AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

With summer just around the corner, it's time to prepare for your vacation, or in this economy, your staycation. The good news: that may mean a trip to the beach or at least the pool. The bad news: that may also mean buying a swimsuit. But for the fitting room phobic, take heart in a curious trend that sees the swimsuit industry, a certain retro look, high-waisted bikini bottoms, ruffles, halters. It's taken over.

To trace the roots of this trend, we turn to Robin Givhan, special correspondent for style and culture at the Newsweek Daily Beast Company.

Hi there, Robin.

ROBIN GIVHAN: Hey, how are you?

CORNISH: So, first, give us more detail about the look of this new trend.

GIVHAN: Well, one of the nice things about it is that it's a little bit more covered up, although there's a lot of leg. There's still a lot of arm and back and shoulder. I mean, they're still sexy and they still are very playful and I think that's what draws people to them, that they don't feel like they're matronly, which is the last thing you want to be on the beach.

CORNISH: So give us a sense of what it looks like. What are sort of the movie star images we associate with this kind of suit?

GIVHAN: Mostly, we think of glamour. Someone like a Lana Turner or a Rita Heyworth sort of lounging on, you know, a chaise by the pool at the Beverly Hills Hotel. These are not really swimsuits that you think of when you envision someone, you know, on the high diving board. So they're really meant a little bit more for posing than for laps.

CORNISH: Help us trace this trend. Is there a particular runway or photograph where this started? And I'm really hoping you're not going to say it's about the TV show "Mad Men."

GIVHAN: I'm really sorry to disappoint you.

CORNISH: Oh.

GIVHAN: Well, I think a couple of things are at work. You know, there is the "Mad Men" influence, and because a lot of these trends are starting at the high end market, you're really talking about designers who are not specifically swimsuit designers, so they're not really focused on the athleticism of swimsuits. They're focused on the aesthetics. And, for them, it's about projecting a sense of glamour, a kind of leisure class. And then I think you throw in the fact that no longer do women feel that they sort of age out of swimsuits, but the swimsuits have to be, you know, tweaked a little bit to really flatter a body that's perhaps 50 years old versus one that's only 20 or 21 years old.

CORNISH: You've written that the fashion industry has essentially been ignoring the recession, sort of designing for the one percent.

GIVHAN: Yeah.

CORNISH: And we've talked about, on this show in the past, people turning - in economic times and tough economic times - to, say, color when they can't spend more. So what about this particular fashion speaks to that instinct we have of a certain kind of indulgence in the face of tough times?

GIVHAN: Well, one of the most interesting things to me about the way that consumers have responded to the fashion industry as the economy has weakened is they've sort of been counter-intuitive. Instead of going and looking for things that are basics and things that have a long shelf life, they've focused more on things that are special.

That means you're not going to go and look for the simple black Speedo. You're going to be more inclined to go with something that is bright pink and polka-dot with ruffles on it because, if you're not going to get a chance to go away to a beautiful exotic island, there's a part of you, I believe, that really wants to at least indulge in something that's going to make you feel special, even if you're just lying by the pool at your local YMCA.

CORNISH: Robin, thank you so much for talking with us.

GIVHAN: My pleasure.

CORNISH: Robin Givhan, special correspondent for style and culture at the Newsweek Daily Beast Company.

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