A great cover up for the beach or pool should do several things: a) give you more coverage so you can modestly go to and from your swimming area b) protect you from the sun when you've had enough and c) help you transition between activities (go to lunch wearing a swimsuit underneath a cover-up, etc.) Here are my favorite options.
1. Jean shorts
Is there anything more classic than cut-off denim shorts with a bikini? Choose from slouchy boyfriend styles if you like them a little baggier or adorable cutoffs. You can buy them ready-made in all sorts of colors this season or cut off your own jeans to wear. Add a ribbed tank top and flip-flops for a traditional cut-off look.
2. Maxi Dress
Want maximum coverage? Opt for the maxi dress. Choose from cute striped maxis or opt for a dramatic ethnic print. Maxis poolside look best with a casual vibe, so keep your shoes simple and flat (a great thong sandal, for example.) Skip heavy fabrics or excessive fabric: instead, look for skinny straps or even strapless styles for a breezy look.
Want something more glamorous (and versatile) from your cover up? Try a sarong. This handy scarf can be worn multiple ways, from tied as a skirt to wrapped as a dress. Of course, you can also make the cover up do more than one job and tie it as a head scarf in the sun, or even lay on it at the beach: it really is the ultimate cover up.
6. Tiered Skirt
Want coverage on the bottom but not necessarily the top? A tiered skirt -- ranging anywhere from mini to maxi -- fills the bill. These skirts, which usually have drawstring or elastic waists, are a pretty way to cover up your legs. White is the most versatile color, but you can also opt for brights like cobalt or yellow.
A short little minidress is just enough coverage -- and dresses you up enough -- to take you to lunch or shopping while still wearing a swimsuit underneath. Look for breezy styles -- A-lines and shifts will be the easiest to wear -- and details that make it right for the beach (eyelet trim, lightweight fabrics and colors.)
8. Terry Cloth
A coverup and a towel, all in one. Anything made from terry cloth works to soak up moisture so you can throw it on over a damp swimsuit. Look for cute smocked strapless dresses, rompers, even maxi dresses. The downside to terry is that it can be a little warm, so look for lightweight fabric and colors which make you feel cooler, like white.
9. Sheer Dress
If you've been looking at the sheer trend -- via see-through dresses and skirts -- and wondering how you can pull them off, know that worn as a cover-up sheers are perfect. You can get a bit of coverage -- especially with sheer prints -- but still let the swimwear show underneath.