It's official. Summer is here, and it's time to take the plunge into swimwear shopping! Hurray!? OK, it may not be the most fun retail therapy we ever experience, but whether you're planning a beach vacation, taking water yoga classes or even just sipping cocktails poolside, searching for that perfect swimsuit is probably going to be on your summer to-do list.
The good news is that this year, there are plenty of stylish ways to suit up — and to cover up, too. Dive into these trends and chances are you'll come up with more than one way to make a splash this summer.
—Taking control. Well, first things first. Many of us have body issues. And baring it all in a swimsuit can be daunting. Swimwear designers and retailers have gone to extra lengths to provide all kinds of ways to provide suits that address individual needs.
Of course, there are those "miracle" suits with heavy-duty stretch fabrics that suck it all in, but there are also plenty of mix-and-match options that will help you find the most flattering swimwear, whether it's online or at the store.
Check out the "help" sections and signage to get expert guidance. Many websites offer free shipping and returns. Your own home can be your dressing room. And if you really need help, you can always hit the "chat" button. Check out the guides at J. Crew and Lands' End.
—Going retro. One of the biggest trends this summer in swimwear harks back to the 1950s and '60s, when curvaceous bodies hit the beach in movie star glamour — pinup-style. The high-waisted two-piece bikini that Annette Funicello wore in "Beach Blanket Bingo" in 1965 returns this summer. Ditto for those ruched one-piece "Esther Williams" suits and striped high-cut maillots a la vintage Barbie. Skirted suits are twirling around out there, too. There's something for every body that ups the glam factor. Go to http://www.modcloth.com for more retro inspiration.
—Getting sporty. Think beach volleyball. Swimwear that functions for even the most extreme workouts is turning fashion heads on and off the beach. Two-piece suits with cropped "midi" tops abound. So do boy shorts. The rash guards and tees inspired by surfers have surfaced as one of the hottest ways to suit up this summer. Add in UPF sun protection of 50-plus and the option of long sleeves and you've got swimwear that's long on style and performance. Athleta, a division of Gap, does a great job with options for this trend (http://www.athleta.com).
—Printing it. Florals have long bloomed on summer swimwear. But blow them up into giant digital graphics and you've got some big, big news. Ditto for animal prints that roar in oversize photographic patterns and tribal motifs that pop up in giant, bold collages. In other words, go big at the beach or go home. (See http://www.aliexpress.com.)
—Styling details. Basically, there are only a few different swimsuit silhouettes. So how do designers make their suits look new? It's all in the details: ruffles, peplums, ruching, jewels, crochet, fringe and cutouts. Oh, yeah, don't forget the jewels. (See http://www.victoriassecret.com.)
To find out more about Sharon Mosley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.