Kirstie Clements: At last, a solution to the great beach cover-up

Proper beach attire requires a bit more than this – especially for those of us not made for the Australian sun.

Proper beach attire requires a bit more than this – especially for those of us not made for the Australian sun. Photo: Getty

You would think after all these years that I would have the fashion answer to everything every dress code, every occasion.

I do, but mainly for other people. When it comes to me, sometimes life just sends situations where I inevitably get it wrong.

Take, for example, beachwear. Despite being raised in the Sutherland Shire, I am not a natural beach person, although I love nothing more than an ocean swim.

One of the reasons I hated growing up in Cronulla was that I couldn’t, and didn’t want to, get a tan. My pale white freckle-prone Anglo-Celtic skin was not designed for full sun and coconut oil. I’ve never felt bikini ready and have always preferred a full coverage.

I still remember my French husband’s mortification when we went on holidays to the Greek islands just after we met. While all the other women were suntanning and dancing in in G-strings, I was under an umbrella, wearing a black and cream long-leg unitard bathing suit that would have been more suitable in Biarritz circa the 1920s (I wish I still had it now, it was a French label, very expensive and very chic).

I accessorised it with a huge, wide-brimmed straw hat and round tortoiseshell sunglasses, while everyone else wore bandannas and Ray-Bans.

He obviously thought Australians, i.e. me, were weird, having health concerns during a summer holiday. But I also remember the beach was so crowded I got a urinary tract infection, so I feel like my caution was warranted.

I’ve muddled along with beach wear over the years, everything from sarongs, to rashies, to Indian cotton caftans, to linen separates – all with varying degrees of success.

Coffee, tea and sea

My friend has recently talked me into going for an early walk and swim at Bondi Beach each morning, followed by a coffee at café and a car trip home.

This concept initially threw me, dress-wise. It sounded like four different changes of clothes to me. I need shorts, something with long sleeves to prevent sunspots on my arms and cleavage, a sensible swimsuit, then a cover-up of some description. I’m not rocking up to the café with anything on display.

I’ve seen some cute towelling shift dresses that are probably a good solution (from the underground carpark to the café) but for some reason they all seem to come in a yuck shade of mustard, probably because of their 1960s vibe, and that colour is hideous on my skin.

I love the short terry-towelling swim robes from Lucy Folk (very Ann Margaret) but I think they need a mule.

But I have noticed an Australian label, Zulu & Zephyr, which has just released these absolutely fab ribbed bodysuits that walk a line between an athletic, yet sexy swimsuit and a unitard.

I feel like this chic little playsuit is the answer I, and maybe you, have been searching for all these years. I was waaay ahead of my time back there in Greece, embarrassing my husband.

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