By Kim Hone-McMahan
Beacon Journal staff writer
It’s bathing suit season. Just reading that sentence makes some of us throw up in our mouths a little bit.
Some of us have thunder thighs and would rather bare our souls than our hams. Others are so modest that showing too much skin is just plain embarrassing. Even the ultra-fit women who play Olympic beach volleyball are being given the choice to wear shorts and sleeved tops for this year’s Games, instead of the tiny bikinis that had been required.
Those are a couple of reasons Debbie Kuhn of Twinsburg came up with the idea to reinvent swimwear and call her line “girltrunks.”
The idea was spawned after a friend invited her to go on a tubing trip down the Madison River in Montana.
“Bring your bathing suit,” the friend reminded Kuhn.
After discovering that the bathing suits in department stores weren’t going to cover her thighs, she paired a tankini top with men’s swim trunks. The trunks dried quickly and Kuhn felt comfortable enough to run into a grocery store wearing the outfit. She concluded that women needed trunks designed just for them.
“The idea stuck with me,” she recalled. “It nagged at me and nagged at me. I talked to friends and did my own little market research. Not one person said it was a bad idea. Everyone said that women needed it.”
Kuhn, who used to work in sales in the art industry, said she is negotiating with a store that carries sporting goods to sell her swimwear. But at this point, the polyamide fabric trunks, which sell for $79 with either a 7- or 11-inch inseam, can only be purchased at www.mygirltrunks.com.
“The beautiful thing about this fabric is that it doesn’t show any bumps, bulges or cellulite. It covers a multitude of sins,” she said, grinning.
Deena Kretzer of Chesterfield, Va., is grateful to Kuhn for following through with the idea for a different kind of bathing suit.
“I’m a size 2 who has little trouble finding clothes to fit, but swimsuits were never flattering,” Kretzer said.
But all of that changed last summer after Kretzer noticed a woman next to her on North Carolina’s Wrightsville Beach wearing a pair of the girltrunks, and she decided to order a pair for herself.
“I continue to wear these every time I’m at a lake or pool and will soon be ordering the other pattern top just to have a change,” Kretzer said.
Kuhn, 47, sells matching halter and tank tops on her site for $59, in sizes 4 to 24.
“The tops are cut a little generous, meaning they are not like most swimsuits that are form-fitting and skin-tight. It’s about being flattering … and not looking like a sausage,” she said.
Sara Pfannenstiel of Ness City, Kan., purchased a tank top and a pair of trunks from Kuhn.
“I have been skinny all my life and then gained about 25 pounds in seven years. In a swimming suit, I felt very ugly,” Pfannenstiel said. “But now with this suit, I feel wonderful because I am covered up.”
Kuhn stopped short of offering how much she is earning on sales, but became visibly emotional when chatting about the women who have thanked her for designing something that makes them feel good.
“At the end of the day, it’s about empowering women,” she said. “How does a bathing suit do that? I don’t know, but it’s doing it.”
Kim Hone-McMahan can be reached at 330-996-3742 or email@example.com.