July 01, 2016
Looking good down the shore is tough to pull off.
Since replacing the birthday suit in the 18th Century, swimsuits have experienced constant evolution, and boardwalk attire can leave even the most fashionable among us frazzled as we struggle to create a perfect marriage of style and comfort.
What's actually trendy along coastlines right now? Quite a bit, Moore College of Art & Design Fashion Design Professor Colleen Moretz told PhillyVoice.
“But the big thing that’s in fashion now, for the younger set, are mix-and-match suits, with one suit on the bottom and another on top," Moretz explained. "So, you can buy whatever size you need for the top, and a totally different bottom."
What's remarkable about today's swimwear industry, Moretz noted, is the number of swimsuits women are likely to keep in their closet — indicating a preference for more options. According to data from NPD Group, the average American woman owns four swimsuits.
"I'd say the tipping point for that is fast fashion," Moretz said, referring to stores like H&M that pump out low-price, fashionable apparel but at a generally lower quality.
It's part of a larger movement toward quantity over quality that's now translated to swimwear. And with the average women's bathing suit now costing little more than $24, it's a likely scenario.
Though the pendulum may swing back soon enough.
"I think the industry and companies are trying to [switch back] to where you have to pay a little more for something, but it’s going to last longer," she added. "We’re a throwaway society. But we don't have to have something different every day. And the key to that is education."
All the same, style is in the eye of the beholder — and it's certainly truer at the Jersey Shore, where beach style ranges from zany boardwalk T-shirts to elegant wraps, surfer wetsuits to swim trunks hugging doughy dad bods. On a mission to find out what New Jerseyans and Philadelphians are showing off at the shore this season, we went scouting for some of Ocean City, New Jersey's most interesting looks, and asked what they tend to look for as they pack their beach chairs and sunscreen for the beach.
Above, Claudia Biddle, from Haddon Heights, sports a straw hat and Victoria's Secret two-piece bathing suit, with a more covered-up, off-the-shoulder top. Exposed shoulders, particularly "cold shoulder" tops, are trending with beachwear, Moretz said — as are bathing suits with fabric that rises closer to the neckline. Meanwhile, Brett Mazzerli (up top, on the right) wears board shorts ("the uniform" for men's beachwear, Moretz quipped) and relaxes by the water with a book — a timeless look, to be sure.
What I look for in my closet: "I usually look to keep my midriff open, sometimes a wide-open leg pant and a flowing wrap," Biddle said. "I also have super sensitive [pale] skin, so I like to stay covered up at all times."
Bri Jamison, from Ocean City, sports a floral pattern bottom — plucked from a Hawaii street market — and round, prescription sunglasses from SpexontheBeach.com. To her right, gal pal Cassandra Heck, of Galloway, keeps it classic with a black dress, sprucing up her ensemble with cat-eye sunglasses that combine with the dress for a retro aesthetic. Exaggerated and cat-eye frames, Moretz said, are particularly popular this summer.
What I look for in my closet: "Hair in a braid and I'm good to go," Jamison chirped, adding that she has a collection of vintage swimsuits she wears. "Honestly? Anything comfortable," Heck chimed in. "Super comfortable and airy. And I always wear makeup."
Amna Abdalla, from Edgewater, cozies up next to Mike Lam in a wrapped-up dress from Forever 21 and a pink, cutout swimsuit top. Mixing and matching tops and bottoms — particularly with swimsuits — is a particularly trendy among 18- to 29-year-olds. Abdalla and Lam also closely mirror Pantone's colors of the year. "When Pantone recommends a color," Moretz added, "companies jump on it."
What I look for in the closet: "I go for pink," Abdalla said. "Bright colors, with a little bit of dark."
In truth, surfers craft their own style. Matt Ellison, a St. Augustine native who's spent his past 26 summers at Ocean City, poses with Dragon waterproof sunglasses and a custom-made bandana. Robin Kelly, from Ocean City, wears a Billabong pocket hat and a waterproof Nixon watch that displays surf reports.
What I look for in my closet: "Board shorts, flip-flops, rainbows, sunblock," Ellison said. Added Kelly: "Something that keeps us out of the sun. And a suit that keeps you warm [in the water]."
Keeping it sports-casual, Aziz Booker, of Essex County, wears a Los Angeles Clippers Blake Griffin jersey, from Modell's, along with red pumps – matching accompanying pint-size beach bum Jake Cosulich, of course.
What I look for in my closet: "Something that matches. And sports jerseys — basically the same thing I'm wearing," Booker said. "Only tomorrow it might be a Wizards jersey."
Neena Redding, of North Philadelphia, wears a floppy black sunhat from H&M, along with aviator sunglasses from Guess and a grapefruit-colored dress. "Dresses have not really been in fashion for awhile — women have really been wearing capris or shorts, but dresses have really been trending again," Moretz explained. "Especially this year and last year.” Gavin Morrison, meanwhile, from Poughkeepsie, New York, sticks to his own style, wearing a long-line tank from the Surf Mall boardwalk shop, cut-off shorts from Hot Topic and a rainbow hat.
What I look for in my closet: "I'm looking for something breezy that shows my legs. Grown and sexy," Redding said. "But not too much. I have children." As for Morrison: "Short sleeves and anything that keeps my hair down," he said. "And I can't say, 'Stay away from black.' I constantly wear it."
Elaine Espiratu-Uy, from Egg Harbor Township, wears a Forever 21 sleeveless print shirt, mirrored Ray Bans and flower earrings she purchased at an Oahu street festival. Maria Nistico, from Linwood, poses with Ann Taylor Loft sunglasses and a sundress from H&M.
What I look for in my closet: "Something easy to put on, and comfortable," Espiratu-Uy said. "And kid-friendly."