Signature Wardrobe Outfit for the Beach

Signature Wardrobe Outfit for the Beach
Signature Wardrobe Outfit for the Beach
Two ladies on the beach, with skirts hitched up c. 1910 – 1930. Photo by Ruth Hollick (1883 – 1977) via State Library Victoria

Like most people, I love summer. But while many Australians love to go to the beach, I’m more of a bush person. I like to be in the shade. So it seems a good time to think about building a Signature Wardrobe Outfit for the Beach beach. For people like me who don’t get there often.


It’s probably hot, sunny, and a little windy. There is glare on the water and no shade except that which you provide yourself. You may be swimming, eating and drinking, and perhaps sunbathing.


Your beach theme is probably staying cool while not being burned to a crisp. You might also want to look sporty, fun, vibrant, zen, sexy or elegant. These themes influence the colours, size and fit of your clothes and accessories.


Clothes protect you by absorbing ultraviolet (UV) radiation and preventing it getting to your skin. The more skin you cover, the better protected you are. You will get greater sun protection from denser fabrics (e.g. cotton twill) than lighter (e.g. cotton lawn). Shiny fabrics offer slightly more protection because they reflect UV rays as well as absorb them. Additionally, vibrant colours absorb more rays than lighter, as can whites with “optical whitening agents”.

You can now buy Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) clothing. The UPF indicates the amount of UVA and UVB radiation that reaches the skin. A UPF of 50, indicates that 1/50th of the radiation reaches your skin. They are a synthetic blend offering greater protection because the fibres are very fine and tightly knitted or woven. They are quick drying, and modern fabrics are breathable so you don’t feel like you are wearing cling wrap.


There is lots of advice about picking the right swimsuit for your body and I’m not adding to it. My opinion is that the right swimsuit for you is the one you like and will swim in.

You can buy bathers in  a wide range of colours, sizes and styles from full body to the tiniest bikini. You can get them with built-in bras, extra strong elastic for shaping, frills and ruffles to add bulk where you don’t have it; the list goes on and on. And you can buy in UPF or not.

Swimwear is one of those areas where a higher price can indicate better quality in a suit that will last several years (assuming you take care of it properly). Make sure you try it on for fit and check the label to make sure it is suitable for salt water swimming! Suits for use in chlorinated pools will not be as durable in the sea; not that they will dissolve in one dip, only that you might get some discolouration and stretching that will reduce its useful life. And some bathers are made for sunbathing, not swimming.


The most practical shoes are ones that don’t capture the sand as you walk down to the shore, though these will leave tan lines. Preferably, ones that you can easily slip on while hopping on one leg on the hot sand.


A hat with a wide brim of at least 4″ (10 cm) will give good eye, face, neck and shoulder protection if you slip up a bit on the sunscreen. This may be too large for some other outdoor activities so take that into account if you don’t want more than one hat. Ideally, it will be ventilated so that your sweat can evaporate. It shouldn’t be so tight it gives you headaches or so loose that it blows away in a gust of wind (maybe a chin strap?). A light coloured hat will reflect heat and UV rays, and if the underside of the brim is dark it will absorb reflected UV rays from the water.

UV protective sunglasses are a must as your eyes can get sunburnt not just irritated, and long-term exposure can lead to cataracts and cancer among other complications. Ideally, they will be close fitting wrap around glasses that meet the Australian/New Zealand Standard 1067:2003 in categories 2, 3, or 4. Alternatively, look for Eye Protection Factor (EPF) 9 or 10 (transmitting minimal UV radiation) or UV 400 (blocks 100% of UV radiation). If you are driving make sure they are suitable for that purpose. Polaroids are useful for blocking glare, but they are not necessarily UV protective.

Don’t wear any jewellery you don’t want to lose, or a tan line from.

Bring along some sort of shade, such as a sun umbrella or tent, but when you are setting up, be aware of risks you might pose to other beachgoers, like guy ropes.


The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) in sunscreen measures UVB radiation; broad spectrum sunscreens filter both UVA and UVB. The best protection comes from SPF 30 (97%) and SPF 50 (98%), but it has to be applied correctly. Twenty minutes before exposure and every two hours during exposure. An adult should apply about a teaspoon to each leg, the front of their trunk, and the back. And about half a teaspoon to each arm and their faces.

Your hair style will depend on your choice of hat, but probably loose or in a low ponytail. You could wear UV protective makeup if you want to.

Wrap Up

Looks like my photo ladies have almost got their sun protection sorted – big hats, good body coverage in heavy cotton or linen dresses with layers of petticoats. They should probably drop their skirts and roll down their sleeves. My style is a little bit retro, and while that’s not exactly what I would wear but I’d be leaning in that direction. Something based around my linen pants and a cotton blouse.

If you’d like to read more about sun protection, check SunSmart or the Skin Cancer Foundation.


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