What to Wear to the Beach

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What to Wear to the Beach

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A relaxing day at the beach. David Olsen/Getty Images

What to wear to the beach? If you're planning a relaxing day at the beach, knowing what's just right to wear will go a long way toward making your day a great one. Although there's plenty of optional beach gear to consider, there are also nine don't-leave-home-without-them items that are essentials for the beach. Put these nine items of clothing and accessories on your list of what to wear to the beach, and you'll be all set for some hot summer fun in the sun.

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What to Wear to the Beach - A Swimsuit

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A bikini is the most popular style of swimsuit for the beach. Sri Maiava Rusden/Getty Images

What's the most important item to wear to the beach? It's a swimsuit, of course. Although there are lots of swimsuit style options, the bikini remains the most popular type of swimsuit to wear to the beach. Finding the right swimsuit is important, so if wearing a bikini terrifies you or you find that a bikini is unflattering, choose a one-piece swimsuit or a tankini, which swimsuit designer Red Carter recommends as an option for women who want the look of a one-piece but the versatility of two pieces. Bikinis and tankinis frequently are sold as separate pieces, so women who wear different sizes on top and bottom can easily find a correct fit.

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What to Wear to the Beach - A Cover-Up

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Beach wraps come in handy for easy cover-up. Thinkstock Images/Getty Images

Some type of cover-up or wrap is another essential item to wear to the beach. Wear your cover-up on the way to and from the beach and any time when you're not sunning. A cover-up also comes in handy off the beach; for example, if you're going to a lunch close to the beach, you can slip on a cover-up and be properly attired.

Five common types of cover-ups are

  • pareo - a rectangular piece of cloth with a print design
  • sarong - a skirt-like garment similar to a pareo
  • big shirt - an oversized shirt
  • short dress - a short dress used as a cover-up, usually slip-on style
  • maxi dress - a long dress used as a cover-up, also usually a slip-on style
Cover-ups should always be easy to put on and take off, and the best cover-ups for the beach usually are made of cool cotton, non-wrinkle knit, or transparent synthetic chiffon. Save the silk cover-ups for poolside lounging because their fabric is more delicate and may not stand up well to the sand and surf at the beach.

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What to Wear to the Beach - A Sun Hat

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A beach hat helps provide a bit of shade at the beach. Rhoberazzi/Getty Images

For a wee bit of shade, at least for your face, wear a summer hat to the beach. Leave pricier fashion hats at home and opt for a beach hat made of straw or cotton fabric with a brim. Short women should choose a beach hat with a brim no wider than their shoulders in order to maintain the best proportion. Otherwise, the hat may look too big and out of balance. Tall women can wear hats with very large brims with no problem.

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What to Wear to the Beach - Flat Sandals or Flip Flops

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Flat sandals and flip flops work well for beach wear. Karl Weatherly/Getty Images

Sand heats to very high temperatures after baking in the sun for hours, so it's a good idea to protect your feet. Sandals and flip flops are both practical and appropriate footwear for the beach. Flat sandals or flips flops work much better than wedges or platforms and certainly far better than sandals with high heels.

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What to Wear at the Beach - Sunglasses

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Girl wearing sunglasses at the beach. Kraig Scarbinsky/Getty Images

Sunglasses are an essential item to take to the beach, and if you're going to wear sunglasses anyway, they may as well be fashionable sunglasses that flatter you. There are two major fashion factors to consider when choosing sunglasses.

The first factor is the shape of the sunglasses. Learn how to choose the best sunglasses' shape based on the shape of your face. The prevailing style theory is that you should balance the shape of your face with an opposite shape in sunglasses.

The second factor, once you've determined your most flattering sunglasses' shape, is the frame's style and color. Personally, I think wire frames aren't the best choice for beach wear. It's better to go with a plastic or resin frame, and since sunglasses may get tougher wear at the beach, it's not a bad idea to wear inexpensive sunglasses to the beach and save your designer shades for other occasions. Color-wise, pick a hue that contrasts or coordinates with your swimsuit or just a trendy and fun color that makes you happy.

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What to Wear to the Beach - Costume Jewelry

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Choose inexpensive jewelry for beach wear. Justin Lewis/Getty Images

We've all heard stories of people who lost their valuable diamond and gold rings at the beach. Don't become one of them! Leave your fine jewelry at home, and wear costume jewelry to the beach. Necklaces and bracelets made of shell or wood are fun, lightweight, and appropriate beach jewelry. Jewelry with lots of metal isn't a good idea for beach wear because it heats up quickly and could easily become uncomfortable to wear.

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What to Wear to the Beach - Sunscreen

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Sunscreen is one the most important things to wear at the beach. Dougal Waters/Getty Images

Sunscreen--don't leave home without it, especially if you're headed to the beach. Because the rays of the sun can be damaging to the skin, causing skin cancer as well as aging effects, such as wrinkles, it's essential to wear sunscreen at the beach. Avoid the five common sunscreen mistakes that people make. No matter how much money you have to spend on sunscreen, you can buy one of the best sunscreens available to protect your skin.

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What to Take to the Beach - A Beach Bag

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A beach bag is an essential for a day of fun in the sun. Christopher Leggett/Getty Images

Normally I advise petite women to carry handbags that aren't too huge because carrying a big bag can make a short woman look somewhat overwhelmed. However, I make an exception for the beach because you need a bag big enough to carry all the essentials, as well as the extras, you're taking along for the day. Straw or canvas bags both work well for the beach. Never invest in a pricey designer beach bag because it's not worth spending a lot of money on a bag that's going to be exposed to the elements and may come home a little bit worse for wear.

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What to Take to the Beach - A Beach Towel

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A beach towel comes in handy for a day of sand and surf. Steven Lam/Getty Images

When you're making a list of what to take to the beach, a beach towel should definitely be on it. Beach towels are larger than bath towels, and they come in all kinds of colorful designs to suit your fancy. You can lie on a beach towel and use it to dry yourself after a dip in the water. A beach towel can also be used for a wrap if you've forgotten your swimsuit cover-up.

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What to Take to the Beach - A Carefree Attitude and the Right Clothing

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A lazy day at the beach. Getty Images

Now that you've assembled all the essentials--a swimsuit, a cover-up, a beach hat, flat sandals, sunglasses, beach jewelry, sunscreen, a beach bag, and a beach towel--as well as the extras--water, snacks, light summer reading material--just add a carefree attitude, and you'll be all set for a day of hot fun in the summer sun at the beach.