Dressing glamorously doesn’t have to end at the beach! You probably already bring sunglasses and street clothes worn over your swimsuit. A little extra thought put into the ensemble can help you achieve one of these glamorous beach looks, depending on your style. Or maybe you’ll try each one! These looks can mostly be created with basic pieces that you might already have in your closet, and with a few accessories easy to pick up at Target, thrift stores, or dollar stores.
High-waist swimsuits have been pretty popular in the last few years, which makes a retro beach look easy to achieve. Look for a fun one-piece in bright colors, or a high-waist bikini bottom and a top with more structure (e.g. lining, padding, and/or underwire) and a sweetheart or scoop neckline. Red, yellow, orange, blue, and white are colors that increase the vintage vibe. Keep an eye out for patterns such as polka dots, stripes, anchors, florals, and Hawaiian prints. (Unique Vintage and ModCloth have many retro styles.)
(This Unique Vintage bikini features a high-waisted swim skirt and structured top.)
(A structured one-piece with glam glasses.)
Go for a classy look by drawing on Old Hollywood inspiration from the 1920s-1950s. The key to an Old Hollywood beach look is to mix flowy bottoms with sunglasses and a huge hat. Look for loose, flowy skirts, such as wrap skirts, circle skirts, full skirts, or wrap dresses.
(Breezy skirt from the 1950s.)
(A full skirt and coordinating suit from the 1950s.)
Yachting pants and beach pajamas were especially popular in the 1920s-1950s, and you can achieve this look by wearing a swim top or crop top with high-waisted, wide-leg pants. You could also wear a button-up top and tie it at the waist. To keep cool, make sure you opt for cotton or linen pants and tops.
(High-waisted, white yachting pants or beach pajamas worn over a swimsuit in the 1920s.)
(Women’s wide leg sailor pants from the 1930s.)
(Beach pajamas, crop tops, and straw hats.)
Choose a big straw hat with a stiff or floppy brim that will also give you plenty of coverage. For the sunglasses, a retro shape is great, such as cat-eye glasses. But really, any fancy-looking sunglasses paired with a huge hat will still have a retro vibe even if the shapes are modern. If you really want to pile on the accessories, you can add a scarf to your head or your ponytail, too.
(1950s straw hat.)
(With hats and parasols in the 1950s.)
(Huge hats and full skirts in 1940.)
(Daisy glasses, novelty print, and a straw hat from the 1940s.)
(Glam one piece and a tote from the 1950s.)
To complete the look, wear espadrilles or another type of wedge sandal, and if you really want to up the glam game, bring a parasol!
The boho look is all about mixing light neutrals with patterns and sometimes bright colors and neons. Boho-style swimsuits and clothing have much less structure; for example, they might have lining but not padding. However, if you prefer a more structured swimsuit, you can still achieve the boho look. Keep an eye out for white, pink, orange, yellow, or teal. You can try a solid-color swimsuit or get a color-blocked or patterned suit. Ties, rouching, and wood touches will all look great.
If the swimsuit is multicolored or patterned, choose a cover-up that is one color—either white, or a color that coordinates with the suit. You can wear a wrap dress, wrap skirt, or a button-up dress as a cover-up, too. Another option for a cover-up is a pair of denim shorts with a white button-down shirt. (Make sure to roll the sleeves up!)
(Distressed shorts, a sweater, and big hat at the beach.)
(White swim top, denim shorts, a colorful caftan, and straw hat.)
Look for a large straw tote bag with some colorful accents. This is where those little pom-poms come in! A tote lined with pom-poms or ribbons adds to the free-spirit vibe. You can also add a woven, crocheted, or beaded purse or bag.
Nearly any kind of hat can add to the boho look: floppy straw hats, stiff boaters, fedoras, or small trilbies. Like the straw bag, they should be a natural straw color, or it be decorated with multicolored ribbons, pom-poms, or other decorations. These are easy to find at many different fast-fashion stores or thrift stores.
(White jumpsuit and neutral fedora with a bright, printed shawl.)
(Fun pom-pom hat.)
Feel free to add layers of bracelets or necklaces, or both. With the plain cover-up and straw accessories, you can add a lot of eclectic details. Finish off this look with a pair of minimalist leather flip-flops or flat sandals and a fun nail polish color.
(Stacked necklaces with a nature- or ocean-theme: shells, a moon, and a shark’s tooth.)
(A boho stack of bracelets.)
If you prefer a sleek, all-black look, you can definitely bring that style to the beach! Follow your heart with a sleek one-piece bathing suit or a two-piece with no frills. Look for chunky black sandals with thick straps and platform soles—again with no details except maybe a metallic buckle. Or, you can also achieve a minimalistic look with barely-there string sandals.
For a cover-up, try a simple black sheath dress, slip dress, or maxi dress with clean lines. (And check out @karenbritchick on Instagram, as she’s known for preferring to wear all-black in the summer.) Keep the accessories to a minimum—maybe a few metallic pieces or nothing at all.
(Flowy beach cover-up and black hat.)
(Slim dress with straw accents.)
(This easy black dress would protect your shoulders at the beach.)
(Black dress, hat, and glasses.)
(Karen Britchick in a slip dress, leather jacket, and sunglasses. If you’re not staying for a beach bonfire, leave the jacket at home!)
You can also achieve an all-black retro look with some sunglasses and a huge hat, a la Grace Kelly’s stunning Riviera beach outfit in To Catch a Thief. (Although hers was technically a dark navy.)
(A still of Grace Kelly’s navy suit in To Catch a Thief.)
(Grace Kelly turns heads in this ensemble.)
If your beach gets cold at night, you may need to dress a bit more warmly to take an evening stroll on the sand. Wear shorts, capris, cropped pants, or jeans that are easy to roll up because you will probably be tempted to get your feet wet at some point! Choose sandals or slides that are easy to slip off to scrunch your toes in the sand or walk through the water.
We often wear hoodies to the beach, but make like a J.Crew model and bring a winter sweater instead. You can layer a denim or leather jacket on top for more weatherproofing if it is especially windy or misty.
(Vintage jeans and a bright sweater.)
(Chunky knit sweater and rolled jeans at the beach.)
No matter what style you go with, make sure to bring a camera to document your stylish self!