Our changing bodies: Rosie's story

August 10, 2022

Our changing bodies: Rosie's story

Women’s bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and each individual body changes all the time. Our hormones fluctuate, we exercise differently, we age – all the while, our size, shape and how we feel about ourselves shifts and alters.

Now, imagine catering for different shapes and sizes and these fluctuations. When Rosie set up Deakin & Blue, that’s just what she wanted to do – to produce well-made, well-fitting swimwear that was not only fit for purpose, but also lasted and made women feel good as their bodies changed.

When Rosie became pregnant with her first son, Zac, she got the chance to put her concept to the test. At the time when a woman’s body changes the most dramatically, she wore her D&Bs throughout her first pregnancy. Now, 33-weeks pregnant with her second baby, she tells us how it feels when your body changes so much in such a short space of time, and how her swimsuits kept up with those changes.

How does your body feel when you’re pregnant?

Right now I'm 33 weeks pregnant so I'm feeling quite tired and weary. And we're enjoying a hot summer and I have a toddler, so, the physicality of pregnancy is something I am feeling a lot at the moment, just the heaviness of carrying the extra weight and the slight impact on my mobility.

It's funny because I've worn this body all my life so I forget the things that I can't do in the same way right now. I go to reach for something or bend down – I even tried to tie my shoes earlier in the week and realised that I can't do that at the moment. It's a funny sort of unfamiliarity in a body that I'd otherwise be very familiar with.

So, there's that kind of physical side to it. But then there's also the magic, wonder, mind blowing bit of it. You might forget you're pregnant, because you're busy at your desk or watching a film or having a conversation with someone, and then you get great big kicks or thumps, and there is literally this little person inside me who I will be meeting in a few weeks’ time. And even though I've done it once before, I find it absolutely mind-boggling that there is this other being living inside me.

I also really feel the privilege of it. Maybe that sounds a bit lofty or righteous, but it’s the very real privilege of being able to do this, to carry a baby, that my body has allowed me to do it relatively straightforwardly, that I've had a fairly smooth and straightforward pregnancy so far.

And that just makes me feel really great in my body. Like, go you, body! This is something you’re doing really well. I suppose like lots of women there have been periods in my life where I haven't loved my body, and of course I still feel that way from time to time, but this just feels like something it's good at doing. I had a miscarriage before I had Zac and that was a complicated time in my relationship with my body and what I felt it was or wasn't capable of. But since then I have been very lucky and I feel like this body has been able to fall pregnant quite quickly. It has grown and fed one baby, and now is growing a second and, you know, that feels really amazing.

Deakin and Blue X-back Swimsuit Scarlet

How did your expectations before you got pregnant with Zac differ from the reality?

I think some of my expectations around what pregnant bodies look like were definitely different in reality. I have wide hips and I carry a pregnancy quite easily so I didn’t show for a long time - in either of my pregnancies actually. I've also had a soft tummy for a few years, so I've carried weight on my tummy anyway. So you wouldn't necessarily have known when I was pregnant.  I think I thought I would look the way that pregnant women look in magazines or on tv: very slim with this very neat bump, which is kind of farcical because that's not my build or shape anyway! Of course, my body hasn't really looked like that during pregnancy.

That's been a bit of a thing to reconcile my real experience with. And also I think we're told that when you're pregnant you'll feel like you're blossoming and beautiful  and radiant, and while I think what my body's doing is marvellous, I don't feel especially graceful or beautiful! I feel quite heavy a lot of the time and quite sludgy. So that's been quite an interesting contrast.

And then I think just the sort of aches or niggles in pregnancy that are very normal, but don't get a lot of air time, probably because they're very normal. Whether it's sore boobs or that interrupted needing a middle-of-the-night-wee sleep or your hips feeling really sore – my hips are really sore at the moment, which I guess is just carrying the extra weight – these are all very unglamorous and unsexy and un-blossoming pregnancy characteristics. But, again, we have this kind of ideal of this gorgeous pregnant woman – I often think of that iconic image of Beyonce, a total vision of pregnancy, and, maybe at our absolute peak, sure, we might feel like that, but 99 per cent of the time, we don't, and it is actually heavy boobs, sore hips, swollen feet, shortness of breath. 

What have you done to help you feel better and to look after your body?

When I was pregnant the first time around I didn’t have a toddler and I napped loads and walked a lot and really tried to think about what was going on in my body and connect with this little person inside me. I was pregnant during the first lockdown, so I had a lot of time to be outside walking. It was a really nice opportunity to just focus on what was going on with me.

Honestly, this time around, it's been a completely different experience. I'm sure that's a universal thing for women who fall pregnant who already have a child or children. And, as a result, it feels that this pregnancy is flying by. I'm not tracking every change and development and movement the way that I was that first time around, I just don't have the time to be doing that whole he's a grape, he's a plum, he's a watermelon thing. 

