Get Back Into the Swim of Things

Photo courtesy of Cat Oshman

Designer Cat Oshman on getting ready for the swimwear season

Cat Oshman has designed thousands of swimwear styles for women of all ages. Throughout her 25-plus years as a designer, she has traveled the globe for inspiration, spoken with countless women, met with buyers for major retailers and specialty shops, engaged in focus groups and spent countless hours trying on swimwear to find out what works.

Her swim designs have been seen at beaches and pools around the world through brands including BCBGMaxAzria, Nautica, Tahari, Caribbean Joe, Stella Parker Swim and more. We caught up with Oshman to talk about trends and how women can feel confident in a swimsuit after a year of being home.

Why do you love designing swimsuits?

Shopping for swimwear can be as scary as public speaking. It’s one of people’s biggest fears. Imagine being half naked in public. Designing swimwear is a beautiful art that marries creativity with technical expertise. It’s taking a small piece of fabric and making it go to work!

What sparked your love for fashion?  

Growing up, I’ve always loved art, and, because my Mom was in the textile industry, I spent a lot of my afternoons in that environment. I learned how to sew in the seventh grade and embraced wanting to create something different for myself — especially with not growing up with a lot of money to buy the latest trends — and it was more fun to make it! I used to stay up all night finishing a garment just to wear it to school the next day.

I fell into swimwear. My design portfolio reflected the type of clothing I wanted to design. It was music-inspired, with metallics, patent leather, fish nets. In fact, some of the models in my portfolio were wearing handcuffs; it definitely stopped people in their tracks during an interview for a job. I landed a job with one of the big swimwear companies that specialized in everything from competitive swimwear to fashion. Definitely a great way to start my career. I fell in love with women’s swim and stayed ever since.

When I started my career, I never realized how being around tall, beautiful models would test my self-esteem. I’m petite — much shorter than the models and most of my colleagues. I have a little joke that I’m the perfect height for fittings with models because I’m at eye level with their chest.

What inspires you?

When I meet women, they have a tendency to point out all the reasons they can’t or don’t like to wear a swimsuit. More often than not, it turns into a therapy session. I love to create. I design with a lot of different women in mind. It’s a challenge for me to give her fashion but address her needs.

My favorite part of what I do is empowering women to feel confident in their style. I love traveling the world, getting inspired, seeing photo shoots — it’s always wonderful to see women wearing my designs. Wearing my design means you’re taking a piece of my art with you for pool time or away on an awesome vacation to build memories that can last a lifetime.

What are the most important factors to look for when shopping for swimwear? 

Color will attract you first when it’s on a rack or display. Next will be the style. You want to look for something that you can feel comfortable and confident in. Then, feel and stretch the fabric in the swimsuit. All fabrics stretch differently.

Think about adjustability and support. Does it have underwire? Removable cups can shift while you’re wearing it, so it’s important to adjust them when putting on your suit.

Also, think about coverage. How much coverage do you want (keep in mind that your suit will feel heavier when wet)? You want something that’s going to fit your body well while it’s dry.

Busy prints create a camouflage effect on your body; they’re a great minimizer. Color and print can be mood boosters, so find something that’s going to bring you joy!

Walk us through some trends in swimwear and your favorite looks.

I love color! Wearing monochrome outfits looks so fresh. Off-the-shoulders continues to be one of my favorites. It’s fun, flirty and hides that back arm action. It’s great for women with a smaller bust.

I love bling; a fun, sparkly cover-up is great from day to night. Minimalist-type styles are also in, along with high-waist bottoms and puff sleeves in different variations. Puff sleeves take a swim top to the next level. You can pair it with high-waist bottoms, jeans or a skirt for that extra fashionable vibe.  

A lot of us have been home, not traveling or going to many places. How do we get into the mindset of putting on a swimsuit? 

I say: let’s lift up your mood and transition into the mindset to get out again. What I love about a great cover-up is that it’s a perfect gateway to inch our way back to getting out. The weather will start warming up even more and the outdoors do wonders for mood boosters.

My mission is to empower and boost people’s confidence so that they can feel better about what they see from the inside out. Don’t let the negative self-talk hold you back from having some fun. Get out there, splash around and make waves!

What’s next for you?

I am launching a crowd-funding campaign so that I can build a sustainable foundation that will provide resources to empower women to become bolder believers in who they are. Some of the advantages of a woman in charge of her beauty is a huge spike in her self-esteem. When a woman feels better about herself, often, her relationships with her husband, family, friends and associates grow stronger. She taps into her power to make bolder moves in her personal and professional life.

More information about Cat Oshman can be found at catoshman.com and on Instagram at @catoshman.

Daniella Platt is a host of “Looking Good with Daniella & T. Coffee,” author, co-founder of Jungle accessories and apparel industry marketing consultant. Connect with her online at daniella.today.