NEW YORK – No, that's not Marilyn Monroe walking down the beach, but it sure looks like her.
This summer, bathing suits are all about retro, and Marilyn isn't the only one inspiring trends. Esther Williams, Farrah Fawcett and the 1960s Bond Girl have served as muses for styles from the full-coverage '40s, the scantily-clad '70s and everything in between.
But if raiding mom's drawers for old bikinis grosses you out, here's a guide to what's hot for the heat and where to suit up.
Dare Wear Short Shorts
Pin-up girl trunks not only flatter but cover. Fashion experts recommend the look for women with larger hips. This glamorous, Marilynesque style is everywhere — and it's a body-conscious swimmer's dream come true.
"The boyleg covers a little more. It has sexiness without the, 'Oh my God I'm naked' feeling," says Barbara Loveland, assistant designer for Bondi Bathers, which sells at Saks Fifth Avenue and on girlshop.com. Bondi also makes longer tops — called "tankinis" — to compliment the longer shorts which Loveland says "are great for long torsos."
Speaking of covering up, YM editor-in-chief Annemarie Iverson is enamored by this season's mini-sarongs or "little tiny butt wraps," as she calls them. Benetton makes them in solids and prints that are made to match the suit ($70 for all three pieces) or sold separately at $24. The style is also a great excuse not to hit the gym.
Assertive and eye-catching, bold prints define "glam" this summer.
"Beautiful, colorful and playful patterns are everywhere — from Pucci-esque swirls to naive cherry prints to '60s pop-art florals," says Elizabeth Keister, market director for Jane magazine.
Iverson also recommends animal prints and '50s and '60s Hawaiian prints, which have been hot looks for several seasons.
For a more feminine look, make like a hippie and don a macramé crocheted bikini. Not only is this look simple, it's skimpy and sexy. And creative types can make one at home for as little as $15.
And speaking of the ‘70s, Keister also recommends keeping an eye out for Farrah Fawcett-inspired ring bikinis.
Less Isn't Always More
Did you ever hear the adage that men prefer one-pieces? It's hard to believe, but not after checking out this year's offerings. Some are low-cut on top for maximum cleavage, others are high-cut on the bottom for maximum thigh — but all leave something to the imagination.
"For years, it seemed like designers forgot that triangle bikinis don't work for everyone," Keister says. "Finally, they've reintroduced the maillot. There are lots of trendy, sexy one-pieces out there." One example is Bondi Bathers' Greta Garbo-inspired one-piece with boylegs for $97.
Keister also recommends the single shoulder strap one-pieces, a holdover from last season's '80s trend.
So whether you cover it up or let it all hang out this summer, do it with pride. As Keister says, summer is a happy season. And with this year's varied swimsuit selection, body-image hang-ups are no excuse to stay indoors.