The Do’s and Don’ts of Dressing for the Beach

The sand, surf, and sun — it’s all fun and games until you have to figure out what to wear. Dressing for the beach can be a bit of a conundrum — especially if you’re a fashion girl, as practical beachwear doesn’t always fit into a style-forward equation.

However, you don’t have to compromise your cool factor for comfort and appropriateness. After all, you want to be able to relax and recharge while enjoying the beach (and while looking your best). With these do’s and don’ts of dressing for the beach, you’ll make all the right impressions.

Do wear a swimsuit that fits

brown hair woman wearing bikini

Everything looks better on when it fits correctly. | iStock.com/Faraonss

One of the first things you probably equate to the beach is a bikini. But, that doesn’t mean you have to wear one! You will do yourself (and your figure) a favor by investing in a swimsuit that truly flatters your frame. We all have unique body shapes, and there’s a swimwear option that can fit the bill for anyone. For example, if you’re curvier, you may need some additional support that a tiny triangle bikini won’t always provide.

No matter what your body type, swimwear that is too tight or too loose — think droopy drawers — is never a good look. Plus, it is primed and ready for potential wardrobe malfunctions.

Don’t wear anything you’re not comfortable in

Beyoncé in a pool

Why go to the beach if you aren’t comfortable? | Beyonce via Instagram

Speaking of swimsuits that fit, make sure you feel comfortable in anything you’re wearing as your beach ensemble. It seems simple enough, but oftentimes we pack things in our suitcase that we’re not really crazy about or confident in. No more. Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you’ll automatically want to put on that questionable bikini or sundress that’s been in the back of your closet for years. Don’t force a fashion look, or a trend, that’s not suited to your body or personality.

Don’t think sexy always means skimpy

woman at the beach wearing white swimsuit

Partially nude does not equal sexy. | iStock.com/2Mmedia

Retro-inspired styles are on-trend, with sophisticated high-waist bikinis, one-pieces, and other vintage-inspired looks invading the swimwear section. So, it’s a perfect time to embrace more coverage at the beach; the extra coverage doesn’t have to mean mumsy. In fact, sometimes leaving a bit more to the imagination in classic swimwear that flatters your figure can be the sexiest thing you can do.

Don’t be afraid to mix and match

Woman Under Beach Umbrella

Get a little creative with your swimsuit. | iStock.com

We’re way past the matchy trend where your bikini top needs to perfectly coordinate with your bottoms — or where you might feel the need to coordinate your cover-up, accessories, or even your beach towel. The beach is all about free-spirited vibes, so mix and match and have some fun. Busy patterns and seasonal, complementary colors like bright greens and tangerine oranges are a shoo-in for the beach.

Do think beyond the typical cover-up

beautiful young women strolling on a beach

You don’t have to abide by the typical cover-up. | iStock.com/jacoblund

Standard-issue cover-ups are great. But if they don’t really float your boat (or you forget to pack one!), there are plenty of other options that will do the trick. A knotted long T-shirt, denim cut-offs, a flowing skirt, and even a maxi dress can look trendy and cool to cover up your swimsuit — especially if you’re going from the beach to a barbecue dinner and need something more substantial than a sheer cover-up.

Do always bring a sundress in your beach bag

Couple walking toward beach

It’s always good to have options in case a bbq is right around the corner. | iStock.com

Speaking of cover-ups, while you may think you’re just going to the beach and back home for the day, you never know where all the fun in the sun could lead. It’s better to be prepared with a sundress in your beach bag, just in case you wind up with an impromptu lunch date or a happy-hour rendezvous with new friends. Or, if sundresses aren’t your speed transform a one-piece into a chic bodysuit by pairing it with a flowing pair of trousers or a skirt for a dinner-ready ensemble.

Do wear flip flops

brown flip-flop sandals on a wooden background

Now is not the time to wear your fashion-forward flip flops. | iStock.com

Unless you’re planning on parking yourself under a beachside cabana with an umbrella-clad drink, you probably want to consider the easiest, most functional footwear for sandy strolls along the shore. This generally means a pair of waterproof flip flops that can easily be taken on and off and that will not be damaged by water or sand.

Gladiator sandals, sneakers, wedge heels, and other decorative thong flats are all great (and quite beachy in spirit), but they are better reserved for said cabanas, a boating adventure, or dinner after the beach. Plus, heels and embellished sandals aren’t the easiest shoes to help you navigate the beach.

Don’t bring the bling

rubber band bracelets

Swap your gold and silver jewelry for the rubber variety. | FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images

Unless your beach day revolves around a yacht, you might be better served to leave the bling at home. The beach is a prime breeding ground for lost items and you don’t want your valuable jewelry to go missing. If anything, wear costume jewelry (rubber bracelets are great options!) that you don’t mind losing or possibly ruining in the water and sand.

Do accessorize, though

Woman wearing hat applying sunscreen

Your hat and sunglasses should be your best friend at the beach. | iStock.com/LiudmylaSupynska

While jewelry really isn’t required, a summery, wide-brimmed hat is one of your best friends at the beach. It not only looks casually glam, it can save your scalp and face from potential burn while shielding your eyes from the strong rays of the sun. The same goes for that pair of shades. Sunglasses with 100% UV protection are your best bet.

Don’t forget to wear sunscreen

Young woman applying sunblock cream on legs

This should definitely go without saying. | iStock.com/fizkes

Don’t let your lingering memory of the beach be a rather unfortunate sunburn. While you might be caught up in what you’re wearing, make sure that one of your wearable accessories includes an SPF that’s suitable for your day of fun in the sun. It will also save you from those strange burn and tan lines.

Do bring a chic beach tote

beach bag

Make sure you’re beach bag is as cute as your outfit. | Pixabay

Skip the standard handbag and throw everything you need into a stylish but functional beach tote that you won’t mind carrying around — beach or no beach. You’ll need it to be roomy enough for a towel, sunscreen, that sundress, a book or magazines, and other beach essentials. Otherwise, you’ll be juggling everything while trying to make one trip down to the beach.

Do embrace your own style

Girl having fun ay beach

No matter what, be who you are and prepare to have fun! | iStock.com

At the end of the day, dressing for the beach is all about playing up your own style. So what if one-pieces are back in style? If you’re a bikini girl, flaunt that two-piece. Or, maybe you’re simply not into the swimsuit thing and only want to dip your toe in the water in your cute cutoffs and tank top. Or, maybe beach-inspired athleisure or athletic wear is more your speed. Embrace your personality, so you can feel confident in what you wear and actually enjoy your day at the beach. That inner comfort and confidence will radiate outward and leave you glowing.