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Beauty At The Beach Takes A Retro Turn

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With summer looming, it's time to prep for your vacation (or, for many in these financially tight times, "staycation"). The good news? A trip to the beach or the pool. The bad news? You need a swimsuit.

But the fitting-room-phobic can take heart in a trend that's seized the swimsuit industry lately. It's a retro look that includes high-waisted bikini bottoms, ruffles, halters and more.

Retro Trend Echoes A Glamorous Time

Robin Givhan, who writes about style and culture for Newsweek and The Daily Beast, says some women are drawn to the suits because they cover up a bit more skin than other styles.

"They're still sexy and they still are very playful," Givhan says. "And I think that's what draws people to them — that they don't feel like they're matronly, which is the last thing you want to be on the beach."

Givhan says their popularity has been buoyed by shows like Mad Men that hark back to a lost and glamorous time. She notes, however, that most of the suits are designed for posing poolside, not serious laps.

"These are not really swimsuits that you think of when you envision someone on the high diving board," she says.

Suits Focus On Aesthetics, Not Athleticism

The re-emergence of the styles can also be credited to high-end designers who Givhan says are focused on aesthetics — not athleticism. She says those designers are most concerned with "projecting a sense of glamour; a kind of leisure class."

"And then you throw in the fact that no longer do women feel that they sort of age out of swimsuits," she says. "But the swimsuits have to be tweaked a little bit to really flatter a body that's perhaps 50 years old versus one that's only 20 or 21 years old."

She says one reason consumers are buying in is the recession. Contrary to what might be expected, she says, in a down economy consumers are drawn to special clothing and not basics.

"That means you're not going to go and look for the simple black Speedo," she says. "You're going to be more inclined to go with something that is bright pink and polka dot with ruffles on."

So women who might not have the means to get away to a beautiful, exotic island still want to indulge in something that will make them feel special, she says. Even if they're just lying by the pool at the local YMCA.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit


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