But the one thing I am doing, which is probably the only thing I'm doing that is really just about me and switching off, is swimming outside. So, I'm swimming at the heath a lot at the moment. It's not really exercise – I’m not even putting my head under at the moment because I've been a bit conscious of the risks of doing that in a duck-pond whilst pregnant. I'm literally just head up breast-stroking my way around with the ducklings and the general greenery and beauty of the heath. And I live very near the west res, so I swim there as well. But the heath feels like a real spiritual home at the moment.

People often talk about the weightlessness of being in water when you're pregnant. And I really relate to that. Also, I don't know, clothes are all a bit constrictive at the moment (and especially in this heat) so actually putting on a swimsuit that's not got seams or wires or anything, like poking me and just being as close to naked as I might be in public, floating in water feels physically really glorious. It's a rare moment in my week when it's just me and the baby inside me: no toddler, no husband, no inbox, no phone and it gives me a chance to really focus on what my body is doing. 

Deakin and Blue Signature Swimsuit Black

So, how have your D&B swimsuits fitted you as your body changes through pregnancy?

I wore them all through my pregnancy with Zac, and I'm still wearing my D&B swimwear several times a week now. I've adapted some of my preferences to suit the changing needs of my body. So, for example, I'm wearing a two piece more than I normally would, because sometimes it's just easier to pull on bottoms and zip up a top than sort of wriggle my whole body into a swimsuit. I'm finding that depending on how energetic I'm feeling, a two piece is often my go to. And I've been able to do things like size up in the bottoms or size up in the top, depending on what's going on with my body. So, as my boobs got a lot bigger towards the end of my pregnancy with Zac, and it's happening at the moment, being able to just size up in the top and know that the bottoms still fit perfectly is really nice.

I've also had to think a little bit about which styles are more or less supportive and therefore constrictive when it comes to being a comfortable home for this body when pregnant. So, The Signature Swimsuit, for example, has several horizontal seams where the mesh panels sit and under the bust. And, while this is my go-to suit when I'm not pregnant because I feel so amazing in it (it holds everything in and it gives me lovely lines), I actually prefer something almost entirely seamless when I'm pregnant because it just slides on over the bump and my boobs. I feel really held and supported without feeling like anything is going to cut in or anything like that. So, I'm wearing my X-backs a lot, which have vertical panelling, but don't have any horizontal seams. I'm swimming a lot in The Essential Swimsuit too which still has the lovely mesh on the hips and neckline but the main body of the suit just slides on over my hips and bump. It's really comfortable to wear.

I think when I was about five months pregnant I just sized up. So, I normally wear a 12 Hendricks and I've sized up to a 14 Hendricks to just give me a bit more breathing room. And I think the beauty of a stretch garment is that these things can stretch with you. So, as my bump grows, they've just stretched with me. And actually, I was thinking the other day, I still wear my Teal X-back, which I've had for over two years now. I've worn it religiously for pool swims, outdoor dips and on holidays. I wore it through my first pregnancy and actually I wore it again afterwards and it kept its shape on my non-pregnant body. 

So, there's give in the fabrics that accommodates changing bodies so that these pieces can be worn again when your body is back to something more normal for you. But it's been really nice to not have to compromise on what I wear. And to know that the while the products aren't especially designed with pregnant bodies in mind, they can be adapted to work for a pregnant body.

The whole ethos of the brand is around the idea that bodies come in different shapes and sizes and that our bodies change. Over the course of a month, you might be more bloated or less bloated or your weight might fluctuate and your swimsuit should be able to accommodate that. And clearly pregnancy is a very extreme version of that. But, with some small adaptations and sizing tweaks, actually the swimsuits and bikinis absolutely work for a pregnant body. So that's been really lovely to test and realise.

Deakin & Blue Swimcrop Bikini Beach Meadow

After pregnancy in that postnatal period, how do those fabrics make you feel supported and are you able to breastfeed?

Yeah, so it’s interesting because when I set the business up, one of the stats that really drove me was around women who didn't feel confident enough to take their children to learn to swim because of body image related issues associated with swimwear. And, as you know, it's one in two mums who don't do it because they can't stand the thought of putting on a swimsuit. It's such a sad but completely relatable statistic. I could strongly relate, especially after I'd been through the huge body changing experience of pregnancy and then birth and then everything that the fourth trimester brought with it. So it was kind of amazing to then be in those shoes myself and to be the one taking a child to swim.

I felt mostly good in my body, actually, post – Zac’s arrival. I was quite lucky to not feel the pressure to 'bounce back' or any of those things. And I loved taking him to learn to swim. So it was really lovely to be to be in that scenario, but then also conscious of the other women there and of the statistic, I found myself thinking, you know, how are you feeling in this moment? It was a real reminder that swimwear is so often a compromise in one way or another. It was a real sort of full-circle experience to find myself in that moment that had been at the kind of gestation of the business.

But yes, I wore D&B for swimming postnatally both individually and also when I was taking Zac to learn to swim. And again, I just picked styles when I was still breastfeeding him where I knew I could quickly whip the top down and sit either by the side of the pool, or in the changing room and be able to feed him. All of the bikini tops are very easy to either lift up or undo, and the X-back and Essential Swimsuit worked well too.

