Fashion Moments: “You Can’t Wear Heels in a Pool”

State of Undress lingerie. Photo by Owen Dakin.

I was sitting outside my work yesterday trying to take in as much sun as possible before I began my lecture. I’ve become obsessed with the sun, not necessarily being suntanned, but the wonderful feeling on sun on my skin. I didn’t use to be like this, I used to be very anti-sun and pale. I began to think about when I switched over from being a sun-avoider to sun-worshipper. It took me a while to remember when and why I had converted, and then it dawned on me… I began to tan after having to wear a bikini in front of 750,000 people.

This is a great story about anyone who has thought about starting their own business…and wanting to stay “behind the scenes.” It is very tough to do…

State of Undress nightwear. Photo by Vanessa Ellis.

I used to have a luxury lingerie company, State of Undress (which is a long story for another day,) that was based out of London and founded with a fellow Canadian, Emma. We were fortunate enough to have a fantastic PR agency who, at the time, was generating a huge amount of media exposure for us, including Vogue and Sunday Times Style. It was 2006, and we had just launched a very small swimwear collection, thanks to a generous sponsorship, and our PR had secured an amazing story in one of London’s best magazines…but there was a catch.

ES Magazine is a style magazine that comes free with the Evening Standard newspaper in London. 750,000 Londoners read it every Friday, so it was great that they wanted to feature us in a story about new swimwear designers. The problem was, the feature included a photoshoot of the designers WEARING their swimwear designs. Immediately I said NO. I’ve seen a Victoria’s Secret catalogue, and I know I am no where near being fit enough to pose in a swimsuit for any publication. But Emma was not letting me get out of this. “If you don’t do it, I will” she said. That’s when I knew I was screwed.

ES Magazine cover, the issue of our feature.

Emma and I were both far from being model size, but we could have squeezed ourselves into one of the samples. The difference was, I was much smaller in the bust department, which meant squeezing my size 8 body into a size 4 swimsuit would have looked slightly less… “stuffed” than Emma, given that I wouldn’t have been overflowing out of the bikini top (only the bikini bottoms…)

I had no choice. One of us was going to be in that magazine, and Emma and I both knew I was the better option. The worst part was that I didn’t have months, or weeks to prepare for the photoshoot. I had days. Four, to be exact.

I called my friend Oonagh, one of the only people I knew who went to a gym, (this was London, where a workout consists of walking to the pub, instead of taking a taxi.) “If I join a gym and go every day for the next four days, how much weight can I lose?” Oonagh said “Not much. Two pounds. Maybe three.” This was not good news. So I decided on the next best option, four days of starvation until the photoshoot.

And that is when fake tan came into my life. Emma always says that tanned fat = muscle, so I went out and bought myself a tube of fake tan and applied it religiously over the next four days. In the coming days, I got so many compliments about my tanned skin, I decided it was for keeps.

Shoot day came, and I was thrilled to find out that the photographer was a woman, and the other girls were just as nervous as I was. In fact, the photographer, Amelia Troubridge, was fantastic. I told her my conditions, “I want to be sitting. My stomach HAS to be hidden. Focus on my legs.” and she found a way to make all four of us look amazing. The other girls were Deborah Flemming from Pistol Panties, Tara Matthews wearing her own line, and Louis Middleton from Shanghai Tang.

The ES Magazine spread.

The shoot came out the following week and I bought 15 copies of the magazine. It looked ok, in fact I was quite relieved. The result could have been much, much worse. I also got quoted from the article in the WGSN press bulletin, which Emma says was a huge coup, as they normally quote people like Karl Lagerfeld and Britney Spears. Now I was known as the swimwear designer who said “I haven’t been in a pool for years. I just lounge next to them; you can’t wear heels in a pool.” Not a bad mantra at all, maybe something for my gravestone.

  • Emma Cheevers

    Awesome article, Alex. Oh the memories! I'd never had made you do it if I didn't think you'd look amazing, and you do. I was wearing my State of Undress bathing suit at the Hampstead swimming pools yesterday – still think it is the most flattering cut ever.

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