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New, 'sexier' one-piece replaces boring bikini?

The bikini is a tyrant.

Its long rule over women's swimwear, however, may be coming to a close.

A new, sexier take on the traditional one-piece makes its debut just in time for the fast-approaching summer season. Chic and sassy skin-baring cuts take bold steps where forgettable two-piece experiments such as the "tankini" stumbled.

Darby Schmidt, a 2005 graduate from Alpharetta and an employee of Heery's Clothes Closet (195 College Ave.), was surprised by the positive response women had toward the one-piece styles the store offers.

"A lot more girls are trying it on and aren't afraid to give it a chance," Schmidt said.

This comeback has been years in the making. The one-piece has re-emerged in recent seasons but not to an enthusiastic reception.

Heery's offers two different one-piece styles, both from Cosabella Mare's line. Options include solid colors and prints with prices ($96-$118) varying accordingly. They all, however, are "very skimpy," according to Heery's store buyer Carol White.

To counter the bikini dogma, designers have distinguished their particular take on the formerly frumpy one-piece in a variety of ways. No longer will it be typecast strictly for bathers uncomfortable with skin-baring silhouettes.

This will come as a relief to those intrigued by the concept of the one-piece but concerned about risking an association with matronly or infantile swimwear.

Fortson's Clothiers employee and fashion merchandising major Maggie Cassity, a junior from Athens, expressed a conditional interest in the one-piece's re-emergence.

"I would love to find a cute one-piece," she said. "Hopefully those nasty ones with the skirts are staying in the closet."

Fortson's (154 E. Clayton St.) expects a shipment of bathing suits within the month, Cassity said, but she is not sure whether any will be one-pieces.

The sea change in the perception of the one-piece - from faux pas to cutting-edge trend - is the result of designers' ingenuity.

Bold patterns, prints and colors, along with outright sexy cuts and fits, are among the Spring 2007 bikini's fresh traits.

Suits range from high fashion's highest altitudes, with Chanel's classic-cut tweed model, to Target's affordable $24.99 back-baring design by Xhilaration.

Further validating the movement is American Apparel, a staple of hip minimalist stylings. Among its offerings are both risqué and pared-down models, all in the $30-$45 range.

These and many other options promise variety and flattering styles for open-minded swimwear shoppers this summer.

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