By Terri Tabor
Like other spring fashions, swimsuits are also taking a plunge backward into the decades of the 60s and 70s.
“A lot of it looks like the bathing suits I wore in grade school,” Sharon Harrison, a sales clerk at the J.E. Nielson Company in Oxford, said. “The 70’s fashions I think are definitely coming back in the swimsuit.”
Not-so-heavy tops with less padding and triangle maillot tops paired with boy-cut bottoms resembling the 70s hot-pants, make the biggest splash as the summer’s trendiest item.
“The trend in swimwear this season is toward the retro, glamour-girl looks,” says Bev Anderson, swimwear buyer for JCPenney women’s division. “There are a lot of bustiers, halter tops and boy-cut legs that reminisce of stars like Ester Williams and Dorothy Lamour. It is very similar to the movement we are seeing this spring in fashion sportswear.”
One advantage to the hot-pants spinoff is an alternative look that doesn’t reveal a lot of leg, but yet gives the legs a slender look. “These bottoms are no different than wearing a short short and they give legs a long, lean look,” says Lucille Klein, fashion director for JCPenney women’s division.
In North Mississippi, the boy-cut bottom fad is also making waves in stores. “This is the first year we’ve had this type of bottom and it’s been selling very well,” says Linda Prowell, area sales manager for Junior’s at McRaes in the Mall at Barnes Crossing.
For those who don’t want to plunge back into the 70s with the boy-cut briefs, there’s still an ocean of other trends to choose from. The biggest seems to be the versatile two-piece suit that has a look for all body types.
Jamie Bernard, an area sales manager for McRaes, says that two-pieces seem to be the summer sizzler this year because they have looks that flatter women ranging from teens to 60-year-olds.
“A lot of it has to do with the new looks in two pieces,” explains Jamie Bledsoe, senior manager for women’s apparel at JCPenney in the Mall at Barnes Crossing. A lot of those new looks are seen in mix-match lines like JCPenney carries. Underwire, push-ups, athletic sports-bra tops are a few of the toppers that can be paired with bikini, brief, high- waisted and swim-short bottoms.
“You can buy whatever piece to enhance your figure,” Bledsoe says.
Many are going with the bust enhancer suits this season, Bernard says and adds that the push-up look is also carrying over into the one-piece suits.
While bust-enhancing suits may be a popular trend in North Mississippi, they are not the hottest suits on the overall market. The trend, reports JCPenney, is a more natural, unconstructed styling. “There are more triangle bras and softer cups done without wiring this season,” Anderson says. “The return to the natural look gives the customer another option.”
Suits are so bright, gotta have shades
In addition to the different style options, ’96 swimsuits also come in many different colors and fabrics making suit selection a lengthy task. For the retro looks, there are butterflies, tie-dye, plaids, checks, floral, metallic, sunflower and daisy designs.
“You have so many different looks,” Bernard says.
Sunshades will be a must have with the eye-soaring hues of fushia, turquoise, orange, yellows and greens that splash this season’s suits.
“Anything that’s bright, fluorescent and has a shine,” Prowell says.
“For ’96, everything is bright from refreshed brights and vivid tones, all the way to neons,” Anderson says. “People love color in their swimwear and the industry is complying.”
The industry is also keeping up with the patriotic spirit that is sweeping the nation with the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics.
“There’s a lot of Americana looks,” Bernard says.
“Whenever the Olympics are in town, red, white and blue sells well throughout the year,” Harrison says.
Summer’s hottest looks soak up the sun with a variety of fabrics ranging from nylon and lycra spandex to cloth and textured materials.
“It seems like suits now are following after lingerie,” Bernard said. One such suit, she adds, is the Miraclesuit. “It is tighter than any girdle,” she said.
Made out of spandex and nylon, the suit conforms, hides and shapes any not-so-perfect figure. “It’s the spandex in this suit that makes this really hot,” Bernard said.
Everyone can go near the water
A baby on the way or a recent mastectomy are not reasons to hide in the shade.
Fitting Concepts, a local store that caters to women who have had mastectomies, carries a variety of swimsuits for women who have undergone surgery and women who have not.
The swimsuits come in all the versatile and trendy styles, but have a built-in bra that holds a breast prosthesis.
“If you haven’t had surgery, you just have a good bra,” says Nell Lamberson, owner of Fitting Concepts. “They’re just attractive suits. You can look as good and as sexy as anybody else.
Expecting mothers can also be flattered with this season’s suits.
“They’re always surprised when they come in and try them on,” Marie Jones Smith, owner of Babyland stores in Tupelo and Columbus, says. “The maternity swimsuits today are along the same style as other suits are.”
Like the regular swimwear line, maternity suits come in bright colors and prints and several different styles such as two-piece, a one piece with sarong, swing-top, tank-style and blousson-style.
Cover it up
Many bathing beauties can’t wait to shed their cover-ups for the sunlight; however that might not be the case with this year’s stylish outer garbs.
“It’s not just your pull-on T-shirt look,” Bledsoe says.
“I think they’re getting more fashionable,” Bernard says.
This season’s cover-ups come in many versatile styles including crochet oversized-shirts, wrap skirts, hooded terry cloth short dresses and empire waist mini-dresses.
In fashionable colors such as black and white, many resemble fun everyday wear. “I think they’re looking like more versatile items,” Bernard says.