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From sexy animal prints to navel piercings, things are anything but dull at the beach this season.'
And local swimwear retailers say they've definitely seen some other trends as people gear up to make a summer fashion statement. '
"Hawaiian prints are very big in both men's and women's suits," says Cathy Walling-Booher, owner of Electric Beach Sunwear on Hilton Head Island.'
Other popular prints to look for include geometric patterns and beachy prints featuring palms trees and waves.'
New swimsuit styles this summer offer variations of the classic bikini. '
"The bandkini is very popular," said Shawn Smith, owner of Tropic Trader on Hilton Head. "It has a band-style top with detachable straps and bikini bottoms." '
Also new this summer is the "scarfkini." This two-piece ensemble has a bikini bottom and band-style top, with a V-shaped front piece of material that hangs from the top and covers the midriff. '
The "tankini," which made a big splash last summer, still is "in" this season. It has a tank top and a bikini bottom. '
Halter tops and string bikinis that tie at the hips -- called "hipsters" -- also are big this season.'
But if it's a one-piece you're looking for, Walling-Booher recommends a "swimwrap."'
"It's designed to make the body look better," Walling-Booher says. "It's seamless and has inner control so it supports and enhances." '
Also, a one-piece with sheering, pleating or textured patterns can help hide trouble spots. '
But while colorful suits are abound, experts advise that bolder is not always better. '
"Smaller prints are more flattering," says Mark Sidle, president of Swim 'N Sport, on Hilton Head, adding that big prints tend to emphasize what people want to hide.'
In addition to hot new colors and styles, local retailers say beachgoers want more than just a swimsuit. '
"More and more people every year want a swimsuit ensemble," Sidle says.'
With that in mind, designers have created everything from matching shorts, shirts, flip flops, beach bags, towels and even jewelry. '
"Women like a wrap ... sarong or some type of coverup," Walling-Booher says. "Board shorts or skirts are very popular with juniors."'
With the going rate for a swimsuit about $40 to $120 -- local retailers say there are a few things people can do to help make their purchase last. '
"Before you wear your suit, soak it in a white vinegar and water solution," Smith says. "That kind of sets the dye."'
Smith also suggests rinsing suits off after swimming, and says to let the them air dry. '
"Never put it in the dryer," Smith says, adding that heat can damage color and the suit's elasticity. '
But no matter what style or pattern you choose, swimwear experts say the key to finding the perfect suit is to feel comfortable about yourself. '
"Confidence is everything," Smith says. "If you don't feel confident coming out of the dressing room, how are you going to feel on the beach?"