The one-piece bathing suit is having its moment in the sun.
Once a staple more common for grandmas and swim teams than sunbathing celebs, the one-piece has been updated and refreshed by designers to make it trendy, super-flattering, and even sexy.
Women who prefer a little more modesty at the beach or pool - or who just want to have fun in the water without worrying about a wardrobe malfunction - are benefiting from strategically placed cutouts, color blocking, ruffles and embellishments.
Shoshanna Gruss, creator of Shoshanna clothing and swimwear, says she started designing swimwear by adding bikinis to her clothing line in 2000, but it wasn't until around 2004 that she added a one-piece.
Demand for the one-piece suits grew gradually, and they are now big sellers, she said.
"It's just kind of comfortable and easy, and there is something about having that one-piece on - you're not checking to make sure everything is in place," Gruss said.
There are now more flattering swimsuit options for women of every size than ever before, Gruss said, in part because so many high-end designers have added swimwear to their clothing lines, and the good designs have trickled down to less expensive designers and stores.
"I think the whole market in general has made a turn," she said. "There are so many more techniques and amazing swim fabrics, which have different kinds of Lycra and spandex, and there's these great waterproof elastics that wear really well."
At Swim and Sport in Raleigh, N.C.'s Crabtree Valley Mall, assistant manager Lauren Sossaman says she has lots to show customers who want a one-piece that's not dowdy.
The store has Badgley Mischkas with plunging necklines, Kenneth Coles with geometric cutouts and Trina Turk monokinis, which are one-piece bathing suits with giant cutouts on the sides to mimic a two-piece.
With the breadth of styles now available, any woman can find one that's flattering, says Lynette Pone McIntyre, Lucky Magazine's senior fashion market editor.
"It's all about what the woman feels comfortable wearing," Pone McIntyre said. Many women will want to take advantage of embellishments that designers use to flatter their figures. Ruffles or ruching, for example, can disguise trouble spots, and color blocking can draw the eye to the most flattering parts of a woman's body.
"The detailing lends itself to more body silhouettes," she said.
Charlotte, N.C., fashion blogger Kenya Hunter (kenyaldesigns.com) says she's always been a fan of the one-piece, and is pleased designers are incorporating the same trends from street clothes to swimwear.
"I'm excited because you're starting to see the fun summer trends infiltrate into the one-piece bathing suit. You can find the strapless, the one-arm, you can find it with the ruffle," she said. "Look at some of the things that are really hot right now, like neon. We're starting to see a lot of bathing suits in those neon colors."
Hunter says the emphasis on one-piece suits this season is part of a trend toward a little more modesty in summer dressing, akin to the season's move toward the Bermuda short and away from the super short shorts.
"It's about having more options and not feeling like you have to go for the small bikini or the two-piece," she said. "It's whatever is going to make you feel the most confident and the most beautiful."
Distributed by MCT Information Services
Shoshanna Gruss, designer of the high-end Shoshanna clothing and swimwear line, has these tips for women looking for a new suit.
•Go to a big department store. "In a big department store, the swim departments are so vast and there's so much new product there's going to be something for everyone. This season especially, there's so many different options."
•Go "bikini-ready." "You have to go to the store with some time. Go bikini-ready and take the socks off and try to make it as flattering as you can. Pull 20 swimsuits into the dressing room and you will absolutely find something that's going to feel great."
•Don't forget the cover-up. "There are a million gorgeous ones out there."