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What to Wear to the Beach: A Copycat’s Guide

04/04

(Image sources L to R: Photo by Bauer Griffin via Stylebistro.com, Stylebistro.com, Babble.com)

For 15 years, my beach ‘uniform’ has not changed: Swimsuit, board shorts, t-shirt, baseball cap and flip-flops.

This has suited me just fine – in my experience (which doesn’t include Miami Beach, btw) most people don’t seem overly concerned with what they wear to the beach.

But with a couple beach trips looming this summer – trips on which I will likely be with fashion-conscious people I actually know — I decided it might be time to step up my game.

Truth is the baseball cap neither keeps out much sun nor sufficiently contains my crazy, exploding beach hair; the board shorts and t-shirt tend to get wet – then sandy – then heavy; and the flip-flops fling sand everywhere.

So while admittedly this is not a blog about fashion — nor am I any kind of fashionista — it is a blog about simplifying my life. And coming up with something to wear to the beach this summer does simplify my life in a big way, especially since I’m likely to wear it for another 15 years. At least.

The Mission.
Find travel-friendly, affordable beachwear that offers sun protection, dries quickly and has a modicum of style.

The Inspiration.
A quick Google search revealed that there really aren’t a lot of photos of regular people at the beach —  at least not with a high enough SEO ranking to match my patience.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it meant I was pretty much stuck with celebrities as my inspiration. And most photos of celebrities on the beach are actually more depression-inducing than inspiring.

But I finally landed on these photos of ‘girl-next-door’ Elle Macpherson who, at 48, can still make anything look good. (Disclaimer: I have never lived next door to anyone who looks even remotely like Elle Macpherson.)

(Image sources L to R: Photo by Bauer Griffin via  Stylebistro.com, Stylebistro.com, Babble.com)

What I like:

Hat: Big, floppy beach hats are a bit too ‘Paris Hilton’ for me. Elle’s interpretation of the cowboy-inspired straw hat trend is a bit more tailored — good not only for hiding my Medusa-esque beach head, but also for protecting my burn-prone scalp from the sun.

Cover-up: This one is loose and flowy but still has enough fabric to offer some sun protection. Also, one of my favorite suits comes with a cover-up skirt that doesn’t work with my board shorts but would work fine with this.

Bag: I already own a ginormous beach tote for towels, etc. These cross-body, Mexican-blankety bags would be perfect for stashing plenty of sunscreen, lip balm and reading material without the ‘huge’ factor.

Sandals: These look like they might both stay on better than flip-flops and fling less sand.

Jewelry: I really like those wood bead necklaces, too, but I must accept my reality: I will never accessorize that much for the beach.

The Shopping List:
Since I already have a swimsuit and sunglasses, here’s what I needed to find:

  • White cover-up with sleeves
  • Straw cowboy hat
  • Cross-body beach bag
  • Sandals

The Goods:
Twenty minutes after compiling my list, I walked into Target to buy gifts for some upcoming weddings. (Apparently it’s high season for weddings – we’re averaging an invitation a week – and since everyone seems to have registered at Target, I’m all about the one-stop shopping.)

As soon as I walked through the sliding doors, I saw this on an endcap:

Price tag? $12.99. Done. (It says they are sold out online, but there were still plenty at my local Target. Just click the “Find it at a Target store” button.) They also sell this slightly different version.

Both hats have adjustable wire brims, are real straw (vs. paper) and although they’re ‘one-size-fits-all,’ after trying on several, I finally found one small enough to actually stay on my head.

Here’s how it compares to the inspiration:

Image sources: Fashion-tips.co.uk; Target.com

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Update (April 16, 2011): Here’s Denise Richards’ version — nearly the same hat:

                         Image Sources: HQ Celebrity.com; Target.com

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I next headed to the swim section where I found a few cover-up options, but not quite what I was looking for. Hit the jackpot at the clearance rack where I found this — for $9.99:

I bought it (in medium) and love it — super lightweight (but not too sheer) and very, very comfy. It also works well paired with shorts, a longer skirt and skinny jeans for when I really want to cover up.

How does it compare? It’s close enough for me:

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Update (April 16, 2011): Looks like Denise Richards got the message on the white cover-up, too:

Image Source: HQ Celebrity.com

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It’s hard for me to overstate how unusual this is. I HATE to shop and I hardly ever find what I’m looking for. But this time I found two things in my first 10 minutes at Target – at just over twenty bucks for both.

