By Cindy Weber-Cleary
Updated May 29, 2015 @ 6:00 pm
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Elizabeth Taylor on set of 'The Sandpiper'
Credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Growing up at the beach in New Jersey, I developed a life-time obsession with swimsuits, coverups, flip-flops, beach bags, sunglasses, surfer style … the smell of Bain de Soleil suntanning oil has a Proustian effect on me: I’m right back at Sea Bright Beach Club circa 1975 in a triangle bikini, mirrored aviators, with a transistor radio, and a can of Tab!

In those days, my idea of a coverup was a pair of well-worn denim cut-offs or a Mexican peasant blouse. I had nothing to hide!

Fast forward 40 (!) years. I still love summer and the beach, but coverups have become as important to me as beach umbrellas.

You can communicate a lot with what you wear over your bathing suit. You can go glamorous, sporty, classic, or provocative. The first order of business is to decide what you want to reveal vs. conceal when you go from your beach towel to the snack-bar or from the pool to your cabana.

In my 30s, I wanted to show off my stomach and upper body and deflect attention from my thighs and rear-end. Now that I am in my 50s, that axis has shifted. I want to draw attention to my new-found cleavage and gym-toned calves—and away from most of what’s in between. Therefore, I have become a big fan of caftans, such as these:

CWC Beach Coverups
Credit: Courtesy

Shop it (from left): Le Sirenuse for J.Crew, $150; Gap, $35; Lisa Marie Fernandez, $365;

For those who still want more coverage on their lower-body, pareos, loose “beach pants,” and soft skirts are great options.

CWC Beach Coverups
Credit: Courtesy

Shop it (from left): Back from Bali, $25; Tory Burch, $250; H&M, $13;

If you’ve got great gams and prefer a little upper-body camouflage, consider a neoprene surf jacket or rash-guard, a short tunic top or poncho, or (one of my all-time favorite looks) a man’s Oxford shirt.

CWC Beach Coverups
Credit: Courtesy

Shop it (from left): Sensi Studio, $360; Cynthia Rowley, $195; Uniqlo, $30;

Finally, if you are of a certain age and proud of your physical assets, try something in a sheer fabric instead of letting it all hang out. It’s like putting a soft filter over a camera lens … I believe it’s always best to leave them guessing, if you want some serious attention.

CWC Beach Coverups
Credit: Courtesy

Shop it (from left): Calypso St. Barth, $535; Zara, $50; Lemlem, $266;

Inspiration at top: Elizabeth Taylor on the set of The Sandpiper, 1965.