Plunge into the past for poolside chic
At the risk of annoying a reader who emailed the JC Letters page in April to enquire whether I was in the pay of the BBC press department because of my frequent mentions of Mad Men, I am forced to refer to That Programme once again. (In mitigation, m'lud, I haven't mentioned it since April!).
This week, I'm afraid, it is unavoidable because swimwear is the latest area of fashion to have been hit by Mad Men fever, with the most on-trend styles clearly reflecting the series' 1950s/60s vibe.
The '50s influence is at its most visible in big bikini bottoms, skirt-style swimsuits and halter straps. The most directional include a Norma Kamali monochrome, spot two-piece at Browns, a black-and-white tiger-print by Diane von Furstenberg at Net-a-Porter and a red Asos two-piece, all with knickers big enough to win the approval of the Big Knicker girl herself, Brigit Jones.
Figleaves has a two piece in pink floral print by Sea Folly, and a black and pink rose-print bikini by Lepel, both in similarly retro mood and both with deep bottom halves.
Sea Folly also has a monochrome one-piece with "shorts" leg that has a decidedly vintage feel, though I repeat last summer's warning against the "shorts" leg cut, since it is the least flattering shape on all women apart from those with pipe-cleaner pins.
If you want to ramp up the glamour, accessorise the 50s look with one of the season's turbans, a pair of cat-eye sunnies and gold sandals that click-clack ostentatiously as you stride round the pool at The Abama or the Tel Aviv Hilton.
Fox & Rose is one of the swimwear brands that has taken their inspiration from the subsequent decade. Their frilled, one-shoulder bikini, O'Neill's teenie-weenie, monochrome polka-dot bikini, Zimmerman's lemon, frilled flower-print and Pistol Panties' frill skirt bikini, are all pure Swinging 60s.
There's also a nicely 60s-style black bikini with "shorts" bottoms from the directional eco designers By Nature. The fabric is made from recycled pine wood, which may sound uncomfortable but is actually as soft as silk or cashmere.
The next era to have been plundered is the 1980s - think Baywatch. The plunging neckline-high-cut leg combo, cleverly done by Sea Sirens and Pistol Panties, can be spectacularly flattering, since the vertical lines and high-cut leg create the illusion of a longer body and longer legs. Though, beware the slight possibility of spaniel ears or looking like a porn star if you are above a C-cup.
Trends aside from retro feeding into swimwear, include the season's favourite one-shoulder look. It's über stylish but there's a risk of weird tan marks so one must stay out of the sun or be prepared to fake-tan the covered shoulder.
Among the most covetable one-shoulder babies are an ivory drape swimsuit by Clube Bossa, £405; a searing turquoise one-piece with lace-up side by Shimmi, £200; a silver-embellished black number by Norma Kamali, £440 (all at Net-a-Porter); a drop-dead simple cobalt one-piece by Fox & Rose; a muted print by Ted Baker at £65; and a palm print one-piece by F&F at £12.
Even if you feel a maxi dress might cause a bit of a mutton alert on the street, as a beach cover-up it is the pefect piece for lunch at the poolside restaurant at the Byblos St Tropez, or for a sundowner in one of those Philippe Starck cabanas at the Delano. If you don't own a maxi, buy one now while sales are on.
Maxi is also the hottest length for purpose-designed cover-ups. We love the strapless, knot-front Diane von Furstenberg chiffon baby in an über-chic coffee/turquoise/pink (down to £162) and a sheer, African-print, slash-neck one by Mara Hoffman, £184,both in the Matches sale. A one-shoulder, pastel-painted animal print cover-up by Pistol Panties ticks several trend boxes.
Personally, I find kaftans boring, but they score highly on grounds of all-round practicality. And if you really want cover from your cover-up, you will like the solid fabrics in the Jeannie McQueeny collection.