Many swimsuit brands — from Juicy Couture to Michael Kors — have reinvented the old favorite with varied skirt lengths, colors and patterns. And even beachgoers in South Beach, not usually known for being conservative, are willing to give it a try.
"It's really a great trend because it allows you coverage and it's flattering for most body types," said Suzanne Bryant, Land's End vice president of design. "Skirts and dresses have become such an important part of a woman's wardrobe because they are easy. So they are going to keep going back to it. I think the same for skirted bottoms."
When I first tried on the fuchsia, burgundy and orange Gap bandeau bikini on sale for about $30, I was afraid to look in the mirror. I could imagine the skirt — cut right at the thighs — accentuating the part of my body I most wished to camouflage. Growing up in Europe it was ingrained in my head that string bikinis look best no matter what your body type. The less fabric, the less it looks like you are trying to hide something.
It also doesn't help that in Miami, despite being labeled America's fattest city by Men's Fitness magazine in 2009, many people are very fit and not against going to the plastic surgeon's office for a little nip-and-tuck.
So when I saw myself, I was surprised that I didn't find my reflection that bad. I've looked better, but I've also looked worse. It was cute, not sexy. At the pool, it stayed in place and from the front it looked good. From the back, I resembled a little girl wearing a tutu, not a look I strive for.
I am also thinking of copyrighting the term "skirted tan" because I got a weird tan line from the suit. Next time I'm turning the skirt up when I'm sunbathing so that I get color on the parts that need it most. But generally, I liked the swimsuit and would wear it again.
Other women in Miami Beach also like the style.
Erica Lyons, 33, from New York City, was lying out on the sand in South Beach recently in an olive green skirted suit with sequins attached to it. She said she bought it two seasons ago because "it looked different and fun."
She said she was trying to convince herself that it hides body flaws.
"It kind of covers a little bit more. Any body type can wear it," she said.
Caitriona Regan, 28, from Galway, Ireland, said she had never worn one, but would. "It sounds cute 'cause then you could just walk off the beach without putting on a sarong."
It's not for everyone, though.
"I want to get a tan and limit the amount of fabric I have on," said Tracy Smith, 31, from Toronto, Canada. "I think if you've got something to hide, then go for it."
Zanna Roberts, Marie Claire magazine's senior fashion editor, said skirted swimsuits are part of the retro trend and are here to stay.
"It works on every silhouette. I think people feel more confident as well," she said.
Women want to go from beach to restaurant, and the skirted suit allows for that, said stylist Robert Verdi. Still, he said the style is geared toward young girls and he wouldn't necessarily put any of his clients, including Eva Longoria Parker, in one.
"I think women on the beach always want to be sexy no matter what age they or what size," he said. "I think we'll see it for a few seasons. Maybe these skirts will become almost sarong-like."
But some versions would look cute and even sexy for a day in the sun. Juicy Couture offers playful bikinis and one-pieces with ruffled skirts. Michael Kors also designed a skirted bandeau swimsuit in indigo, which would flatter women going for the sophisticated look.
"We always do a skirted suit. It really is retro inspired," said Pam Skaist-Levy, Juicy Couture co-founder. "I think they are very flattering."