The Best Beach Cover-Ups for Summer (and How to Wear Them)
The difference between feeling hot and bothered at the beach, and feeling chic and breezy? A beach cover-up. One third of the Holy Trinity of beach gear—the other essentials being a swimsuit and sunscreen—a cover-up can take you from your bungalow to the beach and back in true style. Inherently casual, cover-ups look laid-back with flip-flops and a tote, but can be dressed up with wedge sandals and a statement-making pair of big, bright earrings. Best yet, they come in breezy, lightweight fabrics that require little care and slip effortlessly into a carry-on. Here are some our favorites this season, plus three no-fail beach outfit ideas for the pool, the bar, or a party on the sand.
The Best Beach Cover-Ups for Summer 2019
Best Kimono Cover-Up
The hands-down chicest way to cover up at the beach is with a kimono. Case in point: Bel Kazan’s luxe-boho duster, featuring super-soft fabric and a vibrant hand-printed pattern inspired by the lush landscape of Bali (where her kimonos are made in an open-air workshop). Wrap it around a one-piece and pretend you’re a Hollywood celeb, or belt it (black slip-dress underneath optional), kick on some platform espadrilles, and take off for a steamy night out.
Best Beach Cover-Up Shirt Dress
This classic blue-and-white-striped Maaji shirt dress looks tailor-made for yacht outings on the French Riviera. Even if your beach trip isn’t quite on that level, the simple, sexy menswear-inspired piece works for leafing through a light read on a sun lounger or hitting up happy hour at the pool bar. Plus it looks equally fab with slide sandals, white sneakers, or barefoot.
Best Beach Sarong
Let your hair down and show your wild side in this sexy tropical sarong. Everything about the floaty cover-up is fun and loud, which is exactly what beach life should be about; the sultry pattern is extra-bold if you swish your hips as you strut across the sand. Need one more reason to love it? It doubles as a beach blanket.
Best Caftan Cover-Up
In an ideal world, we’d wear a caftan every day of the year. The soothing botanical motif of this one by Lenny Niemeyer gives us all the tropical feels, but in a soft, understated kind of way, plus the relaxed silhouette suits all body types. Made in Brazil, this beach staple will be a must-bring for years to come.
Best Plus-Size Cover-Up
Maybe it’s the pretty tie-dye, maybe the hand-knotted fringe-y hem, maybe the wowzers open back—or all these elements combined—but we are in love with this cool tassel-y tank tunic. A no-fail and effort-free attention grabber.
Best Sheer Beach Cover-Up
What makes this fierce animal-print maxi stand out from other sheer cover-ups is the smart use of the high neckline and long sleeves—conservative elements in an otherwise very splashy look. If you want to go extra-feisty, layer the dress over a black bikini and accessorize with big hoops and block heels.
Best Black Mesh Cover-Up Dress
Dramatic side sits, semi-sheer gauzy cotton, a big tie, and a strapless cut make this all-black number a real head-turner. Lining elevates the piece from mere beach garb to everyday summer dress, meaning you can wear it for non-beach excursions, even dinner, drinks, and dancing.
Best White Cover-Up Dress
Go full house-party-in-the-70s with this no-effort slubbed jersey maxi. The relaxed cut of the fabric and neat batwing sleeves make for a super-flattering fit, and an embroidered panel running down the middle adds a dose of Caribbean-blue color.
Best Embroidered Beach Cover-Up
It’s hard not to fall—and hard—for this charmingly throwback Madewell cover-up with an embroidered hem and eyelet detailing. This is exactly what we want to wear (with a straw hat and woven slides) on a Thai beach, on cobbled Spanish streets, on a ferry headed to a Greek island.
Best Status Beach Cover-Up
You’ll be the belle of the beach in this obsession-worthy kimono with a happy, sunshine-y print and a removable belt for open or wrapped wear. The best part? Brazilian designer Patricia Bonaldi employs local artisans in design studio/workshop in her hometown of Uberlandia.
Best Mid-Price Beach Cover-Up
This palm-leaf-printed jumpsuit has a lot going on—slitted wide-leg pants, tasseled hems, a big ruffle overlay—but where better to be a little extra than at the beach? With this, go big or go home—wear with a pom-pom beach bag, big drop earrings, and cheery strappy slides or braided raffia flatforms.
Best Cheap Beach Cover-Up
If you’re off to Miami or an island in the Mediterranean, and want to look like a Greek goddess while you’re there, this bell-sleeved caftan is the thing to bring. Thigh-high side slits and a removable white rope belt dial up the drama. Gold gladiators are the only shoes that can handle all this glam.
Best Beach Cover-Up Overall
With classic stripes, a relaxed neckline and cut, and a tasseled drawstring waist, this casual caftan (literally) covers all the golden rules of a good cover-up: style, comfort, and versatility. You can wear it over your suit of course or pair it with braided wedge espadrilles for dinner at that seafood restaurant you’ve heard such great things about.
Beach Cover-Up Outfit Ideas
What to Wear to the Pool
Stand out from the sea of pool towel sarongs with this pool outfit built around a cheetah-print bathing suit (hint: this one-piece can double as a bodysuit under high-waisted jeans for a sexy, retro going-out outfit).
Beach Cover-Up Outfit Ideas: For the Pool
What to Wear to the Beach at Night
As the sun sets, slip into this night-appropriate maxi and throw on a kimono, a pair of two-tones sandals, and some statement accessories to finish. Just like that, you’re ready for a grown-up evening by the water.
Beach Cover-Up Outfit Ideas: For the Beach at Night
What to Wear for Cocktails at the All-Inclusive Beach Bar
It’s not a beach vacation until you’ve sidled up to the bar and taken your inaugural sip of spicy margarita/local bottled beer/umbrella-topped tiki drink. With a cocktail in hand and the sea breeze gently ruffling your hair, you’ll want to look as glam as you feel. This quick five-item ensemble does the trick.
Beach Cover-Up Outfit Ideas: For the All-Inclusive Beach Bar