Summer 2014 swimwear trends: Rash guards, cutouts and more

RASH GUARDS Call them what you will --
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RASH GUARDS

Call them what you will -- rash guards, rash vests or rashies --but the surfer top paired with a bikini bottom is the swim look of the season. Here, jewel blue ensemble with UPF 50 sun protection built into the fabric; top ($54), bottoms ($44) at select J. Crew stores and jcrew.com.(Credit: J. Crew)

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When it comes to swimsuits, women will be making some rash decisions this season. We're talking rash guards.

The "it" bathing suit of summer is a surfer/scuba-inspired top, often paired with the teeniest bottoms. (The term rash guard refers to the shirts surfers wear to prevent chafing when they slide on and off the board when it's too warm for a wet suit.)

"There's definitely a sporty vibe in swim this year," says Tom Mora, the head of women's design for J. Crew. "The functionality of the rash guard has created a shift in how women are dressing for the beach."

Designer Shoshanna Gruss concurs. "Women are involved in more activities these days -- paddle boarding, water skiing, surfing -- and it's that active lifestyle ... that makes rash guards the perfect answer." But, she says, the surfy surge is not all about practicality. "There's a youthful, sporty athleticism to these suits, and I do think it's sexy."

Of course, not everyone's in for the big cover-up. Cutouts, body-baring side straps, crochet and netting are making waves, too. In the daring department, suits like Nicki Minaj's for Kmart are strappy-to-the-max. Minaj says they're "designed to make women feel confident, comfortable and sexy." Emphasis on sexy.

While solid colors are swimwear staples, Stephanie Solomon, Lord & Taylor's fashion director, points to an explosion in prints and mix-and-match styles. And, says Solomon, one-piece suits have gained on ever-popular bikinis, but with open-weave fabrics such as netting and crochet and deep cutouts, they can be more revealing than a two-piece.

As for that perfect summer tan? Between the rash guards, cutouts and straps, it may be elusive. Says J. Crew's Mora, "Tan lines can always be an issue with any cut of suit ... that's what bronzer is for."

Cover-ups are see-through

Ironically, this season's loveliest solution to covering up your bathing suit is, well, kind of see-through. Lace and crochet cover-ups abound and are turned out in everything from blousy tunics to shorts, dresses and even pants. "With these cover-ups, you see the bathing suit, and it gives the sense of showing off more than you are, but it definitely hides those little things you don't want everybody to see," says designer Shoshanna Gruss. "It's sexy without being overt. . . . It's one of the best little illusions."

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