I really appreciated being able to wear something that just felt really secure and safe. At a time when you might feel that you are still in an unfamiliar body, and on top of that, you have all the mental load of caring for a new baby, to feel myself contained and held, and secure. To not have to worry, actually, just to know that I could get on with my swimming class with him and enjoy it.

That period of pregnancy and postnatal recovery is the most dramatic change that your body can go through in a short space of time. How do you think the fashion industry caters for pregnancy now? And how could it do better?

That's such an interesting question. I mean, I think that there's a lot going on in the fashion industry at the moment, even parking the pregnancy aspect. Two big themes really stand out, which are around diversity and representation of different body types, and operating more sustainably. Something that I've been really conscious of, in both pregnancies, but probably this one even more so, is the idea of buying things that you're only going to wear for such a short period of time.

I think those are two challenges – the sustainability challenge and the representation of body challenges which pregnancy exacerbates and draws into the extreme. And certainly, I think the fashion industry has still got a long way to go in terms of showing different types of pregnant bodies. And mine, by the way, still for the most part subscribes to the homogenous ideal – I’m white, I'm able bodied, I'm slim, you know, I'm sort of a tick, tick tick when it comes to stereotypes in a lot of ways - even though those stereotypes haven't always resonated for me personally. Showing different types of pregnant bodies is something that the fashion industry has got some way to go to do. And to show that, you know, different bodies do pregnancy in different ways and look different.

And then the second is around designing pieces that are suitable and comfortable and enabling for a woman whose body is going through the enormous transformation that comes with being pregnant, but that also have the built-in adaptability or versatility to exist before and after that as well and be useful beyond their 9-month life. So, I have a couple of staples in my wardrobe that are very maternity specific – I have a maternity pair of jeans and a pair of maternity denim shorts, and a couple of breastfeeding specific tops. But otherwise, I wear floaty dresses, shirts, stretch fabrics, lots of things that I've worn in my wardrobe for years, and will continue to wear afterwards. I've tried quite hard to think, what can I wear in my wardrobe differently? Or how can I tailor something to make it suitable for my changing body, that doesn't mean I'm going be left with a load of clothes in three months’ time that are redundant and either going to landfill or a charity shop, coming to the end of life much sooner than they might otherwise.

I think that there's a lot of work in the industry to do around rental in pregnancy fashion, the idea that you could rent pieces for different chapters of your pregnancy would be great because a three-month pregnant body has very different needs to an eight, nine month pregnant body. It's not even like you buy your maternity wear and then you're done for nine months.

So, there's a lot to navigate both as a consumer and as an industry. And I think we're at the early stages of doing that. But it's exciting. And there's definitely the appetite for it right now. And, you know, those changes are afoot in the mainstream fashion industry. So, I would definitely expect it to trickle down into the pregnancy category as well.

But, what I really like that we're doing with D&B is saying 'you don't have to buy maternity swimsuits'. Instead you should be able to buy something that will last your body, that works for your body before and afterwards. And it might just be about tailoring how you wear it. That way, you're not adding something to your wardrobe that is only fit for purpose for a handful of weeks or months. And I think the more brands that do that, the better, because it's about making products that are versatile and adaptable and designed to last.

Deakin and Blue Signature Swimsuit Black

The day after the Reimagining Beauty photoshoot, I shared a behind the scenes photo I had taken of you in front of the camera, and you told me it was one of your favourite photos of you. What was it about that photo?

I mean, God, I love a makeup artist and a very sunny day! I think it was that I was having such a blast that day. I'd met seven unbelievable women, laughed a lot all day and heard them talking about their relationships with their bodies, and I just felt a huge sense of privilege at being in their company.

We took the photos of me towards the end of the day because we were going to try and fit them in if we had time, which we did. But it was coming to the end of the day and I think all of that incredible feeling, like, aren’t women bloody amazing, I just felt like it was radiating through me and I was channelling that.

I think that my body is amazing for loads of reasons, but I would say how it looks is quite low down the list of why I think it's amazing. I don't think I have, you know, a particularly bad relationship with my body. But, like a lot of women, unfortunately it's complicated. So, it's not often that I look at a picture of myself and think that one of the best things about my body in that picture is how it looks, so it was complete vanity!

And, of course, how it looked to me really was a product of what was going on and of how I was feeling. You simply can’t unpick how it looks from the amazing things it was doing, you know. I love how pregnant it looks, I love how glowing my skin looks – which was partly sunshine and partly a baby growing in there. So those two things, what it's doing, what it's capable of, can't be completely detached from how it looks I think.

So yes I just loved that first picture. And I think I look so happy and calm and relaxed. Remarkable given I'm sat with a camera pointed at me. But I mean, that's a lovely way to feel. So, I think that when I look at that picture I will always remember what an amazing day I had, and how good I felt to be doing what I do in this business with these incredible women.

 Deakin & Blue X-back Swimsuit Scarlet

Rosie wears the X-Back in Scarlet in a size 14 Hendricks, the Essential Swimsuit in Black in a size 14 Hendricks and the Swimcrop Bikini in Liberty Beach Meadow in a size 12 bottoms and a size 14 Hendricks top.