Terry Cloth Blown out of the Water : Swimsuit cover-ups aren't what they used to be. And they're not just for the beach anymore.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Glamour has gone to the beach.

From sheer chiffon sarongs to black fishnet shorts, the swimsuit cover-up has come a long way from the traditional terry robe. Today's style-conscious sun bathers want glitzy get-ups for strolling the sand.

"Swimwear is fashion. It's not just swimsuits," says Monica Acuna, district manager for Everything but Water on the West Coast. "Women don't just throw an old T-shirt over their new $90 swimsuits."

Many cover-ups are elegant enough to go from the beach during the day to the disco at night. There are filmy blouses in black or rich jewel colors, full and flowing harem pants, wrap skirts and skintight psychedelic leggings.

"They're for the woman who wants to be decked out," says Cindy McKay, general manager of Splash & Flash in Orange.

Among the alluring cover-ups at Splash & Flash in Fashion Island, Newport Beach: a sheer sarong with a colorful Picasso-style print for $37 that can be worn over a bathing suit by day or a cat suit at night, or a black see-through blouse for $94 that looks good with a gold metallic bikini top or sparkly bustier.

Designers created cover-ups to complement this summer's glamorous swimsuits. Many designed suits in shiny or metallic fabrics adorned with pearls or gold buttons.

Gottex introduced a Chanel-style swimsuit in shimmering ivory with gold-tone buttons down the front and pocket flaps, available for $96 at Splash & Flash. The coordinating cover-up: matching drawstring shorts of sheer ivory rayon for $123.

Lynda Progosh, designer for Bodacious Bodies in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., created sarongs and oversize shirts in chiffon and organza to match her one-piece swimsuits trimmed in ribbons and rhinestones.

"Our suits are very glitzy and fashion-forward. You have to have the total look" to go with the suit, Progosh says.

One of her most popular creations is too simple: a plain rectangular sheet of sheer polyester in purple, green and other jewel tones that can be wrapped into imaginative sarongs and togas. They're $38 at Everything but Water in South Coast Plaza's Crystal Court in Costa Mesa.

Virtually every suit at the shop has a cover-up to match.

"You need to have the full ensemble," Acuna says. "We have suits that are velvet, rhinestones, sequins. Women don't want to just throw anything over them."

Instead of an old sweat shirt, women can now keep warm at beach parties in a black tuxedo jacket by Sandi Kent for $83 or a black baseball jacket by Joujou adorned with colored rhinestones for $105 at Everything but Water.

With the revealing thong-back bikinis and other skimpy swimsuits, women have more need for a cover-up.

"The biggest hit this summer is the sarong," Acuna says.

Short or long, loose or snug, wrap skirts in lightweight fabrics and bright colors are proving a popular accompaniment with thongs.

"The sarong solves the basic problem with the thong swimwear," Acuna says. "They can still tan in their thong, but they can walk around in this."

The sarongs can be as plain as Progosh's scarf or as elaborate as Catalina's full black wrap skirt with a waistband trimmed in a gold metallic print and a gold and rhinestone clasp on the side, for $68.

Leggings, dyed and printed to match the suits, are also hitting the beach. Expozay designed cotton stretch pants with a watercolor print of purple, green, blue and yellow that can be worn with a matching bikini. They're available for $47 at Everything but Water.

"You can wear them to ride your bike and take them off when you get to the beach," Acuna says.

Some designers still make cover-ups out of terry cloth, but they've given it a different name and look.

"Now it's called 'beach shag,' " Acuna says. Her shops carry a hooded jacket with a pouch pocket of bright turquoise terry for $72, with matching shorts for $37.

Terry robes usually have some trim to complement the glitzy suits. Splash & Flash has a short white robe by Catalina embroidered with a gold crest for $64.

Some cover-ups don't cover the body but merely serve as a fashion accessory. They're designed primarily to enhance the total fashion picture.

Everything but Water has mesh cover-ups that require a bikini underneath, including a pair of black mesh shorts for $33 and a mini-dress with long sleeves and a turtleneck made of a lime green or purple mesh for $68, both by Body Glove.

"The dress would look neat over a cat suit," Acuna says. "It's turning swimwear into fashion."

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