Tankinis and rash guards rock with comfort, protection for kids
The tankini bathing suit is a gift to mothers. With a tankini, there's less skin exposed to the sun, no shifting of the top and, most important...
AP Fashion Writer
The tankini bathing suit is a gift to mothers.
With a tankini, there's less skin exposed to the sun, no shifting of the top and, most important, no sticky, wet one-piece to struggle with when the girls have to go to the bathroom.
The traditional tankini is essentially a one-piece bathing suit split into two pieces around the hip.
"There's coverage, comfort, practicality — and what's really fun that the kids like is the mix-and-match appeal," says Michele Casper, spokeswoman for Lands' End.
It's true that my girls, now ages 4 and 7, love to pick their own clothes but don't always come up with a look that I'd consider coordinated. Tankinis can help with that compromise, too. As long as the top and bottom are in the same colorway (pink and orange are favorites in my house), then I can live with dots mixed with stripes.
I've even started buying complementary rash-guard shirts. The popularity of those full-coverage, bathing-suit shirts has even turned boys on to at least the idea of a top-and-bottom combination even if it doesn't fit the classic tankini definition.
Casper says the rash guard is the "hottest trend" in kids' swimwear.
Rash guards got their name because, originally, surfers wore them to protect their bellies from becoming irritated by their surfboards when they were paddling out, explains Rhonda Sparks, founder of UV Skinz, a California-based company that specializes in sun-protection gear.
They come in short- and long-sleeve versions, and are made of stretchy, quick-dry fabric.
Sparks started making miniature versions of the shirts three years ago after her 32-year-old husband died from skin cancer.
As a couple in the late 1990s, they had started bringing back rash guards for their sons from their annual trips to Hawaii because they were so attuned to the risks of sun damage after Darren Sparks' initial diagnosis. The three boys have never complained about wearing them, especially now that they're offered in skull, shark and camouflage motifs, Rhonda Sparks says.
"Usually kids like them because it means less sunscreen and fewer times being pulled away from their activities to reapply sunscreen," she says. "If you say you need to come back every 90 minutes to Mom or you can wear this, they're off and running in their rash guard."
The fact that the same surfers who fueled the graphic T-shirt and board-short trends are among those wearing the shirts should go far in my house, as my girls and their friends become increasingly aware of what's cool. My youngest daughter, a fair-skinned, light-eyed towhead, wore a rash-guard shirt with an oversized Hawaiian-flower motif that came with her tankini with great pride last summer — particularly when we'd call her Malibu Barbie.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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