It may seem perverse to have swimwear and beachwear on these pages in December — and apologies if all the bare flesh has brought on an acute case of goosebumps. But we are fast approaching that time of year when many less credit-crunched readers will be heading off to Eluthera, Eilat or the Indian Ocean for a spot of winter sun and will be anxious to know where they can top up their stock of bikinis, one-pieces and poolside cover-ups.
The hottest trend in swimwear — and one which has trickled through from daywear — is draping and body-con. Norma Kamali’s draped, one-shoulder one-piece in nude is possibly the most on-trend and desirable swimsuit in the fashion universe, provided you have the body, the cool and the cash (it costs £340 from Browns). For the rest of us, while trends play an important role in swimwear, the reality is that the secret of looking fabulous in a one-piece or a bikini lies in choosing a shape that works for your body.
The 1980s percolate through to beachwear in bandeau tops (great for the small busted), which are a strong look in the current and 2010 collections; as is a 1950s sensibility, with sweetheart necklines and halters, like a Norma Kamali neckline mesh suit in black or black-on-flesh, also at Browns, and a black-and-white fine stripe at Monsoon. If you like your swimwear bold and colourful, look out for LA-based Trina Turk’s psychedelic floral and dotty one- and two-pieces at Fenwick.
In cover-ups, the kaftan has joined the sarong and the pareo in the pantheon of poolside classics. Much hotter is the statement beach dress, the glossy little number essential for slipping on for lunch at Sandy Lane or Le Bar Plage at Mauritius’s Royal Palm. Look out for Rigby & Peller’s drop-dead simple, maxi strapless dress, or the strappy maxi dresses with ruffles by Mya Blue at Pretty Things (Cockfosters and Buckhurst Hill). Marks & Spencer also has a clever, two-way flared cover-up, which can be worn as a strapless dress or a long skirt.
Colours, as always, are those that work best in the sun — turquoise, red, chocolate and black; and bold prints, like Rasurel’s chocolate, black and white abstract floral, and Oberson’s bold black outline flowers on white.
And despite the apparent hegemony of woollies and padded coats in the shops, there are plenty of places where you can find an extensive selection of swimwear and beachwear right now, as long as you know where to look.
Lingerie specialists, of course, stock beachwear all year round. At Rigby & Peller (Brent Cross, Conduit Street and branches), there is no shortage of one and two pieces and cover-ups, appropriate for the most luxe poolsides. Brands include the Israeli big two, Gottex and Oberson, as well as Maryan Mehlhorn, Rasurel, Fantasie, Miraclesuit (for those who want extra help from their Lycra) and their own brand, which includes a figure fabulous cross-over, draped suit to trim and lift in all the right places.
Over in the north-west London heartland of Temple Fortune, Leiberg’s is a perennial treasure trove of swimwear and cover-ups, by — among others — Oberson, Gottex, Maryan Mehlhorn, Lidea. Further east, Pretty Things stock a year-round collection of a dozen swim brands, including Gottex (and its more affordable sister range, Gottex Silver), Gideon Oberson, Fantasie, Freya, Rasurel, Moontide, Maryan Mehlhorn, Miraclesuit and a very on-trend bikini collection from the very hot Brazilian brand Vix.