Bluetits Body Stories: Wendy

August 06, 2021

Bluetits Body Stories: Wendy

I set up Deakin and Blue in 2017 after learning that more than half a million women had given up swimming in the UK because of how they felt in a swimsuit. I totally empathised with these women. For most of us, being poolside in a swimsuit or bikini is as near to naked as we get in public. What if, I remember thinking, I could create a range of swimsuits that feel like magic capes: swimwear that makes you feel comfortable and  confident. And what if, whilst we're building this beautiful range, we can also do our bit to change the way we talk about and represent women's bodies?

It's the mission that first set us on our path and it's still our north star: guiding everything we do at Deakin and Blue.

In this week's D&B x Bluetits Body Stories we speak with Wendy about her memories of her body image as a child, personal loss and finding her tribe. Wendy talks about spending years sitting on the beach 'watching the bags' whilst her family played in the water. This anecdote really resonated with me. I know countless women who have spent far too many years 'watching the bags' or hiding on the beach underneath a towel, not taking part because of a lack of confidence in their body image. Perhaps you know those women too? Perhaps that woman was or is still you?

Wendy's story is uplifting and motivating. It's a reminder, as this reticent August sun appears overhead, to swim and splash like no-one is watching, a reminder that the voices of dissent are only in our heads and most of all, it's a reminder that all bodies belong on a beach. 

Over to Wendy...

Tell us a bit about you

I’m from Manchester originally, I joined the RAF and travelled extensively with work. I met my husband in Pembrokeshire and we stayed in the area for 15 or so years bringing up our two children. A few years ago we moved back to Portsmouth to settle here before our son started secondary school.

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What is your earliest memory of your body image?

I was never overweight as a child but I was tall with broad shoulders. My uncles always used to call me ‘two tonne Tessie’, that kind of thing. I know they said it affectionally but it left a lasting impression. I was a tom boy and have always been the same shape, skinny legs with no waist or curves, and so have never felt 'girly'.

Most of the time I wear leggings and baggy t-shirts: shapeless clothes to hide my body. Even in my RAF uniform which has a waist belt I always felt I looked like a man. I’ve never really felt beautiful or feminine. I think I've always seen myself as fat, even though looking back I can see there was nothing on me, but it wasn't what I saw myself at the time. 

It was only when I met my husband and we had our family that I started to change how I saw myself: he’s a big fella so that made me feel more feminine. And I felt amazing when I was pregnant. I rocked pregnancy! I was so confident. It was the first time I didn’t feel I needed to have any other figure. I had a bump and felt I looked exactly the way I was meant to look.

We used to go on holiday to Southsea every year. The kids would go in the sea with my husband and I would always find an excuse to cover myself up. Every year I would sit on the beach to ‘watch the bags’. But after joining the Bluetits, I seemed to lose my self-consciousness. When we came back on holiday in 2019 I stripped to my swimsuit and got in without thinking. My husband was gobsmacked and the kids were delighted as I was able to splash around and play with them for the first time! Since joining the Bluetits I’ve realised that people aren’t thinking ‘she’s too fat for that cossie’ - they’re thinking ‘wow, she’s brave. I wish I could join her’.

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Have you always been a swimmer?

I have always swum – I’ve always been good at it and enjoyed it. It’s a complete joy: that peace that you get.

My best friend died from breast cancer on Christmas Day 2019 and before she died I’d told her I would do a challenge for her to raise money for the hospice she was in. I planned to swim 180 miles: the distance between where I lived in Portsmouth and where Sarah lived in Plymouth. I started the challenge in January 2020 and it was hard to complete because of lockdown. I did lots of it in the sea, in the end! Swimming is a quiet time for me, particularly in 2020, it involved lots of reflection and contemplation. 45 minutes in a pool or the sea, just getting in the mileage and spending the time thinking about Sarah, about life and what was going on in the world. This year I’m swimming the 180 miles back. I like having the challenge, it keeps me motivated and gives me space to think.

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What does it mean to be a Bluetit?

I joined the Bluetits in Pembrokeshire in 2018. I remember seeing these women who were smiling so much that it radiated through everything else: all you could see was their joy. I wanted to play their game. And they were so welcoming. If you’d had a crap day you could join them and talk about it, but you might not even need to - just being with people who are smiling and laughing carries you through.

We moved to Portsmouth just before lockdown hit so I hadn’t made any friends. It was really lonely at first but I started swimming in the sea on my own. People would walk their dogs past and always stop to talk. I signed up for the Brighton Pier swim on my own in mid 2020. When I got there, I saw lots of people in wetsuits then I spotted a group of friendly looking, ‘cossie-wearing’ women. ‘That’s my tribe’ I thought. You can tell sometimes, can’t you? That summer I set up the Solent Bluetits locally and we’ve gone from strength to strength.

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Did you enjoy the Bluetits shoot?

I did. There was a really special moment on the beach when we all stood in our swimsuits in a circle waiting to be photographed. Everyone looked amazing but everybody felt the same insecurities. We were all sharing that we didn’t feel amazing inside, that we all felt badly about bits of our bodies and it made me realise how down we can be on ourselves. We all have our own hang-ups but when we look at one another we don’t see any of that: we just see a beautiful woman, a goddess in her swimsuit, laughing and splashing. It was an eye opener for me – realising that we all felt the same, and then knowing that if I thought everyone else looked amazing, that maybe I did too?

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What do you love about your body today?

I like the fact that I’ve got skinny legs. And whilst I’m not a traditionally fit person, my body is strong and has endured all sorts of challenges – from the Inca Trail to military combat fitness tests. My body has never given up on me, it has just kept going. And in the last year – swimming through the sleet, rain and hail (it’s never hailing when you get in!) – it feels amazing to be able to do that. Our bodies are so strong and adaptable.

I love going for a dip in a bikini in bad weather and spotting someone walking past head to toe in waterproofs. They spot me and you can tell they think I’m mad. But they always smile and cheer me on when I get out.

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What advice would you give to your younger self?

I’d tell her to stop overthinking it and stop worrying about what other people think about you. I’d tell her to be a bit braver, because once you step into the light and put yourself out there it’s not so bad – in fact, it’s a fantastic feeling. Sharing that time in the sea with my kids, playing with them and showing them that I don’t need to cover myself up – I wish I had done that sooner. These days my kids just see me having fun. So I’d say ‘don’t over think it! Get in!’


Wendy wears the Signature Swimsuit in Cobalt in a size 18 Hendricks


Want to read more in our D&B x The Bluetits Body Stories series? Have a read of our conversations so far with SianAliSophie, Lisa, Nic and Tracie. We'll be releasing the last three Bluetits Body Stories every Friday for the next 3 weeks. Sign up to our mailing list to be alerted when these beautiful stories go live.

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