Tips gleaned from from years of peeking at women behind my dark glasses and an oversized hat:
* Let's talk optical illusion: swimwear can be difficult to wear because there is not much the eye can rest on (so it focuses on the bare expanse of skin). Patterned fabric or ruffles / other details distract the eye wonderfully. Also try jewellery: an anklet, bracelet and earrings can do wonders, as can hair accessories. A hat or sunnies always work.
* Invest in a pretty towel. I have seen girls wrapping themselves in a over-used beige faded thing post-swim, and it doesn't look good. I suggest a light-weight towels (maybe microfiber) in a nice colour, and you can't go wrong with nautical stripes. I also love Hammam towels, they are cute, lightweight and can be used as just about anything.
* The cover up: on a beach where almost everyone is wearing their smallest swimwear, a cute cover-up can look intriguing. The classic is a light dress, perhaps something that is too short / too see-through / too deep-necked to wear in normal life. You can also try a long skirt, or denim shorts or a light billowy top.
* Get a swimsuit in your bra size. Trust me, you'll never go back if you do-- the lift, shape and comfort are incomparable. Ideally the band size should be close to your underbust measurement in inches. Don't forget to go adjust your cup size accordingly, because cup sizes are relative to the band size. Here is a guide on finding the right size.
* Go gentle on the makeup. Too much makeup on the beach looks desperate. Foundation is usually too much (unless it's a very light layer of mineral foundation), so does eye-shadow, eyeliner and too much mascara. Use concealer in the places that really need it, a light touch of bronzer and lip gloss. Blush and mascara look good if you apply with a very light hand. Eye-shadow only looks good if it is a fun, bright colour swiped on the eyelid, anything more elaborate looks like trying too much. An exception with the makeup is if you are intentionally going for the whole look: like that girl I saw once in retro swimsuit with winged eyeliner and red lipstick.
* Hair is very important. If yours just doesn't look good wet, try an interesting up-do. There is nothing prettier than a braid by the poolside. A bun looks great both wet and dry.
* Exfoliate and moisturise. This makes the skin look healthier. A layer of self-tanner is definitely allowed (here is my favourite one).
* Whatever you wear, own it. Don't give it a second thought, act as if it were your skin. Bad hair, smeared eyeliner, lobster tan -- rock it.
* Attitude is the most important thing. The woman with bad hair, cellulite and blemishes who looks like she's having fun, who laughs and runs straight into the water will always be sexier than the perfectly dressed one with the toned body who is tugging at her swimsuit and worrying about her makeup. The beach isn't a runway, it's place to enjoy yourself.
What are the things that make you feel great at the beach? Do share in the comments.