Monday, May 3, 2010

Adventures in Swimwear

When my editor at the Post-Gazette asked me to write an article about swimwear, he asked me to focus on “regular women.” I quickly responded that they didn’t exist, and that is what is wrong with swimwear; women are not regular. Either small on top, or big on bottom, or just plain soft all over, women were made with glorious differences in size and contour. So where are all the options in swimwear?

This year thanks to the social networking of the internet, a lot of designers have answered the needs of women everywhere with more creative and better built swimwear. However, there are designs that were made for only the young or svelte body types. For instance, the boy short has made way for the “hipster” bottom that barely covers the inappropriate bits that may show when you sit down.

Lesson number one: when trying on a bathing suit bend over, sit down, dance around, and lift your arms to test how the suit moves with you. Posing in the mirror and sucking in your gut does not count.

The bandeau top became en vogue in the last few years, but was not really appropriate for fuller women. However, designers have managed to build a support top with adjustable straps and reinforcing materials giving the look a more practical application.

The same goes for one-piece suits that are built with new tummy slimming materials. Vix, Gottex, Miraclesuit, and La Blanca are on the racks at your typical places to go swimwear hunting like Nordstrom, Macy’s, and Saks. They have built-in a tremendous amount of ruching and strategic ruffling into there suits. Contrary to this trend, I suspect that after I give birth to the baby in my belly next month I won’t want to wear a tutu or anything that accentuates a rippling affect.

The alternative trends to ruffles and ridges are the asymmetrical shoulder and cut-outs. Last year I tried a few on with laughable results. I was curious if the Fergie inspired hip-waist exposure, sometimes call the monokini, might be my bathing suit savior. I was profoundly mistaken. However, this year the term “cut-out” applies to many different styles that are less dramatic. The cuts are smaller around the hips, for instance the Stella McCartney version. Others appear as deep V-cuts that are made to elongate your trunk and give

a little styling to tummy tucking one-pieces like the ones found by Trina Turk. The one-shoulder look has the ability lift a one-piece bandeau suit into a better fitting statement.

A lot of designers are going the route of tactical colors and shapes. Clashing patterns and creating a busy bosom of color is completely acceptable this year. The look can be fun and, hey, it was popular in the Sports Illustrated Swimwear Issue this year. If you can’t quite get your mind around a string bikini from Maaji or Beach B

unny, which were featured in the sports magazine, than there are more un-revealing styles available in the tankini, and halter versions found at Kohl’s and Target.

Drenching yourself in a ridiculous upbeat pattern lends itself to having a sense of humor about the whole idea of baring your skin and no one does this quite as loud as Lilly Pultizer. This year Lilly Pulitzer, available at Palm Place in Shady

Side, is offering separates for the first time in her career. According to Fashion Director Jane Shoenborn, the change was in direct response to the feedback they received from social networking groups like Facebook and Twitter. Now you can buy tops and bottoms in different sizes and styles.

“What we love is that just like the rest of the brand, we are print driven. We have a resorty atmosphere so we don’t spend a lot of time tricking up the suit. We let the prints speak,” says Shoenborn. This year the collection was inspired by endangered animals and nature. The swimwear line is full of crazy corals and shells in hot pink, vivid green and electric blue.

I am not sure any of the new fashions will turn anyone into a “regular” woman, but they will be more comfortable and maybe even a little fun to wear.

Published version of this story available at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Swimwear for Real Women

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