PRACTICAL VIEW : Trawling for Ocean-Floor Prices

Off-price stores are the most likely place to look for swimwear bargains. The discounts can be 50% or more.

And at manufacturer's outlet stores--especially the rock-bottom parking lot sales held from time to time, shoppers can find price tags under $10.

Styles won't be as current or varied as at top department and specialty stores. But most of the sale suits are this season's or last, and feature details similar to the hottest full-price sellers.

Unconstructed bikinis and one-piece models predominate in off-price stores now. But there is a small assortment of the padded-bra and tummy-control suits being featured in exclusive boutiques.

At T.J. Maxx, suits are priced at $14.99, marked down from an average $30. Most of them, according to Dawn Griffin, come from current stock. Sales tags identify suits from seasons past. Among brand names at the store now are Anne Klein, Anne Cole and Daffy. Stock, and labels change constantly.

At Marshall's, a variety of one- and two-piece suits from past seasons are priced at $15.99. Brand names recently seen in the store include Jantzen, Esther Williams, Sessa and Rose Marie Reid. Finding your size can be tricky: Typically, discount stores carry all sizes, but rarely do they offer any one style in the entire range.

At Nordstrom Rack, with several locations in Southern California, goods come from Nordstrom department stores after the end-of-season markdowns. During a recent visit, one- and two-piece suits by Oscar de la Renta, Anne Klein and La Blanca were spotted, most priced under $30.

Several outlets offer even better buys. Catalina's outlet store, in Commerce, sells women's one-piece suits from this season for $24.99. Labels include Catalina Jrs., the pricey Anne Cole Collection and of course, Catalina. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (213) 724-4693.

At the Sirena outlet in El Monte, women's suits featuring Sirena, Anne Klein and Cherokee, as well as a mother-daughter line called Look & Sea, are about $22 each.

At the end of the season, Sirena holds a parking lot sale where suits are tagged from $7 to $17. The company has not yet announced the date for this season's sale, but they expect it to be about the first weekend in June. The outlet number is (818) 442-6680.

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