My first experience with the sarong skirt was during my Limited Too days, when I was excited not just to purchase a bikini but the full set it came with - so I could be swathed head-to-toe in the print of my choosing. Oh! Was there a matching headband too? That's great, add it to the bundle. I can just see my mom, never so much the fashion enthusiast, standing next to me rolling her eyes. "I said you could get one thing, Sarah." But this was one thing! This three- or four-piece set was one whole look.
The evolution of the sarong (which is also referred to as a pareo), has its roots in traditional Indonesian culture. In its original form, the garment was styled into a tube-like covering, but when it was reinvented for Hollywood films in the 1940s - Dorothy Lamour famously wore one in 1936's The Jungle Princess - it gained popularity as a swimsuit cover-up. This come-and-go trend was seen on the likes of Princess Diana in St. Tropez in the late '90s and more recently Bella Hadid, when she wore a vintage Dior set with her white Nikes while yachting in Monaco. These are just two examples that have stuck with me.
"Would I have given these blue stripes a second glance if they only lived on a standard string two-piece? Honestly, probably not."
2020 brought about a new method of dressing for the summer months, especially while sheltering in place. The indoor/outdoor outfit now consists of a swimsuit - to be revealed when safely sunbathing - and sweat shorts, track pants, a breezy bowling shirt, or, yep, a sarong, to put back on for your lunch break or Zoom call once you head inside.
The fashion world has championed co-ord sets in recent years, so it's no surprise that these have been extended to the swim category in this wrap-skirt form. Some of my favorite brands have put out versions of the sarong, mood-boosting in color and saturated in the same tie-dye and cherry patterns splashed onto our suits. The whole aesthetic is very "Instagram me." So much so, that when I scroll by a celebrity or influencer who has not just the bikini but the whole damn set, I can't help but muse, "Ooh, she collected all the pieces. She got the skirt, too!"
The fact of the matter is, yes, I do feel like my blue striped I.AM.GIA bikini is cuter just because it comes with a pareo. Would I have given these blue stripes a second glance if they only lived on a standard string two-piece? Honestly, probably not. There's something about being able to style up an easy outfit with your swim skirt that's so appealing, not to mention comfortable - especially at a time when I am inspired to venture out of my sweats and douse my outfit with a little more personality. So, even if my mom wasn't thrilled about all the extra bikini add-ons all those years ago (cha-ching! goes the cash register), I had been influenced. And you know what? I still am.