POSTED ON JUNE 24, 2009:
No need to fret about swimwear, boutiques and online retailers are where it's at
I sincerely hope that you have been stocking up on boring cereals and yogurt. If television, pardon me, commercials have taught us anything, it's that in order to leave one's home in some kind of swimwear this summer, you must sustain yourself on a diet composed only of fiber enriched cereals and/or creepily labeled "active" yogurts.
Although those two things are not as much of a letdown as the commercials themselves, these advertisements showcase ladies holding or staring at swimsuits and then staring down at themselves or in mirrors before determining that the only way they could possibly wear a swimsuit is to partake in some bland calorie regimen.
It's aggravating because these advertisements are always aimed at women (I'm pretty sure there have to be some guys out there staring at a pair of swim trunks and then gazing down at their doughy physiques) and that these women always strike that height-weight proportion.
But hey, everyone wants to look good in a swimsuit. Here are some thoughts on what's trendy this summer and, more importantly, what will make you look good in a swimsuit every summer--no bran necessary.
You're old enough to know that swimwear is essentially waterproof underwear, but you may not have reached that point where you've come to accept your body. And given the inevitable body changes that come with age, you may never fully accept showing much of it. But the thing is that no swimsuit is going to entirely hide all of the body flaws you have listed in your head. Unless suddenly it's chic to wear bodysuits like surfers or Sea World trainers, but that's not the case in 2009.
Having said that, if you still find yourself hoofing and hawing about having to try on swimsuits, embrace the world of online shopping.
Though I don't normally highlight this outlet of the retail world, this time it may be the most helpful. Obviously there's a larger range of sizes and styles, providing more opportunities to mix and match. Although stores in recent years have caught on and no longer sell suits in one-size-buy (i.e. not everyone has a small top and small bottom, so now you can purchase a top in one size and bottoms in another) this practice also leaves an imbalance in stores. Sometimes there are a lot of bikini tops in your size but no matching bottoms. Online shopping's larger inventory can help remedy this problem.
Secondly, shipped in individually wrapped bags, the garments have likely never been worn, therefore reducing some of the ickiness of trying on swimsuits in stores. While not suggesting you pull down your underpants, rip off the sanitation sticker and throw the bikini bottoms on, there's something to be said about online garments: they haven't recently come off some other person's warm body. Germaphobes, hypochondriacs and anyone who has ever worked in retail can appreciate that.
The most important perk of purchasing swimwear from the Internet is that the garments can be tried on at home, which can certainly soften the experience. The lighting won't be as harsh, you can take your time, and the more subdued atmosphere could make for a pleasant experience.
The downside of this relaxing environment is that if you hate the suit you've purchased online or have significantly missed the mark in size, you're likely to be screwed. By the time you purchase another, wait for shipping and determine it's a keeper, it might be time to pack it away for next summer and start focusing on your fall wardrobe.
To maintain sanity while shopping for suits in town, think boutique. I ventured to Island Nation at RiverWalk Crossing in Jenks. A shopping destination for four years, this boutique boasts as having "the very best island art, apparel, bath and body, books, gourmet foods, home décor and gifts." The "apparel" in that list includes swimsuits for the whole family.
For men and children, who are decidedly easier to dress in a suit, there are great colors and patterns. Gentleman can find swim trunks by Reef and Billabong in bright colors and bold patterns, such as Kelly green plaid, a collage of Hawaiian images and black and white suits whose patterns are too random to describe.
For the kiddos, Island Nation has suits from toddler size to larger children's sizes. There are sweet suits in patterns of cheetah print or strawberries on stripes. There are also accessories for kids, including a pretty nifty pair of flip-flops whose sole boasts a secret compartment.
And as the food commercials continuously point out, it's the ladies who agonize over swimsuit season. Thankfully, this summer's trends are friendlier than those of years' past such as accents of ring hardware, belts, ruffles and overall shape trends like suits with only one shoulder and cut-outs throughout the body. This last trend appears to be a different version of last year's monokini, but instead of a bikini with a vertical torso panel, they actually fit an assortment of body types. These one-piece swimsuits have peek-a-boo cut outs throughout, which are as varied as the designers. This trend works wonders for people that want the modesty of a one-piece but still want to look sexy; the only disadvantage is, of course, weird tan lines.
At Island Nation, there is a wide assortment of swimsuits (standard and strapless one-pieces, tankinis and shorts), but there's certainly a focus on that swimsuit staple: the bikini. Bikinis styles vary, with simple choices like solid black or a blue and white diamond pattern by Michael Kors. And then there's the bright gold bikini with the racer back top from B.SWIM.
But Island Nation's variety actually meets somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. Labels like B.SWIM, Gossip, and Reef offer a consistent shape--string bikinis--with a focus on finding fun patterns. There is a nautical-themed suit complete with anchors on the pattern in an unusual nautical color scheme of burgundy, bright pinks and orange and whose bikini top ties of blue and white rope-like ties evoke the overall theme. There are also tropical prints, like Hawaiian flowers in bright pink and white with orange trim. The so-called trendy prints of this season are animal prints, polka dots, florals, stripes and clashing patterns, just to name a few. These don't seem overtly trendy to me, as you'll find these patterns on swimsuits every year. With styles like a red swimsuit with cheetah print and a black and white striped one with pink floral details and polka dot ties (sounds busy but is very cute), Island Nation has a strong hold on the looks of the season. And there's still more on the way.
And because swimsuit choice will ultimately depend on size and price, Island Nation's got that covered as well. Sizes range from small to large (including some designs whose number sizes go to a size 14). Prices are per piece and start at $30 and go toward $60. Men's prices also hit around the $50 mark.
And no swimsuit is complete without all of its accessories. Island Nation carries nearly everything you could need to cover up or to compliment your swim gear. For both men and women, there is an assortment of flip-flops by beach-friendly designers like Reef. The styles, all comfortable, range from sporty to straps in glitter.
Tulsa-based Gurkee rope sandals are available at Island Nation. The store also carries big woven totes, sunglasses, towels, hats and other fashionable accessories you'd need once you get to the sun and water.
And, since you'll eventually want to put something over your bathing suit, there are plenty of options of things to wear over your swimsuit. For the guys, there are Tommy Bahama t-shirts and shorts. For the gals, there are board shorts and t-shirts, as well as thin, brightly patterned dresses.
Island Nation is open Monday through Thursday 10am-7pm, Friday and Saturday 10am-8pm and Sunday 1pm-5pm. To find out more about the store, visit 500 RiverWalk Terrace, Suite 110 or www.myislandnation.com.
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