I think I used up all my good shopping karma for the next 10 years on that single trip to Target.

As a result, the third thing on my list – the slightly funky, boho, Mexican blanket-looking cross-body bag took a bit more digging. Target had a couple contenders, but not quite right:

A couple days later, a quick Google search turned up the winner at Bleudame, an online boutique whose only storefront is in Canton, Georgia. I love the Internet!

While not a perfect match, it’s still well-suited for my beach needs. Plus, at $18, I’m guessing it cost a penny or two less than Elle’s bag. I’d imagine that something similar could also be found at a swap meet, flea market or on a quick trip to Mexico.

For a slightly more elegant – and, at $42.50, more expensive —  option, I also love this J.Crew farmer’s market tote:

As for shoes … I haven’t actually purchased any yet, but these are a few I’m considering:

Left to right: Old Navy ($23), American Eagle ($30), Target ($15)

(Although the Old Navy and Target versions aren’t real leather, this might actually be a bonus for the beach.)

Add sunglasses and a swimsuit and I’m good to go. At least until 2026.

Need more ideas? Check out this packing list from my recent trip to Hawaii.

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One more thing — if you’re looking for something a bit more uptown (say, for a cruise) this collegefashion.net post has some additional options, including this (I swapped the swimsuit for this one):

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Image note:  All images of Elle Macpherson are credited to the site where I first found them; they’re in so many places I couldn’t find the original source. If you are/know the original source of any of these images, please let me know and I’ll add the proper credit/links posthaste.

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. Catherine permalink
    04/04 11:05 AM

    One of my favorite posts to date. Bring on the beach!

    • 04/04 11:20 AM

      Am hoping we’re heading to the beach with *you* sometime this summer, my fashionable SIL. xo

  2. Beth permalink
    04/04 11:32 AM

    Maybe yours should be a fashion blog…loved the steps to getting a great look for a fraction of the price. This has been a talent of yours since our mall trips to LaVogue in high school! Forgive me in advance for any copycatting you may notice at the family reunion this summer! We’ll test-run the water worthiness of the outfits on the rafting trip…

    • 04/04 11:52 AM

      What good is having a sis if not to ‘borrow’ ideas? Cowboy hats and cover-ups — times four! And thanks for the LaVogue memory — *totally* forgot about that place. NYFO too.

  3. 04/04 8:11 PM

    I don’t know which is more annoying: that I had to look twice to check if that was you in that tryptic photo… or the fact that your sister is equally pretty.

    I bought a beach coverup at Costco. But I’ve decided to return it (my actual favorite activity at Costco—way ahead of buying or eating samples) because I don’t actually go to the beach more than once every 3 years.

    More (sand) for you! ENJOY! You’re going to look great!

    • 04/04 8:35 PM

      Oh, Marti … thank you, but time for glasses, perhaps? :-) I hope you can get to the beach more often this year. Or at least the pool. (Cover-ups work at pools, too, last time I checked. Though *you* probably don’t need to cover anything up.)

      • 04/05 6:55 AM

        I *have* glasses and yes, beach, but I’d prefer a coverup twice that size and three times as fluffy! (The Costco one goes back tomorrow. Not “as advertised.”) I think now that I won’t be sitting around as much, the body might get a little better… too much sitting around equals too much Marti.

  4. 04/06 12:39 PM

    You are so classy! Love your blog and your fun tags.

    • 04/06 12:55 PM

      You’re adorable, Tami (but if you could see me right now — in my pj’s at noon — the last word you’d think of would be “classy.”). Love your blog, too! When are you coming back…?

  5. Natalie permalink
    04/12 5:37 PM

    Without front bangs for nearly the first time in my life, I’ve been able to wear a baseball cap on my daily walks. It’s been great for cooler spring temps, but with the warm weather moving in your Target hat seems like a much better idea. (And I’m sure it won’t fit in my luggage when we come to our reunion, so there won’t be THREE of us wearing the same hat!)

    • 04/12 6:41 PM

      I agree — it’s airy enough to be a great summer walking hat. As for the trip — if you pack it upside down and stuff it with clothing, I’m guessing it’ll pack pretty well. xo

  6. 05/28 7:26 AM

    hi I am going ti the beach today and your designs helped SOOOOO much thanks!

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