Beach wear top tips

But does that mean you have to forget about being cool? Jo Haywood reports from under her beach umbrella

There are few words in the English language that fill grown women with stomach-churning dread like the word 'bikini'. Admit it, you shuddered a little just reading it, didn't you? And it doesn't matter whether you're a size eight or an 18, only the most pathologically confident feel at ease strutting down the beach in what amounts to little more than a hankie on a piece of elastic. The rest of us need a few ego-boosting accessories to get us on to the sand.

Slinging on a sarong or a lightweight cotton kaftan can work wonders. And you'd be amazed what a difference a pair of stylish sunnies and a big hat can make - one minute you're cowering behind a windbreak, the next you're sprinting out of the surf like Halle Berry.

But accessories don't mean a thing without a swimsuit, tankini or bikini to wear them with. So, there really is no escaping the fact that sooner or later you'll have to buy some beachwear. It doesn't help that swimsuit manufacturers can't seem to agree on a set of average sizes (one company's 12 is another's 14) or whether their products should be sized like dresses (8-18) or shirts (S-XL). This means you have to try before you buy and be prepared to go for a swimsuit a size or two above your dress size (try it - ignore the number and get a better fit).

When trying on swimwear be sure to flail about a bit, lifting your arms, bending over and sitting down. You will inevitably look a little foolish, but it's a small price to pay to ensure that everything stays covered when you're lounging by the pool or indulging in a vigorous game of volleyball (you never know, it might happen).

If you fancy a tankini, make sure the torso portion lies flat on your body with a streamlined fit and a fairly high Lycra content. Don't be tempted to go too tight though as this can cause bulges in even the slimmest of sun-seekers.

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