Surf's up, but prices don't have to be. These bikinis...

Surf's up, but prices don't have to be. These bikinis are sold as separates - tops or bottoms, just $4.95 to $14.95; at H&M stores. Credit: Handout

There are Dante's nine circles of hell. And then there's shopping for bathing suits.

"Is there anything worse?" asks Minneapolis entrepreneur Gillian Gabriel. Dressing rooms that show every bump of cellulite. Mirrors that are warped. "At least I tell myself they are - I couldn't possibly look like that," she muses.

Determined to simplify the process, Gabriel designed GiGi, what she calls "the little black dress" of swimsuits, one that looks good on most women, she promises.

PHOTOS: Beachy keen fashions

Norma Kamali, whose swimwear mixes retro sophistication with all-out sex appeal, also is trying to simplify the process of buying a suit. You can Skype Kamali fashion experts. And her "Try Before You Buy" service gives you 48 hours to try on swimwear at home - just pay for what you keep and return the rest.

Kamali and GiGi are just two brands looking to get you ready for beach or pool. We've also found the summeriest sandal (Skemo's, with real seashells), tote (Kipling) and sunglass/reader combo (Lilly Pulitzer).

And for guys, it's all about the boardshort, from Hurley's surfer-dude styles, to Shortomatic - a website that lets you upload digital images to create your own inventive designs.

So what are you waiting for? Come tomorrow, it will already be July.

Enjoying some good trash literature on the beach or at poolside is only fun if you can actually read the type. When you need readers and sunglasses at the same time, go for Lilly Pulitzer's sun readers, $60; at Lord & Taylor, Garden City.

Beauty on the beach

"To the Beach" declares MAC in naming its summer beauty line. Look for beautiful corals (yes, the color, but also coral patterns on the great beach tote, even the packaging). And from Bobbi Brown, the Beach Club collection has the newest rendition of her popular Shimmer Brick with five shades of warm colors. All at cosmetics counters now.

- Barbara Schuler

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