Dive in to retro swimwear

DEBRA D. BASS
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Modified: May 15, 2012 at 5:40 pm •  Published: May 15, 2012
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photo - Jade wears a halter bikini top ($40), jeweled buckle stretch belt ($28), black boy short bottoms with side ties ($32), and sunglasses ($22), all at Kohl's; and the San Diego hat, SPF 50+ ($19.99) at T.J. Maxx. (Emily Rasinski/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/MCT)
Jade wears a halter bikini top ($40), jeweled buckle stretch belt ($28), black boy short bottoms with side ties ($32), and sunglasses ($22), all at Kohl's; and the San Diego hat, SPF 50+ ($19.99) at T.J. Maxx. (Emily Rasinski/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/MCT)
Whether vague or overt, the abundance of retro swimwear options continues to saturate the market. Fueled by waves of nostalgia sparked by costumes in "The Artist" and "Mad Men," the romantic notions of times gone by remain popular.

A slow-brewing trend for years, it will be especially prominent on swimwear racks this year.

"The suits really flatter iconic body types and give women a truly feminine look that's sexy without showing a lot of skin," said Lori Coulter, who founded her own swimwear line in St. Louis that is now available at Macy's and Soft Surroundings. "I like the retro suits because it leaves something to the imagination," Coulter said. But she stressed that the most popular styles have just a minimal amount of extra fabric. The difference is the placement and the balance.

It's the difference between dumpy 1980s high-waisted mom jeans and chic 1960s high-waisted pedal pushers, Coulter said.

And she is one of many taking note that retro suits still have modern sensibilities. Aside from innovations in fabric, color and the demise of the cone bra, new suits inspired by vintage items don't look stuck in time.

Yet anyone wanting to embrace their inner Hollywood starlet might be drawn to the 1920s-inspired collection. Shabby Apple, shabbyapple.com, has a line of items with cowl necks, structural floral detailing, cascading drapery and elegant Art Deco-style cut-outs.

For those feeling a little Beach Blanket Babylon, Spanx has a line of swimwear that flatters and cinches. The strapless Lovely Lace one piece ($198, spanx.com) has a sweetheart neckline, a soft-focus floral design and black lace trim around the top and leg openings. And the halter swim dress ($188 at spanx.com) with a ruched sweetheart neckline and flouncy skirted bottom looks reminiscent of an Annette Funicello must-have.

Coulter said that she never intended to base her spring line on strictly retro influences, but that's where she gravitated in designing her newest collection for Soft Surroundings.

"I was looking to make elegant pieces," Coulter said. "Retro is a favorite look of mine. It reminds you of the pin-up girl looks that have come full circle.

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