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Beach bags with style, function

Best totes merge of color and design with utility.

This brilliant blue, water repellent canvas bag is

This brilliant blue, water repellent canvas bag is a workhorse has dedicated pockets for sunglasses, beach towel and lotion along with a pocket for flip-flops, a cooler pocket, and a reusable bag for wet clothes. Unwanted sand falls out through a zippable mesh compartment at the bottom, $89 at uncommongoods.com.  Photo Credit: Uncommon Goods

Bathing suit, flip-flops, sunscreen, towel — you’re beach- or pool-ready with one small problem: How to carry it all? A beach bag, of course, and while basic totes are just fine, fashion doesn’t necessarily have to take a back seat when it comes to schlepping. This season’s summery offerings, from straw bags that can double as out-at-night handbags to colorful, canvas jobs, are charming yet functional.

“The right beach bag makes the world of difference,” says celebrity fashion stylist Jaqui Stafford. “I love one that holds everything from your beach read and sunscreen to your towel.”  

For heavy loads, Stafford suggests lightweight bags with broader straps to avoid shoulder stress. But most important, says Stafford, “go for one with personality like a bright color or a standout print. That way you can just add a plain black swimsuit and floppy hat yet still look stylish.”

For at least one Long Islander, beach bags are an art form. Three years ago, Stacey Skordas of Hewlett began designing beach bags from vintage towels and other recycled materials for her company Salvage Sacs.  

“In my world, beach bags are not just an afterthought, they’re a fashion statement,” Skordas says. Skordas got the idea to patch together and repurpose colorful advertising towels along with prestigious designer varieties as a kid when she summered in the Hamptons.

“People used to just discard the towels at the end of the summer,” Skordas says. Today, along with the towels, recycled denim, leather, blankets, curtains, she creates originals — think Louis Vuitton meets Fred Flintstone — with an emphasis on cushy terry cloth and velour. Her designs, lined with saucy prints and vinyl are machine washable. The bespoke bags are pricey, ranging from $400 to $900, but they come with an added benefit. “They are conversation starters,” she says. “Everybody wants to know about them.”

That said, for a fraction of that cost you can still get a look. “Don’t splurge on a pricey beach bag unless you know you’ll keep it — and use it — year after year,” Stafford says. “Realistically you’re likely to use it only a few weeks each summer so spend on a classic, and save on an of-the-moment style.”

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