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Originally published Sunday, May 27, 2012 at 5:32 AM

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Retro swimwear has got you covered

Fueled by waves of nostalgia sparked by "The Artist" and "Mad Men," the slow-brewing trend of retro swimwear will be especially prominent this year.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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Fueled by waves of nostalgia sparked by "The Artist" and "Mad Men," the slow-brewing trend of swimwear will be especially prominent this year — for a lot of good reasons.

"The suits really flatter iconic body types and give women a truly feminine look that's sexy without showing a lot of skin," said Lori Coulter, who founded the Soft Surroundings swimwear line.

"I like the retro suits because it leaves something to the imagination," Coulter said. But she stressed that the most popular styles have just a minimal amount of extra fabric. The difference is the placement and the balance — it's the difference between dumpy 1980s high-waisted mom jeans and chic 1960s high-waisted pedal pushers, she said.

Today's retro suits still have modern sensibilities. Aside from innovations in fabric, color and the demise of the cone bra, new suits inspired by vintage items don't look stuck in time.

Yet anyone wanting to embrace her inner Hollywood starlet might be drawn to the 1920s-inspired collection Shabby Apple (shabbyapple.com), which has a line of items with cowl necks, structural floral detailing, cascading drapery and elegant Art Deco-style cutouts.

For those feeling a little Beach Blanket Babylon, Spanx has a line of swimwear that flatters and cinches. The strapless Lovely Lace one-piece ($198; spanx.com) has a sweetheart neckline, a soft-focus floral design and black lace trim around the top and leg openings. And the halter swim dress ($188) with a ruched sweetheart neckline and flouncy skirted bottom looks reminiscent of an Annette Funicello must-have.

This burgeoning retro market appeals to women for a variety of reasons, including skin-cancer concerns, religious beliefs and personal preference, and designers and retailers are even expanding to include nontraditional swimwear that looks more like activewear.

Hydrochic.com has a new line of swimwear that doubles as gymwear, with long and short sleeves, skirted bottoms and skirt bottoms with capri-length underpants. Swimmodest.com and Simply-modest.com have swimwear that looks like Hawaiian luau dresses.

And virtually every store includes some type of cover-up top that also can double as swimwear.

Eddie Bauer has surfer items that include board shorts for women that extend to mid-calf.

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