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Question: What should I wear to the beach?

Answer: Summer’s just around the bend, and it’s the perfect time to lounge poolside or visit the beach. But before you start working on getting your body into bikini shape this season, consider all the ways you can mix things up with your beach attire. Whether your plans include strolling along the beach or relaxing on the hot sand with a good book, there’s appropriate beachwear other than the common bathing suit. If you’re stumped on what to wear, our guide will give you all the inspiration you need to make a big splash and be the belle of the beach.

Early mornings

For a fresh start to a day at the beach, you’ll want to wear outfits that will fend against cooler morning temperatures. Early risers can wear a boyfriend sweatshirt paired with denim shorts. J. Crew’s colored chinos with a loose white tee or distressed denim cutoffs paired with an All Saints graphic “Kiss” tank are the ultimate beach uniform.

Want to stray away from the quintessential shorts and top outfit? Try an interesting and cool alternative such as a black monokini that can work double time as a top. Wear it under a slightly unbuttoned crisp white shirt with denim shorts. A printed sundress with sandals is a great option if you want to nix the swimsuit altogether. These pieces can stand alone, or you can toss them over your one-piece swimsuit for a complete (and effortless) look.

A day of sand and surf

There’s a variety of beach attire for a day of fun in the sun—no matter the activity. Rev up your style in a bold, bright crop top, bandeau top or bralet paired with colorful cropped pants or capris. Take a break from the sand with a playful printed romper. Wet Seal’s floral romper has dual benefits: you can wear it as is to lunch with flats or sandals or as a cover up. Channel your inner bohemian with a peasant top from Forever 21 and denim cutoffs or a printed kaftan and tunic for a sophisticated approach to beachwear.

It’s not all about shorts, though—polish things up for a waterfront lunch in a spunky, striped dress that screams summer like ModCloth’s “Poppy In for a Visit.” Try a shirtdress that transitions from a beach day cover up to an evening dinner, in a shade like black multi, oyster or mint.

Nights on the shore

When the sun starts to go down at the beach, it’s all about dresses. Is a cocktail party or beachside bonfire on the night’s agenda? A summer beach dress with a shawl to keep you warm will cater to the evening’s festivities. A short casual dress such as Loft’s floral lace dress is so elegant that you’ll want to resist getting sand on it. Just as your everyday wardrobe is best served with a classic LBD and white dress, you’ll need a white sleeveless dress or Ann Taylor’s Black Jersey Shirred Strapless Dress for a night on the beach. They’re not only chic for a hot beach date, but also comfortable and cool for summer.

If you still want to rock a swimsuit, use a maxi dress as the cover up du jour. From stripes and tribal prints to bold florals, maxi dresses are available in a variety of colors and prints. Opt for a maxi like this Bebe double slit dress that will elevate your style for beachfront dinners. A printed frock with a high-low hemline such as this floral dress at Forever 21 is a great way to show off those tanned legs.

Whichever style you choose for your coastal getaway, don’t forget your must-have summer accessories: oversized sunnies, a straw or canvas tote to carry all the essentials, lightweight wooden or shell jewelry, a sarong, sunscreen, a wide-brimmed straw hat and strappy, bright sandals or espadrilles. From shorts and maxis to sundresses and tunics, you’ll be all set for a sizzling summer on the beach—no bikini necessary.

Other than swimsuits, what are your favorite outfits to wear to the beach?