Originally created 05/16/04

Swimsuit fashion includes many new colors, patterns and styles

That whimper you hear is the sound of thousands of women getting ready to make the most dreaded of journeys - the annual foray into the swimsuit dressing room.

If the idea of hipless, hardbodied young women in string bikinis has kept you from foraging the aisles of brightly colored Lycra and nylon, take heart: If you can imagine a style, you probably can find it on the clothing rack this season.

Need a little help hiding those hips? Swim skirts have graduated to hip accessory and they often can be bought with a suit or as a separate. Think those floral patterns are a little too girly? Try a cargo-style or halter two-piece with boy shorts. Feeling a bit retro? Stripes, polka dots and hipster styles will be the freshest thing on the beach.

"This year, there is a style of swimsuit for everyone," said Renee Katziff, the company spokeswoman for T.J. Maxx. "I really think it'll be rather painless to identify a style to flatter your figure."

Silhouettes, in both bottoms and tops, are giving women plenty of options and opportunities for creativity, and all at a cost that can range for less than $20 for some separates to more than $100 for top-of-the-line designs.

"Boy shorts are very popular this season," Ms. Katziff said. "For the tops, there's bandeaus, halters and tube tops."

Handkerchief hemlines and creative closures are just a few of the finishes touches on many new designs.

Tanya Thorson, women's swim merchant for Land's End, said today's styles are being created to go from the beach to the bar.

"Separates are the wave of the future for the swim wear industry," she said. "With all those choices, you can really create a swim wardrobe."

Land's End swimwear includes a "Beach Living" line that has pieces such as a swim polo top with a halter neckline and swim skirts and shorts.

"They've really got a sportswear feel to them," Ms. Thorson said. "You can get out of the water and then feel comfortable enough to go grab a soda from the snack bar."

That comfort is also getting women out of that well-worn black swimsuit and into something with a little more pizzazz.

"Darker colors are more slimming, but women don't have to stick with the basic black," Ms. Katziff said. "Brown or olive or burgundy or navy ... we're seeing those subtle colors with maybe brighter colors as an accent. Maybe olive paired with orange or coral."

For the more adventuresome, patterns are big this season, especially retro styles such as polka dots, diagonal stripes and traditional tropical prints.

The style doesn't stop when the suit's in the shopping bag. Many companies are selling everything from cover-ups to beach towels to tote bags designed to match their swimwear lines.

"Everything's just so colorful, the manufactures are adding even more color to the accessories," Ms. Katziff said.

All those colors, patterns and styles don't mean a thing if the suit's not comfortable.

"As you know, every woman has body issues," Ms. Thorson said. "We're just giving them more choices to fit their needs: control, non-control, textures - it's all there."

"These designs are really giving you more of a range of movement," Ms. Katziff said. "Even if you're sitting on the beach, you're going to have to get up eventually, and you're going to want to look good."

Reach Erica Cline at (706) 828-2946 or erica.cline@augustachronicle.com.


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