Beach Wear

Focus On Swimsuits

June 20, 1999|By Susan Phinney | Susan Phinney,SEATTLE POST INTELLIGENCER

Swimwear shopping is getting easier.

That doesn't mean stores have installed dim lighting and trick mirrors in dressing rooms.

It means swim-wear manufacturers are making more suits with built-in support for an aging population that needs them. And they're marketing a wider range of styles so customers have a greater chance of finding a suit that fits and flatters.

Big retailers are even grouping all swimwear together so a shopper can select without having to move to another department or floor.

Some suits hang with tags attached to show shoppers the body shapes they're meant to enhance.

Even catalogs are making swimwear shopping easier, grouping suits on their pages by styles -- suits for full hips on one page, for example, skimpy bikinis on another.

Lands' End puts a small symbol -- a triangle, rectangle, circle, hourglass or inverted triangle -- with each suit description so readers can see immediately if the suit they admire is suitable for their body shape.

A tankini, the most sought-after style of the season, gets high marks for comfort.

It's a two-piece with a tank-like top made of conventional swimwear fabric, with either a brief or bikini bottom.

The tank top can be pushed or rolled up for more exposure. It also provides coverage for those with long or out- of-shape torsos.

"A tankini provides great support and can be worn by women of all ages," says Melissa Clark Flake, a swimsuit buyer for Water, Water, Everywhere.

Linda Chan, brand manager for women's swimwear at Jantzen, a Portland, Ore., manufacturer, says baby boomers are affecting the swimwear market. "They have a youthful attitude. They want more color. Brighter, younger styling. But their figures are changing," she says.

Boomers may opt for built-in support, but the look is more natural. Prints that draw the eyes upward, "floating underwires" attached to suit straps, and narrow straps are just a few of the details appealing to boomers who don't want swimwear that resembles something their mothers or grandmothers wore.

Suit pieces sold separately were once rare. They now are far more common. Some tops have a bra-like construction, perfect for large-busted women. But those who need small tops and larger bottoms can also be fitted.

"Swimwear is often more difficult than lingerie to buy," Chan says. But the bottom line is comfort. "Skimpy isn't really in. Comfort is."

Contributing writer Lina Contestabile provided research for this article.

Pub Date: 06/20/99

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