Those sounds coming from dressing rooms all over? Screams.

It's bathing suit buying time, and for less-than-perfect bods (most of us), the hunt for the right suit can be downright desperate. But, yay, swimwear has come a long way, with styling and fits that can camouflage flaws and highlight assets.

While the lucky few can find the perfect suit with ease, many of us could use a little help. So we asked a few swimsuit experts at specialty stores (and when we say expert, we meant it . . . they total almost 170 years of history among them), to impart their wisdom.

"I've looked at bodies for over 40 years and I've seen it all," says Marna Hann, the co-owner of the 49-year-old swimwear hub, the Jerrie Shop, in Woodbury and Rockville Centre. She implores her customers to try on a variety of looks. "I can't tell you the numbers of times someone has said to me, 'I would never have picked this suit,' but they end up loving it." And she adds, "There are definitely games you can play with swimwear and by choosing the correct suit, you control where the eye of the observer goes."

At the venerable Blum's Swimwear and Intimate Apparel of Patchogue -- 88 years in the lingerie and swimwear game -- co-owner Cherie Alleyne is no stranger to the insecurities bathing suit shopping breeds. "You are more exposed in a suit than you are in clothes, and absolutely everybody is self-conscious about something." Alleyne says a higher-waist bottom, "can really slim the middle," and gives the nod to updated patterns. "The prints are not the dumb-dumb matronly prints we used to have, they're beautiful and act as camouflage."

In the same vein, "It's no longer your mother's one-piece," says Susan Cotugno, the manager of the almost 30-year-old Great Shapes with stores in Roslyn Heights, Woodbury, and Merrick. "Young women and grandmothers are wearing them now -- they're slimming and sexy." Rash guards, once reserved for surfers, are bigger than ever says Cotugno. "We call them fash guards these days," she says, noting they can disguise jiggling arms and tummies.

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The biggest challenge? Fitting women "who are fuller on top," says Cotugno. To that end, some brands are producing well-constructed swim bras that go to size H, with some styles, says Cotugno, that fit like a sports bra.

TIPS FOR FINDING THE PERFECT SUIT

Some swimsuit shopping tips from Samantha Brown Peterson, a Manhattan stylist who has worked with models and regular folks alike:

* "When you're suit shopping, think about the clothing choices you make on a day-to-day basis," as in what looks best on you, "and relate them to choosing a suit."

* "Consider which area of your body you'd like to highlight," says Peterson. If you want to put the emphasis on your bust, she says, go for a sweetheart neckline, halter or swimwear with lining in the cups for a boost. Keep the color and pattern to a minimum on the bottom, and opt for fabric with a matte finish. "Shine always attracts more light and attention," she says.

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* Peterson says to look for details like ruching to slim the midsection; color blocking to create visual interest and, "lighter or more vibrant colors down the center of the body and darker panels on the sides," for a slimming effect. Likewise, details or zippers down the center of the body elongate the silhouette.