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BY DESIGN : Suit Your Psyche


You're invited to a pool party--an event that separates the toned and tanned from the saggy and sunscreen-slathered.

If you count yourself among the latter, a poolside summons can prompt an audible moan followed by lame excuses.

"My thighs aren't feeling well."

"I'm allergic to SPFs."

"I can't get my Wonderbra wet."

Well, relax those sucked-in stomachs. Swimwear designers have heard your cries and have added concealing sportswear pieces to their lines.

Now, suck those tummies back up. A bit more fabric won't turn most of us into Teri Hatcher, TV's shapely Lois Lane and spokesmodel for a chain of fitness clubs. (Who wouldn't look thin next to all those pigs?)

Even if summer's little skirts, vests and sleeved Ts don't cover up all the dimply parts, at least they expand the dress code.

Silke Schalk, a 31-year-old German-born, New York-based swimwear designer, started turning bathing suits from water-based attire to land cruisers two years ago. Her sophisticated line, Blu, comes in navy, brown, black and white, colors that "you already have in your closet."

Some of her tops have sleeves. Bottoms come with convertible waistlines that pull up and cover midriffs or scrunch down to bikini proportions.

"Everyone has different needs. So my suits fold a little or a lot, so you can hide one part or another. People feel more comfortable if they can dress in swimwear like they dress every day."

When women started wearing swimsuits to nightclubs and under suit jackets several years ago, it was part of a larger trend that eroded clothing categories. What's happening to swimwear now--the invasion of sportswear--is just another part of that trend.

The trend, of course, got its start on the streets, where young women paired bikini tops with jeans and bicycle shorts, and wearing all manner of combinations. Swimwear designers recognized the chance to expand their lines and began including matching sportswear pieces in their collections.

This season, Anne Cole added satin wrap skirts. Robin Piccone kicked in an argyle knit vest. Mossimo offered pale pink tennis skirts.

"There is this myth about swimwear," Schalk says. "So many people think you have to show all the body. It becomes this psychological problem."

And all this time we thought it was purely physical.


Have You Considered . . .

* Using a lace tablecloth as a sarong?

* Ripping the sleeves out of a blue-jean jacket?

* Artfully tying a 60-inch scarf low on the hips?

* Raiding his closet for a pin-striped vest?

* Raiding the menswear department for a pair of tiny trunks?

* Adopting a Karl Lagerfeld affectation and carrying a very large fan?

* Cropping a long-sleeve T above your waist?

* Strapping on a bad attitude, leather jacket and motorcycle boots?

* Snuggling into a long cashmere cardigan?

* Wiggling into full-length black wet suit for maximum concealment?


Stylist: JOANNA DENDEL / For The Times

Hair and Makeup: JO SPINKS / Celestine

Location: Courtesy of Balaban & Shapiro Interiors

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