Shopping for a swimsuit is nearly every grown woman's nightmare.
Past a certain age, it doesn't much matter what size you are, how sylphlike. Unless you are genetically blessed or toned to perfection -- and we know that's almost a full-time job -- the rejects just keep piling up in fitting rooms across the nation.
Part of the problem may be that the suits finally chosen are not necessarily going to go in the water. I picked this up in a recent press release from a swimsuit manufacturer, Trulo: "Industry surveys have shown that more than half of the swimsuits purchased annually never get wet."
Should one assume that most of us are just traipsing around in them? No wonder we're having fits in the fitting room. We are not going to swim. We are going to be seen. Yikes!
Well, there are a few glimmers out there. And I'm not just talking about the flashes of gold and glitz showing up on some of this year's suits.
First, many in this year's crop come with some sort of cover. Possible matching pieces include wide pants, leggings, shorts, long skirts, wrap skirts, pareos or sarongs, billowy jackets, kimonos, even easy dresses.
Trulo reports that 60 percent of its Michael Kors collection features sportswear coverups. Stretch taffeta off-the-shoulder suits and plunge-neck halter swim-dresses can even go out for the evening under short or long wrap skirts. Why not, especially if they haven't been splashing around in the pool anyway?
Wherever you wear them, these added covers make the suit into more of a costume and offer shelter for those who worry about being over-exposed -- either to the sun or close scrutiny.
There is a trend to transparency. Many of the pants or skirts or tops are in sheer fabrics. And places on suits that might have been carved away last year, this year are filled in with net. This, too, has a way of softening impressions.
As for high-on-the-thigh cuts, there are still many of them. But the message appears to be getting through. Some of the new suits have built-in shorts, or flippy skirts -- often pleated.
One-piece suits with fuller coverage are prevailing over two-piece styles, reports J. C. Penney.
The American woman didn't strongly accept the trend toward skimpiness, says Tracy Rasmussen, women's swimwear buyer for Penney's. "She wants a suit that provides glamour while camouflaging her figure flaws," she said.
In the two-piece department there is good news, though, for those whose midriff remained firm while the abdomen became a little shaky -- a number of two-piece suits rise all the way to a waistband, and often a belt. Stretch fabrics and hidden control panels help out in many ways, on both one- and two-piece suits.
In other news from beach and pool-side -- it probably will not
come as a breathtaking surprise that bra shaping, detail and embellishment are a major focus on this year's swimsuits. After all, the bustier has been out and about for some time.
Shirring, boning and underwiring offer defined contouring reminiscent of the '40s. Sequins, rhinestones, pearls and nailheads often decorate those contours. From waist up, seen across a patio table, some of the new suits look like ball gowns.
Following the modest encouragement above -- a word of warning: Sports Illustrated's annual swimsuit just hit the stands. Usually out the first week of February, it was held off this year because of the Winter Olympics.