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Ditch the black bikini: Prints and bold one-pieces are in

Add espadrilles to complete the look of this Maya Hoffman Aztec-inspired one-piece. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

BEIRUT: Beach season is, if not quite already upon us, very much approaching, but are you ready? Waxed, preened and toned you may be, but don’t even think of making your poolside debut in last year’s black bikini.

“There’s a whole beach lifestyle going on that people have been picking up in the last few years,” says Racil Chalhoub, one half of the team behind concept store Kitsch.

As a result, swimwear is getting more adventurous, she says.

“The good old black bikini that we used to keep as a safe bet, or the good old white one, or gold, those are out right now,” she says.

Instead, think bigger and bolder.

“There is a very strong trend toward everything that is ethnic, and ethnic prints,” says Chalhoub. She recommends the bright, Aztec-inspired prints of Maya Hoffman’s swimwear.

“Tribal prints are very much in style this season,” agrees Aya Jammal, the editor-in-chief of U Magazine Lebanon. “The ‘global traveler’ theme has been prominent at several fashion shows, including Burberry.”

Burberry swimsuits are stocked at the brand’s boutique in Downtown Beirut, as well as at all Aizone branches.

It’s not just the prints that are getting a new look, either. The one-piece, once the preserve of children and grandmothers, has moved from fashion-daring to mainstream in the past couple of years. But that’s not permission to dig out that old navy Speedo in the back of your closet.

“There was a whole decade where no one would be seen dead in one-piece swimwear,” says Chalhoub. But, she emphasizes that now “it’s not your typical bathing suit. Some of them have a lot of cut-outs, some of them are one-shoulder, or with a frill.”

This is a trend that can easily be replicated on a budget, says Jammal.

“High-street affordable brands such as Mango and Massimo Dutti have quickly caught up with the craze and now feature plunging V-neck one-piece bathing suits in block colors, tribal and floral prints,” she says.

Perhaps counterintuitively, a one-piece isn’t the easiest of shapes to wear, often pulling at awkward angles. “It’s not the most flattering thing,” admits Chalhoub, herself a fan of the one-pieces at We Are Handsome, the brand behind the panther-face swimsuit made famous by Rihanna in 2010.

If you don’t think the one-piece is for you, there are other ways to branch out from the classic triangle bikini.

“Since bralets [tops that look like bras/mini corsets] are very popular at Prada and Emilio Pucci, the trend has also moved over to swimwear, with tops being wider than usual, covering the chest as well as the torso area. Of course, higher waist bottoms must naturally follow to balance out the overall look,” says Jammal.

1950s-inspired shapes work well with the updated florals and pastels that have been sweeping the catwalks, such as the fun oversized floral and vegetables prints at Dolce & Gabbana, or the lace and broderie anglaise at Paolita and Emilio Pucci, available at Aishti.

Once you’ve updated your swimwear, it’s time to move on to the rest of your outfit. Keep it casual but classy with espadrilles and try a cover-up dress instead of a traditional sarong.

“The most important trend we’ve been spotting on the runways is opulent accessories – the more the better!” says Jammal.

“Bangles, chunky necklaces and glamorous footwear are the key to finishing off your ensemble.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 20, 2012, on page 2.

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