Swimsuits make a splash on dry land


The serious swimmer the one who snarls as you splash around and interrupt her lap count buys a serious swimsuit. No string bikinis or thongs for her. No fancy decoration or bustier tops. She wants comfort and practicality, a suit that won't interfere with her stroke and will help cut an extra 1/8 -second off her best time. The Speedo racer-back, thank you.

This story isn't for her.

This is for those of us engaged in more leisurely pursuits.

Maybe attending a poolside cocktail party or watching the sun set from the deck of a sailboat.

Or perhaps a night on the town?

Designers have taken their infatuation with bodysuits to a new extreme, using swimwear construction and fabrics to create garments that feel like swimsuits but look more like "cocktail attire for the pool," says boutique salesperson Judy Mendelsohn.

"Some of these suits are so elaborately decorated, they could almost be ball gowns," says Mendelsohn.

In theory at least, the suits can do double duty. But we're betting few people will want to spend $200 for a swimsuit (and at least that much more for the matching cover-up) and then expose it to chlorine or saltwater.

"Women who wear swimwear to lounge around in love these," says Mendelsohn. "And she can put a soft skirt or a floaty pair of pants over it, and she's got her cocktail outfit."

Forget those horribly tacky spandex numbers with matching wrap-around skirts that were popular in the disco-mad '70s.

The new versions are so refined and elegant, it's sometimes difficult to tell exactly how the designers intended them to be worn. And as stretch fabrics increasingly invade the ready-to-wear racks, why shouldn't evening wear offer a touch of the same firming support?

The key to the new suits? Frequently, the accessories are built in; pearl accents and trim seem to be the favorites.

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