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Birds of Paradise

Water Lounge takes the stress out of bathing suit shopping

Bathing suit season.  No phrase strikes fear in the hearts of women universally more so than this utterance.  We all have our own reasons for not wanting to don a teeny bikini in public, most of which I’m sure are predominately in our minds.  But hey, it’s a necessary evil of summertime, and luckily the microscopic string bikini is not your only alternative to a boring one-piece. 

I dread bathing suit shopping. Thanks to my Eastern Bloc roots, I spend most of the year somewhere between ruddy and all-out pasty, and those heinous overhead florescent lights in our office do nothing but reinforce the fact I haven’t hit the gym in months.  I am not ashamed to admit I own two bathing suits, both of which I have had for years (one had the pleasure of joining me on numerous high school Spring Breaks, if that gives you any idea).  This is equal parts the chore of buying a new one and not finding it necessary.  Honestly, I’m all for owning too much of a particular accessory – shoes, bags, jeans – but bathing suits are one of those items I just can’t rationally own multitudes of. 

Enter Water Lounge, the newest store to hit Magazine Street, and the only boutique in the New Orleans area dedicated solely to swimwear.  Housed in a small space next to Martinique Bistro, everything about the store embodies a tropical, warm weather feel.  Lush, vibrantly green walls, a stark white wood floor and Birds of Paradise set the scene, as does the wooden tiki bar that serves as the cash register.  Owner Jessica Wallace said she wants Water Lounge to fill the retail void that has existed for so long.

“I knew I wanted to open a specialty store, and we definitely didn’t have this.  I was excited to do something different that wasn’t just a clothing boutique,” she says.

And different it is.  While Wallace acknowledges that Swim n’ Sport in Lakeside Mall also specializes in swim suits, she points to the exclusive and upscale brands she carries, which cannot be found at the chain store. 

“I went to market and built a lot of great relationships.  Everything in here is so unique, and we have so many styles and shapes.  We go up to a size 22; I wanted to cater to all bodies.  Not everyone is made for a bikini with little coverage.”

The store held its grand opening Saturday, June 20, but had already created a name for themselves a few months before when they threw a fashion show at Republic New Orleans in March.  Showcasing styles from lines like Vitamin A, Radio Fiji, Ocean Dream, Swim Systems, and L*Space, the crowd was wowed by the array of bright colors, prints and unexpected fabrics. 

When asked what she sees as the trends this summer, Wallace says customers are asking for more, not less.  “People are looking for more coverage, especially in the lower area.  We also get lots of bustier women in here looking for more coverage in the cup area,” she says. 

While the latter is certainly not a problem I have, the former issue of more backside coverage is something I empathize with.  This store is full of bathing suits to do just that, and there are also tankinis, bandeaus and halter-tops to cover up any problems areas you may think you have.
In terms of a personal aesthetic, Wallace says she looks for “cute prints, bright colors and unique silhouettes.  I would wear a lot of the suits in here.”
She adds, “But I have to keep customer’s bodies and preferences in mind.”

Wallace also carries what she calls “Mommy and me” suits.  One particular line makes swim separates in both adult and toddler sizes, so mothers and daughters can wear similar suits.  Wallace says she decided to carry this line because she wants this to be a store for everyone, including families.  

Another highlight of this retail destination is their amazing selection of pretty cover-ups.  From Vitamin A and Radio Fiji, these tops are cute enough to wear out to lunch or a laid-back dinner after a day by the pool, and no one would blink an eye thinking it’s not a trendy top or dress.  They come in basic solids or spot-on fabrics like bright tribal prints and Missoni-esque knits. 

For this week only, Wallace is having a Fourth of July storewide sale, where everything is 20 percent off the marked price.  I know I will be stopping in: a particular black-and-white two-piece with interesting fuchsia chiffon details will be mine very soon. 

Water Lounge
5918 Magazine St.


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