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Swimsuits heat up with prints, polka dots |

Swimsuits heat up with prints, polka dots

Candy Williams
| Friday, May 28, 2004 12:00 a.m

You remember that “itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini” that she wore for the first time in the ’60s.

It’s back this summer — but this time around, the polka dots are pink, not yellow, and the style she’s wearing is a more sensible figure-flattering tankini.

The revised version of the suit in the classic song illustrates two of this season’s biggest trends in swimwear. The fashion industry’s current love affair with all things pink continues, while polka dots are among the prints that will be making the beach scene, style experts say.

One of the most popular swimsuits at Kaufmann’s/Filene’s is a pink and black dotted Anne Cole tankini. The suit ($88, on sale through Memorial Day for $65.99) offers a little more coverage than a bikini, and the dots are “very new, and doing very well,” says fashion director Robert Rutkauskus.

He says the halter neckline — whether on a one-piece maillot, a tankini or a skirtini with its tank top and skirted bottom — is another important look for the season, and it is versatile enough to span all age groups.

Liz Claiborne combines the trends in a sophisticated pink paisley halter tankini ($80, available at Lord & Taylor) that showcases the halter style with its fashionable V-neck and wide tie back straps. Designer Lisa Pikul says the halter style is also body flattering with its bust supportive soft cups and empire seam. Keeping comfort and coverage in check, the top is long and slightly flared to reach the matching bikini bottoms without being too revealing.

Swim separates are a growing trend, Rutkauskus says, although one-piece swimsuits are holding their own. “The major idea is color,” he says, “in solid watercolors, paisley prints and an explosion of tropical florals in sherbet shades of orange, lemon and lime.”

Separates are the word at Old Navy, where 36 different styles give women the option to mix and match their favorite shades, patterns and swimsuit styles. Choices include rainbow-striped bikinis, floral print tankinis and retro chic belted bathing shorts ($12.50 to $14.50 each).

Old Navy spokeswoman Alexandra Cohan says the variety includes not only different fabrics and patterns, but various fits — from padded string bikini tops to tie string or boy short bottoms — to suit every figure. Leopard and zebra prints and the Hawaiian surfer look — in addition to Old Navy’s own version of the polka dot bikini — are making waves this summer, Cohan says.

Tropical Hawaiian designs in mango orange, guava pink and purple top the popularity list at Gap, spokeswoman Katie Hall says. “Definitely, floral prints are big this summer,” she says. So are stripes, in Gap’s Candy Stripe Collection, where a purple and pink racerback top teams with matching bikini bottoms, and a dark and light pink striped string triangle top goes well with string bikini bottoms ($24 each).

At Jantzen, designer Tracy Marciano sees a lot of “prints mixing with stripes and dots for a real kitschy look,” she says. “It’s fun with a twist.” Geometric designs, paisleys and oversized exploded florals are important current trends, she adds, as are “any embellishments, including hardware, ric rac, and in juniors, hearts, beadings — anything that adds to the garment.”

Skirted bottoms are hot sellers in junior and misses sizes, Marciano says. “For juniors, they’re more like J.Lo wears with 5-inch short skirts, and for misses, they’re longer. Both are very flattering. Moms can run around after the kids and still feel sexy.”

Jantzen launches Ruby, its new line of swimwear for juniors, this summer. The line is designed “for the young woman who loves fashion but remains girly at heart,” Marciano says. Pastels such as pink, mint, light blue and yellow orchid highlight the collection, and are accented with preppy touches of cocoa, navy, kelly green and flamingo pink. Halter tops, hipsters and hot pants, ruffles and bows bring a playful element to the line, she says.

Animal prints and big flowers are big news at Palm Place in Shadyside and Sewickley, spokeswoman Joanie Scott says. She says string bikinis are popular, especially when worn with short pull-on swim skirts in pink and prints. One-piece swimsuits with underwire support and tank tops also are selling well, she adds.

Of course, every woman knows a beach bag isn’t complete unless it includes a cool cover-up and some fun accessories.

“One of my favorites is a tube mini-dress in terry cloth that comes in fuchsia, turquoise, slate and black,” Old Navy’s Cohan says. “Summer is about fun, after all.”

Other accessories at Old Navy include long thin gauge cotton drawstring skirts to pair with a ribbed tank or lace top, tote bags, beach towels and jelly tote bags. “They’re great because they’re waterproof in citrus-bright colors,” Cohan says. “There’s even a jelly clutch version to keep makeup dry at the beach.”

At Gap, sport flip flops ($10.50) come in floral prints or basic solids, and a piped twill crusher ($16.50) and patchwork sun hat ($19.50) provide protection from harmful rays. A large beach tote ($29.50) has plenty of room for sunscreen, a beach towel and a good book for relaxing in the sun.

At JC Penney, Roger Taylor, swimwear buyer, and John Tighe, sportswear division merchandise manager, say the summer is off to a good start in a colorful way.

“The biggest difference is the dominance of color,” Taylor says, joking that “it’s a revitalization where 50 percent of our assortment used to be black — and the other 50 percent was navy.” Hawaiian hibiscus prints, stripes and polka dots are helping to colorize the styles, he says.

Tighe says the swimwear business has remained strong despite a sagging economy. He credits the industry’s move toward separates as a leading cause for the growth. JC Penney stores have redesigned their sales floors to accommodate mix-and-match swimsuits, he says. “We’re one of the first mall-based department stores to do that,” he says. “We’ve gotten a lot of positive comments.”

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