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Summer swimwear dives back into the beach party

DesignJames R. Sanders, Gap Inc. bloggerComment

Check out these beach party-perfect swimwear offerings: Crochet cut-out one-piece by Gap; Convertible bandeau one-piece by Gap; Women's Skirted Bikini Bottoms by Old Navy; Marysia EXCLUSIVE Scallop Trim Triangle Bikini: Magenta by Intermix; Wailea Scoop Bikini by Athleta; Marysia Plunge Full Piece Swimsuit: Black by Intermix; Women's Striped Tankini Tops by Old Navy.

Just in time for the nationwide U.S. release of Love and Mercy, a biopic about the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson, beach culture is enjoying a renaissance in vintage-inspired swimwear available from all of our brands this season. But before you run out to snag swimwear worthy of Ms. Beach Party herself, Annette Funicello, let's tip our sun hats to the storied beach party genre.

When the Beach Boys were making music history in the 1960s, people hit theaters in droves to see Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello in the so-called beach party films: fun movies featuring trendy teens in casual beachside settings.

Avalon and Funicello became cultural icons, defining summer beach fashion in the '60s.

Most of the beach party films were released between 1963 and 1968. Though this wasn't a long stretch of time, each movie explored provocative, timeless themes and followed a winning formula: sexuality, no parents, more angst, and less clothing. Still, they were all very subtle; there were no sex scenes or references to major social concerns of the time, such as the Vietnam War or the Civil Rights Movement.

These films were widely considered to be an escape from the real world, where teenagers partying on the beach didn't have to worry about being drafted or about major civil unrest. Costume design — particularly swimwear that showed more skin — suggested a bold, sexual revolution was underway, as well.

The '60s were known for defiant fashion. As a precursor to the liberal and ultra-glam 1970s, the '60s combined the classy and prim 1950s with a willful edge. For example, Funicello sported every kind of swimsuit — but her two-piece pink bikini got people talking and started a trend. A former Disney Mouseketeer, Funicello was told to dress modestly and to keep her navel covered at all times. But after the first beach party film, she projected a new, more grown-up image opposite Avalon, who became one of the decade's biggest heartthrobs.

What was it about the '60s bikini? Much of it, they say, was in the fit. Often high-waisted, these bikinis allowed women to show their navels or conceal them while still showing some skin. One-piece swimsuits conveyed a demure sexiness that was understated and classy. Signature '60s colors — oranges, soft pinks, and white — were mainstays on the beach party screen.

Today, these vintage details are a mainstay in all our swimwear offerings this season. Here, you'll find a curated selection of swimsuits from Banana Republic, Gap, Old Navy, Intermix, and Athleta inspired by the beach-party films.