Making a Splash Retro uncovers midriff and more for sheer fun of it


It's beach season. In these parts, that means negotiating traffic to the other shore with friends and coolers in tow. Memorial Day weekend, summer's first official three days of downtime, is a chance to unwind and frolic, so there's no place in the duffel bag for head-to-toe outfits. Glamour looks are for luxury hotel vamps who wear their diamonds and pearls at poolside.

Beach togs should be water-friendly, comfortable and inexpensive, because they take sand-and-sun abuse and seldom survive more than one season of playtime.

The best beach looks pack easily and can stand some wrinkling, so denims, cottons and knits are obvious travelers.

And ideal gear should be inexpensive enough not to be missed if it should walk away while you're refilling the cooler.

Put the least amount of money into a beach tote. Discount chains and dollar stores have a variety in nylon, plastic and straw imports. Totes are subject to wear and tear -- they stash wet suits, drippy lotions and hair goop.

Beyond the baggage, the base of any beach wardrobe is the bathing suit. Work from the skin out. Two suits or more will do more than swim. A maillot can work as a body suit to be dressed up or down. It takes to a fluttery and sheer ankle-grazing skirt or the newer wide-legged palazzo pants for lunch or dinner on the patio.

Sheerness, which presents so many problems in the city, is a natural at the beach. Anything that shows some midriff or reveals the legs is perfectly fine, even desirable.

The kickier bikini is a natural for summer's retro fun separates. Test-drive those hip-hugger bell-bottoms or low-riding short shorts with a bare bikini bellybutton.

Add a crochet top or vest and you've got it, babe. This season's shorts are shorter and form-fitting, closer to the hot pants of the '60s.

Remember, it's almost impossible to commit a fashion sin at the beach.

Leave the heavy metal jewelry at home. It heats up in the sun and does ouch. Instead, bangles and pendants from nature's stores are more at home by the sea.

Look for faux ivory or wooden bangles, or back-to-nature pendants and beads made of coral, seeds or amber.

The tops to take along are snug rib-knit T-shirts, cropped pop-over tops and a basic white-cotton menswear shirt that can float free or tie at the waist. Last summer's oversize pocket T is old hat.

A good rule of thumb is to keep long coverups flowing, short coverups tight.

Be sure to bring along a straw or cotton hat with a brim. A baseball cap will shade the eyes but gives no protection to the neck, which may be seeing the sun for the first since last summer.

Find a fun shoe -- a cork platform mule, strappy sandal or a surfer flip-flop. Hopefully, you'll spend most of your weekend in bare feet -- that's what a summer getaway is all about.


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