Poolside fashion defies trends by daring to bareAs if baring too much skin became blase or even boring, leading fashion designers ― Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Karl Lagerfeld, to name a few ― decided to use the ’50s pin-up girls as their newest muse, heralding the return of conservative swimwear for the summer of 2004.
Scandalously revealing thongs are a thing of the past, the designers declared, and instead of a few square inches of triangular swatches connected with dainty strings, stylish women now sport modestly covered retro-style maillots and tankinis paired with square briefs adorned with a matching belt, sarong or poncho.
So when IHT-JoongAng Daily reporters headed out to check out poolside fashion near the hip district of Apgujeong-dong in southern Seoul, we expected to see the resurrection of the classic Vargas girls a la Korea.
We were so wrong: The fashion-conscious women in their 20s and 30s we met at the Hangang Outdoor Swimming Pool were scantily dressed. And their choice of swimwear was more retro Hawaii ― not necessarily the golden surfers’ look, but something that Jennifer Lopez might wear.
With such skimpy outfits, a prerequisite for poolside fashion was a slim and fit body ― probably the product of months on the treadmill and a one-meal-a-day diet ― and a deep tan.
As for the bathing suit, gone were minimal tanks, racer-backs and band tops in glaring neon colors. No Olympian or nautical swimsuits with metallic sheens, zippers or stripes. On women, we spotted not a single solid black or white swimsuit, which was last year’s super-chic staple of fashionistas.
As for the men, a few extremely healthy-looking, extremely tan male lifeguards in their 20s wore classic red briefs, which seemed to shrink to fit.
What that retro Aloha-meets-J. Lo look is all about: We saw a lot tropical blossoms, mostly hibiscus, on spandex- and Lycra-blend string bikinis. Brand names varied from Calvin Klein, Elle, Abercrombie and Arena to cheap market varieties.
Colors were vivid and vibrant ― a lot of turquoise, fuchsia, coral and kelly green, which evoked the scenes of blue lagoons in Fiji, Phuket or Bali. Men who accompanied trendy women wore simple and small briefs in striking hues, such as turquoise, coral red or royal blue. In a striking contrast, solid black slam-dunk trunks were worn by some men who had never seen a day of sunlight.
Even though most pool loungers preferred to wear as little as possible, the most noticeable trend this year was swimwear accessories, and swimmers and sunbathers alike showed up with this year’s essentials. The Tiffany-style chunky silver chain necklace with a heart charm was found on more than a few women.
Navel rings, once too scandalous to be true in Korea, are now commonplace. But instead of a simple ring or stud, women opted for decorative chandelier-style baubles in pastel rhinestones.
There are two different kinds of people: the ones who can’t get enough of the sun and the ones who can’t stand it. While the former lather themselves with generous layers of tanning oil for that perfect toasty color, the latter wrap their heads with a towel, like a kaffiyeh, the Arabic headdress. To keep their faces from turning too brown, many women wore baseball caps and sun visors.
“I’ve been coming here every day for the past two weeks, and my skin has peeled off,” said Choi Gwan-hong, a college student, who turned to show his discolored back.
But his friend, Jo Hae-mi, who has been to the pool three times this summer, said she didn’t want to tan at all and stayed in the shade only.
Almost everyone wore flip flops of all colors and styles. There were simple and flat, and in solids, black, white, blue and pink. There were thongs with dainty kitten heels, as well as others that were embellished with rhinestones and fake flowers.
by Ines Cho
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