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VALLEY VOGUE / REBECCA HOWARD

Curves Are Optional : If flimsy is your whimsy or you prefer padding aplenty, swimsuit styles have it all.

June 02, 1995|Rebecca Howard | Rebecca Howard writes regularly about fashion for The Times.

Whether you have a shape to fill out your swimsuit or need a swimsuit to fill out your shape, the options are endless. In San Fernando Valley department stores and boutiques, constructed swimsuits with practically self-sustaining bras hang next to flimsy bikini triangles reminiscent of summers past.

"Customers are even combining constructed tops with string-bikini bottoms," said Helmut Behensky, owner of Bea's Swim & Sport, which has three locations in the Valley.

The string thing is also happening at Shapes in Tarzana.

"What's really big are string bottoms and tops made of shiny, satin materials," said Corina Jaisle, manager and buyer for the store.

But construction, which lifts the chest, now comes in a range of styles.

"Some have full padding, some partial padding, removable pads, under-wires without padding," he said of the style that has been going strong for the past two years. "So basically you have support for every shape."

Offering even more variety is the range of prints and colors in swimsuits this year, Behensky said. Popular fabrics run from shiny metallics to earthy tie-dyes and country-girl plaids.

"The color yellow, even used just as an accent, has also been big the last two years," he said.

Jaisle said the popularity of earth tones as well as pastels and brights makes it hard to pinpoint a standout color among her clientele.

Fashion-forward customers are buying bustier tops with hot pants for more of a fashion statement than a swim uniform, Behensky said.

"Boy leg"-style bottoms, or hot pants, give the bikini wearer a new type of look, Jaisle said.

"In the past, the boy leg was for the older customer looking to cover up. Now the younger customer wants it as a fashion statement. The look is now more sexy than conservative," she said.

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SHUNNING THE SUN: Self- or sunless tanners may have once conjured images of an orange, streaky glaze, but the new wave of products for the face and body--hitting the market heavily over the last few years--are vastly improved, experts say, and allow a bronzing option without the need of the sun's harmful rays.

"To the best of my knowledge, sunless tanning products are safe," said Dan Gross, clinical professor of dermatology at UCLA and a dermatologist who practices in Tarzana. "And they prevent people from going out into the sun. The public and the cosmetic industry have gradually accepted that sun exposure causes a lot of damage. And the cosmetic industry is offering these alternatives in response."

Most of the self-tanners contain dihydroxyacetone, or DHA, which reacts with amino acids in the skin to create color. The amount of color results from how much DHA is in the product and how much amino acid a person has in his or her skin, said Warren Shapiro, senior vice president of research and development with Neutrogena Skin Care Institute in Los Angeles. Once applied, color develops in two to four hours and deepens with successive applications over a few days. Color lasts from two to three days to a week and fades naturally, Shapiro said.

Drugstores and department stores carry tanners, which can range from about $7 to $22 per tube or bottle and come in formulations for a light or dark tan. Self-tanners come in creams, mists and mousses and may incorporate sunscreens, moisturizers and exfoliants.

In the Valley, department-store cosmetic lines, such as Clinique, Lancome and Estee Lauder, include sunless tanners among their products. They are big hits among customers because people can choose a self-tanner from a cosmetic line they already use, said Jackie Kolla, merchandise manager for cosmetics and gifts with Nordstrom Los Angeles.

"Every year we sell more and more self-tanners. We sold incredible amounts of the product after all the rain this year," Kolla said. "They've come a long way in the last several years. They smell good, they're easy to use, and customers find them very effective."

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PC BEAUTY: Cyberspace is now a new frontier for beauty. Clinique recently introduced a computer disk, "CyberFace," to be handed out free--no purchase necessary--at Nordstrom Topanga Plaza. The new high-tech option in beauty aid requires a computer with a color monitor and eight megabytes of RAM and comes in Macintosh or Windows versions. The user can input her own beauty characteristics, such as skin type, eye color and features, to create her likeness on the screen. In return, advice is given on appropriate skin care, foundation colors and eye makeup application.

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