Story by Steven Welch
It’s been almost 60 years since Brian Hyland first introduced America to the “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini,” but a love for the perfect swimwear still burns strong in most people’s hearts.
As the weather warms and vacations are planned, finding the perfect outfit for the beach can turn into a mission for both men and women. While comfort is important, most shoppers will be on the lookout for the hottest trends, to make sure they turn heads and make a splash in the summer sun. Lisa Lassiter, Belk store manager at Lakeshore Mall, says most women are going to be on the lookout for some specific trends this summer.
“It’s the halter top; mix and match, especially for the young girl, contemporary customer; It’s all about solutions for the more curvy woman looking for a top that fits her well,” she says.
Mix & match
With all of the styles and colors available, Lassiter says most customers have begun to mix and match their swimsuits instead of going for a more monochromatic look. While coming up with good color and pattern combinations may seem daunting, some brands make it easy by pairing several choices together.
“We have a couple of vendors that are specifically mix and match. … that come in the solids for the bottoms and tops in prints,” Lassiter says. “So it’s already there, you just have to pick out what you like best.”
With almost limitless patterns to choose from, Lassiter is confident shoppers will find the perfect suit to match their personalities as they soak up the sun.
All about the one piece
Two-piece suits usually reign supreme when it comes to preferences for the season, but Lassiter points out the rising popularity of one-piece options, of which her store has more options to choose from than the bikini styles. She points to the ability of a one piece to make customers of all ages feel confident as the reason for the style’s increase in sales.
Details, details, details
Belk visual manager Jerry Orr says more customers are looking into suits with details, such as ruffles, high neck/halter top, different lengths and lace up. These features add an extra aesthetic to a bathing suit’s overall look, without taking away from its intended purpose. He also says there’s also been an increase in customers wanting a longer bikini style, most often called a “tankini,” which has a longer top that comes down closer to the waist.
“It’s really more of a detail than a function. It’s suits with the corset lacing you see on the fronts and backs of suits,” he says. “Ruffle bottoms are quite the deal now. You used to just see older people wearing them, but everyone wears them now. They’re very flattering for everyone.”
When it comes to the more detail-oriented suits, Orr recommends customers find materials that can dry more quickly, as the ruffles and lace tend to hold more water.
For the fellas
While women hold a monopoly on styles and choices for swimsuits, there are still a lot of options out there for the guys as well. Various lengths, colors and patterns allow men to choose something that fits their style and personality, so they feel their best on the beach. Jessica Mobley, store manager at J.R. Crider’s Clothing & Apparel in Gainesville notes a guy should think about many things when choosing a suit.
“You have some who come in and want the shorter, 7-inch length, and some who want more coverage,” she says. “Then there’s color, pattern and texture to think about as well.”
Mobley says while patterns and details are more popular with women, she’s seen men go more toward solid and neutral colors this season, with red, black and gray being the ones guys flock to more.
Function also plays a key role in men’s swimsuits, with everything from pockets on the side to water-resistant options available.
“The water just slides right off, it’s kind of interesting how it works,” Mobley says. “It’s good for those days when you’ll be at the beach or a pool party for an extended period of time and might not want to be wet all day.”
Finding ‘the one’ (or ones)
If your summer includes lots of fun in the sun, buying more than one swimsuit is always an option. Mobley notes some customers come in and buy three or four different suits to allow variety during their vacations. Lassiter echoes her sentiments, with three being a good number to have.
“If you wear a suit one day, and you’re going to be at the beach the next, it allows that one to dry,” she says. Then if you’re going to do something active like kayaking, you’ll want one fitted for that.”
With so many choices, Lassiter, Orr and Mobley all agree the best thing a customer can do is try on suits until they find something they’re comfortable with. While this could mean research and lots of time spent in fitting rooms, the end result will be worth the effort.
“I think you have to get in and try. There’s a variety of swimsuits, don’t be afraid to try different things and see what works, and just be patient,” Lassiter says.