The beach bag is as essential to a day at Rehoboth/OC/Outer Banks as a trashy romance novel, a fat magazine and SPF-bazillion sunscreen.

"A beach bag should be roomy," says Rebecca Resnick, Teen Vogue senior accessories editor. Big enough for the sunglasses and sarong to share space with the towel and iPod. And don't worry about everything being all matchy-matchy, she says. "It used to be everyone would try to coordinate their outfits with their accessories. Now it's about making your own style."

Designers are mixing textures and fabrics like canvas bags with rope handles and introducing animal prints to beach season. Even the ornaments range from sparkly bits (rhinestones) to hardware (grommets).

And colors are as varied as the body types: fuchsia, deep purple, emerald green. "I love the brights," says Resnick. "I think on a beach the brighter the better."

By summer's end, the bottom of a beach bag should have collected a few spent AA batteries, a deep coconut smell, an old hotel keycard and a smidgen of sand. Yet it still has the glam of a good summer well spent -- even if you never get much farther away than the community pool. Beach bags are so chic now, says Resnick, that they can go directly from lounging to dining. "Someone is not going to say 'Oh, gawd, she has a beach bag with her' -- it's just a really great bag."

-- Janelle Erlichman Diamond

From top right clockwise: Buzz by Jane Fox Georgica tote in lime with pink rhinestone frog ($180), at Clover boutique, 502 Main St., Gaithersburg. Pink Montauk weekend tote ($58), at Oversize metallic gold tote ($54), at Gap. Bric's Fiore beach tote ($70), at Bloomingdale's Tysons Corner and St. Christopher's Luggage and Leather, White Flint mall. Plank cotton canvas tote with metallic mat or towel clasps ($245), at, with Tepper Jackson multi-dot beach towel ($65), at Tepper Jackson "ring" tote bag ($39) and "shadow flower" towel ($65), at Other accessories from Hecht's.