Heat chic

Stitch-free halter tops, stretch capris and goofy shades blossom in the sun.

Published May 7, 2001 7:29PM (EDT)

Summer has descended rather abruptly upon us, with the unseasonal nationwide heat waves arriving at a fortuitous time for all those recently unemployed dot-commers and recession victims. What to do with your idle days, when not sending off résumés or pondering a future career at Starbucks? Go to the beach, of course!

But the prospect of sunshine brings its own set of fashion dilemmas. For example: To bikini, or not to bikini? Fortunately, this year the women of the nation have a new beach style guide, courtesy of the intrepid "Survivor" ladies. As Bryant Gumbel grumbled last night after the show's finale, Australian Outback swimwear was decidedly unrevealing: Tina's jog bra, Amber's halter top and boy-cut shorts, Alicia's tank, etc. Not a G-string, thong or triangle bikini in the bunch.

And from this we should take heart. The message to millions seems to be: Bypass that $300 plunging Gucci maillot and the crocheted string bikini, and pick up an industrial-strength Speedo, or better yet, retrieve the frayed relic of your swim team past. Practicality is fashionable again, and conservation, as Californians will tell you, is all the rage.

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Speaking of "Survivor" ... In a season riddled with sadistic behavior, on the part of the show's producers (making a vegetarian eat a worm, forcing the starving Survivors to give up their tent), Jeff Probst finished off the show with the most sadistic moment of them all: He forced the contestants to show up to the reunion finale in the exact same outfits they wore to the final tribal council. It's bad enough that the poor Survivors had to wear the exact same smelly, filthy, worn-out shorts and tube top for 45 days; but isn't it unusually cruel to make them pull those tired duds out of the garbage five months later in order to go on national TV?

But it turns out that this wasn't a form of punishment; the show was merely trying to jump-start a fashion trend. See, that Survivor bandanna that Tina had strapped over her chest when she won a million dollars was not, in fact, a bandanna: It was a Buff. Those savvy Survivor producers -- never ones to miss a marketing opportunity -- have invented a "new uniquely versatile, stitch-free garment you can wear as you struggle to survive." Part head scarf, part tube-top, the Buff is yours for only $18, in the tribal colors of your choice. We can tell this fashion trend is going to be huge. Huge and stitch-free.

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Buffs aside -- and fortunately, we have not yet seen anyone wearing this garment on the streets -- the summer always seems to launch our most unfortunate fashion trends. Lycra capri pants, head scarves, wedgie cork platform sandals, tube tops, hot pants, Oakleys: The appearance of the sun seems to herald four months of unflattering or impractical clothing. Did we mention Lycra capri pants?

Thus far, this season's most unfortunate trend (besides the return of the Izod shirt) is oversize frameless wraparound plastic sunglasses in purple, pink and baby blue -- a look that works only on, say, Gisele. The nation's teens are being encouraged to wear these glasses with a pair of acid-washed bell-bottom jeans and a cropped halter top and tiny scarf tied jauntily around the neck: Think Studio 54 by way of Old Navy.

By Janelle Brown

Janelle Brown is a contributing writer for Salon.

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