DIVE IN: I've worked for Water Water Everywhere for 15 years. I started on the sales floor in high school. Everyone was shopping for vacations or a fun occasion. It felt really good to simplify the one thing they dreaded: buying a swimsuit. Women would come in, very hesitant and unsure, and then by the end, they'd emerge from the dressing room with their shoulders back and a smile, and I knew that we had nailed it! I continued to work for WWE after high school and now I head the buying department.
WELL-SUITED: Swimwear has moved closer to ready-to-wear fashions; expect a lot of the same Bohemian influences seen in street clothes -- embroidery, sequins -- as well as the peasant look in skirts and tunics that serve as coverups. We'll also see a lot of belted bottoms, and some homage to the '80s in what we call preppy chic -- plaids, pinks and greens.
BEACH FORECAST: Mix and matching is still popular, but this year is all about the one-piece. That style hit a slump the past two seasons because it is a much more difficult fit in contrast to the tankini. This inspired designers to create a silhouette that women will love. Looking ahead to 2006, we are going to see suits reminiscent of Vanity Fair's "Desperate Housewives" cover. The silhouettes will be sexy and suits will have gathers, pleating and ruching.
THE BARE TRUTH: Shopping for a swimsuit can be very traumatic. It's said that a woman will spend 45 minutes trying on suits and go to three or four stores before making a purchase. Whether you are a size four or 14, most women share in the sisterhood of hating some part of their body. That's why a positive environment is key.
SHAPES AND SIZES: I laugh at articles that say if you are a pear shape buy this type of suit, or if you are an apple buy this. There isn't one type of suit that is best for any one body type. What works is a combination of tricks that address a woman's body, both bad and good. I ask customers two questions: What are your problem areas, and what part of your body do you like? A customer with great legs but a tummy issue will look great in a one-piece with shirring around the waist for camouflage, a higher leg line to lengthen her legs and a V-neck to elongate her torso. Beware of buying too big. Torso length or cup size are the most common reasons that customers try on a larger suit size. Try a tankini or separates. Swimwear should be fitted: This is how the support works.
THE PAY OFF: This is the most naked you will ever be in public -- at least, I hope! -- and you want to feel comfortable. While you can definitely get a swimsuit on the cheap, for one that is a better fit and will continue to fit well after many wears, expect to pay from $88-$200.
As told to Karen Hart
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