A retro one-piece swimsuit from JCPenney. Courtesy Photo

In a few short weeks, we'll be dipping our toes into swim season.

The good news is that the options for swimsuits in 2011 are more fashion driven than ever.

"It's about the detailing, and swimwear that looks special," Gregg Andrews, fashion director at Nordstrom, explained to StyleList. "The details are like those you'd find in couture dressmaking – ruching, gathering and ruffles." An added benefit of these elements is that they can work for you. "These techniques are flattering – they can disguise bumps and bulges," Andrews added.

"Draping and ruching, particularly in a one-piece, define the waist," said Cynthia Maxwell, swim trend manager at jc penney. "They hide the stomach areas that we'd rather not be seen." And conversely, "ruffles make her look very shapely."

Macy's vice-president and women's fashion director Nicole Fischelis agreed. "Draping and asymmetry is important," she told StyleList. "It's about strapless, one-shoulder suits, deep plunge necks," and, she added, "one-pieces are still very important."

There's a vintage element showing up as well. "There are lingerie-inspired details like bra cup seaming and metal rings on the bands," Andrews described. "There's a skirted effect that we're seeing along with a high-waisted bottom that's a little fuller. It has a 1940s feel like a classic Vargas pin-up girl."

A retro look from Nordstrom. Courtesy photo


And then there's the classic nautical look. "It's a crisp nautical or South of France look with stripes – orange and white, red and white and royal and white," Andrews said. "The stripes go from one inch down to pencil stripes."

For prints, look for tropical-inspired looks with palm tree leaves or flowers, brightly colored "ethnic" looks, animal prints, paisleys and color -- lots of color, ranging from the ballet-inspired, barely-there hues to saturated, hot tones.

The staple of moms everywhere, the tankini, is not as dowdy as the usual connotation implies. "The tankini definitely remains popular," Andrews admitted. "Women get the comfort of a two-piece suit and it works for longer torsos. There's a time and a place you want to be wearing a string bikini, but tankinis work in the other times."

At Macy's, Fischelis sees the flexibility a tankini provides. "You can infuse fashion. I say play with color and patterns," she said. "Wear a striped top with a solid bottom, or wear a striped top with a printed bottom."

Tankinis at jc penney are a fashion staple that have even infiltrated the junior area. "The girls like the idea that they're wearing a two-piece and the mom's like that they're still covered," Maxwell admitted.

The days of throwing on a hoodie and heading to the beach are over. Fashionable swim cover-ups and complementary pieces are in such demand at Macy's, "whether it's a maxi-skirt or -dress, or a peasant shirt or tunic," Fischelis shared, that it's INC brand has added it as a new category. "We have so many stores in warm regions that we have a strategic policy for them."

A graphic bikini from JCPenney. Courtesy photo.


The continued popularity of the maxi dress has moved it into the cover-up category at jc penney, Maxwell said. "And crochet, lace, anything with open work looks really modern, but still gives some coverage, she added.

At Nordstrom, "cover-ups" are taking on a utilitarian, yet fashionable look. "It's not about just a sarong or a pareo anymore," Andrews said. "Cover-ups are evolving into pieces that allow a woman to sit in the hotel bar and go to the pool. There are tunic-length or short dresses that allow the wearer to be more 'dressed.' You wear the tunic over your swimsuit, with pants to dinner and over shorts to go shopping."

He added that value and necessity are driving this. "Women want to invest in pieces that are able to do more than just one thing. And in these days when airlines are charging for luggage, everything has to have more than one use."