You may feel timid when it comes to swimsuits. Who doesn't?

But this year, fashionistas must combat the shyness and be bold - nothing, this year, is plain.

Colors are striking: bloody vermilions and airy ceruleans, mustard yellows and kelly greens. Shiny solids are dominating the sands, and they're oh-so-slinky.

Don't forget the girlish, graphic prints. In addition to the classic yellow polka-dot bikini - how does that look manage to never go out of style? - try two-piece suits featuring ruffled gingham prints, sequins and faux jungle skins. Zebra and cheetah details will go a long way.

But if you want to achieve the ultimate sexy look, wear a one-piece with strategically placed cutouts. With these peekaboo details, you'll have a lot of options: Black suits with a T-strap up the torso are popular at familiar stomping grounds like Old Navy and Victoria's Secret. Designer labels such as Gottex or Cynthia Rowley's Roxy line offer cutouts with fringes, shredded ends, and sequins. How's that for revealing yet demure?

With such complicated architecture, some of these suits will look pretty intimidating on the hanger. But when stretched out over lithe bodies, they transform into sexy.

London-based designer Molly Grad is head of design at Gottex swimwear, one of a few swimwear labels that have a strong presence in New York. Her mantra: Bathing suits can be high fashion.

Slip on a pair of Lucite heels and a miniskirt cover-up and your ensemble can take you from the beach to the bar to the baseball stands. Citizens Bank Park, beware!

"Women want things that are much more special than a plain suit on the beach," Grad said.

Try wraps and bottoms that double as skirts to add poolside punch, too, she said. And if you go with cream shades or sparkly blacks, use cutouts and cool shapes to mix things up. If you don't like showing so much skin, try one-pieces with goddesslike draping, Grad said.

The boardwalk just got a little more salty. I

Contact fashion writer Elizabeth Wellington at 215-854-2704 or ewellington@phillynews.com.