FashionAll The Rage

Strong currents in women's swimwear

SportsBetsey JohnsonBrooklyn DeckerTargetOld Navy

In Southern California, where the abundance of sunshine can lead to numerous days at the beach and a summer full of pool parties, the purchase of a new swimsuit is serious business. For some women, it's the toughest sartorial challenge of the summer.

The shopping process often involves many trips to the mall, the nightmare of dressing room lighting and small pieces of stretchy fabric that will force a shopper to take notice of every bump and ripple on her body.

This season, however, the less-is-more philosophy in swimwear is taking a back seat to a focus on smart, fashionable styling. "We are seeing less of your standard traditional string bikinis," says Andrea Trujillo, owner of A.SweeT. Boutique in Beverly Hills, which carries swimwear, sportswear and accessories. "Designers are getting more creative with their pieces."

For the shopper, this translates into a season awash with retro references and flattering silhouettes, prints and embellishments. You don't need Brooklyn Decker's curves or Kate Moss' rail-thin physique to pull off the top trends — there are plenty of styles out there for the real woman who wants to be chic and comfortable by the water.

Fabric cutouts

Some of the most flattering swimsuits currently available are those with silhouettes that feature cutouts of fabric. Hints of skin are revealed in shapes that range from small triangles to plunging necklines, to bare hips. One of the bestselling cutout styles at Los Angeles-based retailing website Nastygal.com is the Diamond Back swimsuit by Tavik ($145), which features a deep cut V neckline, low back, exposed sides and fringe details.

For a more subtle feel, the Diva twisted cutout swimsuit by Rachel Pappo ($235) at Nastygal.com features gathered bands of fabric and diamond-shaped cutouts.

Crochet

The crocheted top and sweater have become staples for the fashionable hippie set, and the trend has made its way into swimwear as well. At Nastygal.com, crochet suits are among the top sellers, which include a style called the Peacock from Lisa Maree. Prices for the crocheted suits range from $138 to $178 on the website.

The crochet trend is also popping up at other retailers such as Old Navy, which carries metallic thread crochet bikini separates ($19.94); Kohls, which offers Elle white crochet bikini separates ($24.99); and Target, which sells crochet halterkinis, one-pieces, bikini tops and bottoms, all priced from $13.99 to $20.

Some of the styles can function as part of an outfit, eliminating the need for a shirt. And crochet coverups in the forms of tanks, bell sleeve dresses and tunics are part of the trend as well.

Bold prints

Shoppers have gravitated to neon colors and tribal prints for a couple seasons, but this summer romantic florals and playful unexpected prints are trending.

The Australian swimwear line We Are Handsome has made a name for itself with vibrant prints of horses, wolves and landscapes. This year, the company's offerings include a style called the Bahamas Bikini (sold at A.SweeT. boutique for $87.50), with flamingos spray-painted against a bright pink sunset. (The line is also sold at Barneys.)

Floral prints are popular with customers who shop at the nationwide chain and website Everything But Water (everythingbutwater.com), according to Melisa Belinger, vice president of merchandising. Among the offerings: A Betsey Johnson one piece monokini that mixes a blue and purple floral print with purple rose appliques on each shoulder strap ($178).

Asymmetrical silhouettes

The one-shoulder style has been a popular dress silhouette for a couple seasons, and this spring it has emerged as a favorable style for swimwear as well. One-shoulder monokinis and tops can be useful for shoppers who hope to draw eyes to certain parts of the body (the neckline) and away from others.

The Becca by Rebecca Virtue top ($51.99) from Everything But Water recalls the shoulder draping of a Grecian toga, embellished with a piece of chain link hardware and a bold blue, black and brown pattern.

For a one-piece, asymmetrical silhouette, the Miraclesuit Jenna suit ($150), also from Everything But Water, features a one-shoulder strap and mesh cutouts. The zig zags of fabric create an effect similar to shirring, for those who may want to cover up their tummy area or add some flare to a classic black suit.

High-waist retro

High-waisted bottoms paired with bikini tops and retro-inspired one pieces are making a comeback — again — calling to mind '50s style, a la Bettie Page.

"We've definitely spoken to the trend with a few high-waist styles and retro colors," says Jacqueline Pak, a buyer for Nastygal.com. Among the website's suits with a retro feel are the Betty Swimsuit from Mandalynn ($100) and the Seafolly Lola Rose Bikini ($155), which comes in bright yellow with a bandeau bustier top and high-waist lace-up bottoms.

Some designers are also adding modern twists to their retro-inspired designs.

"Mara Hoffman, for instance, did a number of high-waist bottoms but added interesting details like beading or cutout and crocheted side panels on her bottoms," says Trujillo.

The Mara Hoffman Half-Top Bikini in Inca Sky offers a high-waist bottom and a ruffle-overlay top ($216). Hoffman's designs are available at A.SweeT. boutique and MaraHoffman.com.

jenn.harris@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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