Trend Watch: The 2009 Swimsuit Issue

It’s that time of year, when every women’s fashion magazine devotes an issue to swimsuits, following by several months the Sports Illustrated fantasy pictorial version of the subject.


What marketers and magazine editors do to make a product look desirable and sexy! Putting the airbrushing issue aside, showcasing the product on a beautiful model is standard fare. However, ultimately the success of a design is governed by the function as well as aesthetics of the product itself. A swimsuit has got to make its wearer look and feel good, of course. Unfortunately, some styles are eminently impractical, making the stylishness an illusion.  


I’ve previously written about dresses and other apparel “embroidered” with real or faux gemstones. This trend carries over to summertime fashions. A distinctive trend in swimwear is jewelry-like adornment, often at the front center of a bikini bra top and at the sides of a bikini bottom, or on similar locations in one-piece and two-piece tankini suits. The adornment often consists of metal chains or an attractive set of medallions or rings joining segments of fabric. 



[From a Dillard’s ad]


The obvious problem with this design concept is that metal gets hot in the sun. And I can’t think of anyone amenable to the idea of having a hoop- or flower-shaped design seared into her skin. Anyone selling a swimsuit with metal detailing that does not get hot in the sun should be promoting this product feature. I haven’t come across any such claim.



[Glamour magazine gets the critique right in this Don’t photo]


Incidentally, should you respond to my critique of the placement of the metal on a bikini bra top with the comment, but look! the metal doesn’t actually sit right up against the skin, I say, all that means is that the top doesn’t fit particularly well. However, this isn’t the forum to discuss fit.


With regard to genuine items of jewelry, once again a fair number of editors and advertisers find it desirable to show swimwear accessorized with necklaces, bracelets, earrings and rings. A few get it right – wood, resin and other forms of plastic are among the choices that will not heat up in the sunshine. As for those showing the swimsuit models wearing metal jewelry (precious or not), there’s the potential for an uncomfortable sizzle with the dazzle. 


[From the cover of the 2008 swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated]


A cool dip in the pool can combat the heat, of course, and once again, as every summer, some advertisers and editors find it irresistible to pose a woman in water wearing jewelry. A swimming pool containing chlorinated water may cause chemical reactions with the alloys in gold jewelry, ultimately damaging the jewelry. Ocean salt water and sand aren’t good mixers either and the wearer can pretty much kiss goodbye the earring or bracelet that slips off in the tide.



[The cover of the April 2009 issue of More magazine]


Speaking of slippery, there’s also the issue of chemical reactions with sweat and suntan lotion.


I guess you might say that the summer swimsuit jewelry fantasy is one that should be taken with a grain of salt.

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