Despite romantic ideas we might have about French laissez-faire attitude, I actually find them to be pretty disciplined and ordered about food. Breakfast is rarely more than coffee and toast with butter and jam. Lunch is generally pretty light (at least in the summer) and while they eat fairly late, wine and any apero (aka appetizers, most often some saucisson and olives) happens strictly after 7pm. It’s not the all day eating and drinking binge fest from where I come from, and if you’re walking a lot and staying active, I really don’t see why you shouldn’t be able to eat baguette and a moderate amount of cheese every day. At least this is what I’m telling myself whenever I eat a croissant for breakfast. I’ve been applying some of the lessons I learned about French food on this vacation (local, fresh ingredients prepared simply) and am trying to enjoy the last little bit of summer while I can. Life is too short not to eat well.

Has anyone else spent any time in France in the summer? Were you as seduced as I was?