When one-piece fits all
While your good old Speedos are perfect for doing laps, they probably won't pass muster on the beaches of St Tropez this summer. Fortunately, there's plenty that's trendy and flattering on the racks this season.
If 2008 was all about the bikini, this year is all about the one-piece.
'The one-piece has made a huge comeback and not in sexy styles from the years past, but in retro 1960s conservative styles with more conservative necklines and leg lines,' says Sabina Wong Sutch, swimwear designer and owner of local boutique Sabina Swims. 'It seems more is less this year, and skimpy, tiny pieces aren't that popular.'
Designers have echoed that sentiment on the catwalk - at Celine, Chanel and Louis Vuitton swimsuits were cut low across the thighs, and came in solid colours such as black and white. Other retro-inspired details included ruffles, which appeared on the front of strapless styles, or gathered fronts, as seen at Alexander Wang.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is the monokini, which is becoming popular in Europe with fashionistas who are looking for something sexy and revealing.
'In European countries, the word monokini almost always refers to a standard bikini bottom worn topless, but now they are cut-away suits with lots of skin exposed,' says image consultant Shireena Shroff, founder of Sheens Image Consulting.
'They also refer to one-piece suits that have the sides cut out, while the top and bottom parts are joined by a mesh design, beads or other materials or accessories.'
Shroff says this summer's monokini styles include suits with geometric cut-outs and asymmetrical angles such as Grecian inspired one-shoulders. If you opt for a monokini with embellishments, avoid patterns and stick to a solid colour, be it a neutral tone or bright shade of coral, which is always a summer favourite.
If you prefer to wear a two-piece, Wong Sutch says you should choose classic-style tops such as the keyhole bandeau or simple halter neck. For bottoms, 'low riding bottoms remain the most flattering and these can have moderate to skimpy coverage,' she says. 'The thong is not in. Go for solid colours in more neutral, natural and nude tones, not bright loud ones. Mixing and matching is less prevalent, so go for a top and bottom that match.'
With swimwear becoming more conservative, now is as good a time as any to inject your own style by wearing accessories such as hats, belts and jewellery. Shroff says dull gold jewellery works on all skin types, and other summer favourites include turquoise and coral. Necklaces and earrings are tricky to wear in and out of the water, but don't be afraid to pile on bracelets.
'Go for bracelets in different colours, preferably colours that match your bathing suit, or complementary colours, and stack them onto one wrist,' says Shroff.
Hats are a given if you want to protect your face from the sun. Other options include a bright headscarf featuring a bold print.
Cover-ups such as kaftans and tunics should be sheer and sexy and made from lightweight fabrics. Beading and subtle embellishments also add a feminine touch to your look. Instead of wearing a boring pair of flip flops, up the style ante with a pair of gladiator sandals in a metallic or nude shade.
If you're petite, halter neck or bandeau bikinis with smaller, more detailed prints create a more streamlined look. Low riding, skimpy bottoms are more flattering.
For more curvy women, a halter neck provides plenty of coverage while keeping the focus on the upper half of your body. Choose suits with oversized prints in neutral colours or earthier tones. A tankini - preferably ruched on the sides - also provides more coverage, but make sure the bottoms are in a solid colour. Skirted bottoms may make you appear heavier than you are. Instead try a geometric wrap for a sexy cover-up.
If your figure is more boyish, low-riding boy shorts or a fun, flirty bottom will add a feminine touch. Look for tops that are slightly padded or that come with a sweetheart neckline to create the illusion of volume. Cut-out suits will also create a more curvaceous figure. Stay away from bandeau styles that flatten the breasts.
Shorter ladies should choose plunging necklines to help balance their proportions, such as one-piece halter necks. If you choose a bikini, go for a string style - showing more flesh elongates the body.
Busty types would do best to pick tops with underwire for extra support. Avoid ruffles or any heavy embellishments in the bust area.