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Summer Fun: Find Yourself in a Swimsuit

Custom or retail: Do swimwear your own way this summer.
Anne Harris, 9:40am, Fri. May. 16
Custom designs from East Side Bikinis
Every year, it's as inevitable in springtime as income taxes – the blooming realization that you'll need, as my grandmother put it, "a swimming suit." The place to be that summer might well have been under a rusty old train trestle, but ever since it's the same annual drill, be it to blend in at Barton Springs or at the Chateau Marmont.

Properly toned pop stars and professional athletes notwithstanding, it's hard to imagine anyone as actually excited to shop for a new swimsuit. In fact, it's impossible to recall any women friends ever wanting to, say, have some drinks while highlighting body issues from which we've spent the winter recovering! I've certainly participated in the opposite, when a stiff drink is needed to ward off PTSD from cheap, wavy department store mirrors. Of course, shopping online is a blessing. Slinking out in a babushka and shades, returning home immediately afterwards to browse the French Foreign Legion website is no longer a necessary ritual. So we thank the Internet for giving us back our privacy, swimsuit shopping-wise. A relief to be sure, but we all know what chafes worse than busted elastic, is the limiting, antiquated dysmorphia that comes with that onerous constraint of what we should look like. Hopefully one aims deliberately at propriety, or none, or somewhere in between. As usual, it's that "somewhere in between" that provides inspiration, and as usual, removing the words "should look like" as a reference seems to open up possibilities everywhere. Even when you are somewhat naked. Trust us.

If you're thinking DIY, but don't know spandex from Lycra, consider consulting a local designer. We are currently having a suit made by Renee Schulz's East Side Bikinis. "If it stretches, we probably make it," is the brand motto, and that is evidenced by a row of industrial machines, a staff with interns in training, and proprietary prints that go on everything from suits to costumes to leggings that are available off the peg. In fact, if you need to grab a $10 bikini, Renee and her husband and partner Ed Schulz have those, too. Everything is made onsite, including local Mohawk Couture collections. In the retail room, you'll find yoga wear, costuming, swimwear, dresses, and cover ups. On the other side, make an appointment with Renee, and choose from stock pieces, or better, let her start sketching while you visit, and soon this soft-spoken artist will show you your dream on paper, and will make it in a reasonable turn around time for a very good price. We expect to see more of East Side Bikinis very soon (Mon.-Thu., noon-6pm, or by appointment; 512/692-6184).

There are still more than a few ways to go when approaching the idea of owning your look waterside. First, think of the occasion as more like that of Halloween – a chance to be a goober. We've already spotted an adult cosplay Batman maillot, complete with a scalloped, detachable cape at a favorite haunt, BlackMilk clothing from far Down Under. Expect more adult-sized cosplay across the board for Summer 2015. Currently found mostly in kigurumi, or onesie sleepwear, workout and swimwear are the new frontiers for your favorite characters.

Batgirl from BlackMilk, $110 AUD

Kigurumi adult onesie, $59

For many, comfort takes priority. Feel more like yourself in a T-shirt? Rash guards, no longer the propriety of those slinky enough to wear Roxy, are a ubiquitous solution, and we've also seen an explosion in the number of long-sleeved suits. A long-sleeved one-piece can turn anyone into a Bond girl and bears an element of surprise. If you prefer your legs covered, pull on Roxy's surf leggings. But if you really want coverage, look no further than high-end Islamic swimwear. Yes, you read that. Built for Dead Sea bathing on holiday, it looks rather sturdy.

Bond Girl from Cover Swim, 2013

Roxy 'Neon Tide' surf leggings, $52

Islamic coverage

Take back your look, and otherwise implode expectations with Free Country's hemmed jeans shorts in spandex. They are distinguished from board shorts by sporting a zipper, rather than a lace-up fly, and by having a built-in brief.

Free Country 'Jeans' Short, $30.80

Here we pay tribute to the oft-maligned, here-to-fore dowdy swimdress. There are more than a few little cuties that look straight off the tennis court, or a hand of cards, for that matter. Juicy has been at it for a few seasons, with varying results, and Mott 50 offers multiple solutions with a long-sleeved, shirred dress, and other items in sun-protective fabric. Gottex never fails, and this year is shirred in all the right places.

Juicy, $173

Shirred, adjustable dress from Mott 50, $115

Gottex, $128


Read more Summer Fun stories (and check out the last few years of fun) at austinchronicle.com/summer-fun as we slather on the SPF and Ride the Wild Swell of our special annual issue celebrating Austin's sunniest season. The Austin Chronicle’s 2014 Summer Fun Issue hit the stands Thursday, May 16.

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