In a coastal city, functional and stylish swimwear is practically a must; and when it comes to swimwear for girls, there are many factors to consider. As a mother to three girls inching toward preteen years, seamstress Kaylie Hodges knows these factors and attendant struggles all too well.
As Hodges searched for swimsuits her girls would like and she would approve of, she found the options were either too childish or too grown-up. This prompted her to begin sewing her own swimsuits from different patterns she was able to piece together. In 2020, Hodges found herself with ample time to turn sewing swimsuits for her daughters into a business that would allow other preteens to purchase as well. She researched manufacturers and had several virtual conversations with experts before deciding to dive in — she started the design process in 2021 and Waterslide Swim launched in early 2022.
“We started from a place of need, which means we were thinking through what works and what does not work for 8-14-year-olds,” Hodges recalls.
She knew they wanted more security in the bottoms and straps that would support developing bodies. Hodges also did not want to create overly modest swimwear that was all about shame and policing the body, but thought of it more as “training wheels for tweens.” From there, she reached out to social media and developed a program called “Miniterns” (Mini-interns). The Miniterns helped create mood boards by offering design input so Hodges could get an idea of what girls their ages were looking for.
Hodges knows having a female body comes with an array of obstacles to overcome. In addition to self-awareness of changes that accompany a developing body, tweens are learning complex social interactions and experiencing a roller coaster of emotions due to hormone fluctuations. So, Hodges really wanted to create a swimsuit that girls could feel comfortable in and good about themselves.
With Water Slide Swim, Hodges ultimately created an in-between market for preteen and teen girls, using fun prints and styles that promote body positivity. The brand carries separates such as cropped rash guards and tanks, high-waisted bottoms and one-pieces, too — all in a wide range of sizes.
While growing a small apparel business in the age of influencers and fast fashion has been tough, Hodges is grateful for all the support she has received from the Coastal Bend area and hopes her swimsuit line will continue to grow, becoming accessible to girls around the globe.