In Florida, it's almost always swimsuit season. And every summer, between water sports, pool parties, beach outings and vacations, most of us find ourselves needing something small and stretchy. To wear in public.
Wait! Don't run away! Today we're throwing out life preservers to the swimsuit-phobic.
If you've been clinging to your stretched out old swimsuit rather than brave the perils of the dressing room, take comfort and helpful advice from the pros.
You might start working up enthusiasm for this shopping project with an attitude adjustment. Psychologist Lavinia Rodriguez tells you how on Page 16.
Cheryl Cummerow buys swimsuits and other sportswear for Beall's stores. She also works with customers on the sales floor, so she knows your pain.
"I ask customers what is their favorite color; what makes them feel good,'' Cummerow said. "If you're pale, usually browns and corals are more flattering than black, and the turquoise family is really popular too.''
• Separates are the big deal these days in swimsuits, offering options in fit (you can often get different size tops and bottoms) and function. If you love the comfort of a two-piece, but not the bareness of a bikini, try a tankini, with a top long enough to keep your tummy covered. Don't like displaying your thighs? For you, there's a skirtini — that's a tankini top, paired with a cute skirted bottom. Or versatile board-short or gym-short bottoms.
• Dillard's swim buyer Gina Powell notes that one-piece suits also can serve a variety of functions — fashion, fit and flattery. The Inches Away "Zebra" surplice tank on Page 12, for instance, combines a flattering wrap style, a trendy animal print cleverly combined with solid black for maximum waist-whittling and a tummy control panel.
• Don't fear prints. "We sell a lot of printed swimsuits because the designer sells it to flatter the torso and pull the eye up to the face. Print is camouflage,'' Cummerow said. But if you love solids, try suits with shirring details that conceal bulges.
• The more spandex in the fabric, the more control the suit offers. Names like "Miraclesuit,'' "Trimsuit'' and "Inches Away'' will clue you in.
• Pay attention to fit. Cummerow suggests trying suits tagged for long torsos, like the Longitude line. "If you're a little round, the extra length may be more comfortable because there's more fabric in the suit,'' she said. And if you need more support up top, you can find it. Powell showed us the Coco Reef "Driftwood'' tankini on Page 12, for instance, with cup sizes up to DDD.
(A tip to swimsuit manufacturers from Cummerow: Produce more suits for women who've had mastectomies. There's a considerable all-ages market eager for better choices.)
• Start your shopping trip online. Look at the websites of your favorite brick-and-mortar stores, plus outlets like Lands' End. See which colors and patterns most appeal. It'll make the store visit less daunting.
• Get off the beaten path. Clearwater's Skinz Swimwear (skinzwear.com) doesn't look like it caters to bodies with the tiniest imperfection. But they make their own suits right there at 2027 Gulf-to-Bay Blvd., and from September to November there's a designer in house for fully custom orders. The rest of the year, they can take any existing design, and make it in your choice of fabric. Manager Tanya Bruce said they once made up a sports bra in a swimsuit fabric for a young woman who wanted a bikini but needed a higher neckline to conceal her pacemaker.
• Have some fun. You like ruffles? Sparkles? Tropicals? Animal prints? Get what you like. It's your suit, and your summer.