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3 Outfits to Wear to the Beach in 2024

Spring is near which means—for most of us—beach season is almost here! Whether you live close to the beach or you’re planning a weekend getaway, beach outfits are a must. If you rarely visit the coast, or if you’ve never been, it can be tricky to decide what to wear.   

Soma<sup class=st-superscript>®</sup> laydown of small suitcase filled with bra dress, tops, bottoms, bra, cover-up, and loungewear.

We’re diving into some casual beach outfit inspiration along with covering the ins and outs of typical beach attire. Are jeans acceptable at the beach? What do you wear when it’s cold at the beach? Stay tuned to get the download on all things beach wear.

What Should I Wear When Going to the Beach? 3 Beach Outfit Ideas

Crafting casual beach outfits consist of more than just your swimsuit. Your bikini is simply the starting point. It’s all about what you wear with it to maximize your seaside style. In fact, you might decide to skip the swimsuit altogether and go for a breezy outfit instead. You’ll want to consider how much coverage you want over your swimsuit (if you choose to wear one) and any activities you’ve planned after.

From sheer pareos to full-coverage shorts and tank tops, you’ve got a lot of options. We’ve put together five outfits derived from beach-friendly clothes that are ready for fun in the sun and sand.

Beach Outfit #1: Stylish Cover-Ups

To create no-brainer beach outfits, start with a lovely cover-up. Usually swim cover-ups are sheer in nature but come in various levels of coverage and  a variety of styles. Let’s take a look at three cover-up options to create a stylish beach ensemble. 

Flirty + Functional Pareos

When you’re looking for minimal coverage over your swimsuit but still want to look stylish, go for a pareo. Not sure what a pareo is? They’re often described as a longer version of a sarong but they’re very similar in style and function. Choose this style when you’re comfortable with your swimsuit being exposed from the waist up.

Soma<sup class=st-superscript>®</sup> models wearing a sheer white pareo and multi-colored geometric-print pareo.

Pareos are perfect for hanging out at a resort especially when hopping from the beach to the pool. Think very casual areas like a cabana, heading to the walk-up bar, or while snoozing under a beach umbrella. 

Classic Caftans

A step up in coverage from a pareo would be a caftan. They’re similar in design to a tunic but made to be worn by the pool or beach. Caftans are often sheer or semi-sheer but provide more coverage on your torso, shoulders, and often upper arms as well. Your swimsuit will still shine through without leaving you exposed. You’ll feel dressed enough in this casual beach outfit to walk to the ice cream stand by the boardwalk or to your hotel room. 

Soma<sup class=st-superscript>®</sup> model wearing a blue coastal printed caftan and red pom-trimmed caftan.

Wearing a caftan can be a fun way to express your personality because they often come in bright colors and bold patterns. Choose from florals and paisleys to animal prints and more!  In addition, many caftans also come with a way to cinch the waist.  This figure-flattering feature can help you feel more pulled together in your beach clothes

Cover-Ups That Reflect Your Personal Style

Beyond the classic caftans, which are an excellent go-to, are the beach vacation outfits that lean further into your personal style. When you want to create an ultra-fashionable beach outfit, we suggest going for one of these cover-ups. A flowy jumpsuit with a wide-leg silhouette and plunging neckline is the perfect topper for seaside parties and festivities. 

Looking for something extra versatile? Try a convertible skirt dress that you can wear either as a midi dress or maxi skirt. The smocked bodice makes it easy and comfortable to wear it two ways.

Soma<sup class=st-superscript>®</sup> models wearing a black jumpsuit, white button-up, and black maxi skirt cover-up.

Do you have a classic style and you’re looking to elevate your beach look without bold prints or bright colors? Opt for a chic long-sleeve button-up in a neutral hue  instead. Size up for that oversized feel and you have the option of wearing it open or buttoned up—the choice is yours.

When choosing a beach cover-up, be sure to opt for one that’s made from a lightweight, breathable material. This is important for keeping you cool while covered, and also allowing your potentially damp suit to dry underneath.

Beach Outfit #2: Versatile Bra Dresses

When you want to venture into a full-on beach vacation outfit, a bra dress is the way to go. Bra dresses are designed with a built-in bra that are ideal for packing and saving space in your suitcase. While they’re an appropriate option for beach clothes, you can also wear them to dinner, shopping, and more.

Soma<sup class=st-superscript>®</sup> model sitting in chair, wearing blue floral dress and yellow sunglasses, holding a fruity drink.

Bra dresses are excellent beach dresses for when you want to ditch your bikini top for the day. Since there’s a bra built right in, you’ll have one less thing to worry about. Either way, you’ll want to wait until you’re fully dry to put on your bra dress so damp spots don’t show through.

What is the Best Dress for the Beach?

Soma<sup class=st-superscript>®</sup> models wearing short blue floral dress, green and blue midi dress, and dark blue floral maxi dress.

The beauty about dresses is that they come in varying lengths. When choosing your ideal beach dress, think about where you’d like it to hit—at your knee, calf, or ankle? As mentioned above, a bra dress in a short, midi, or maxi length is an excellent choice. You can ditch the swim top post swim and not worry about packing a bra.

If you’re attending a beach wedding, you might go for an elegant, one-shoulder sweeping maxi. On the flipside, a casual beach day may call for something shorter and brighter in color.

Choose from a variety of fabrics depending on your preferences. Lightweight wovens will help keep you breezy and soft jerseys have excellent stretch, drape, and don’t wrinkle easily. 

Beach Outfit #3: Shorts + Breezy Tops

If swimsuits and beach cover-ups aren’t your thing—no worries. A simple pair of shorts and a T-shirt or tank top makes a great beach outfit. You can either wear this combo over your swimsuit or with a bra and panties if you don’t plan on removing layers. 

Be mindful of the fabric you choose for your shorts and tops. This is especially important on very hot, sunny days. Look for shorts, like from our Everstretch collection, made from fabric that’s breathable and quick-dry with UPF 30 sun protection.

Soma<sup class=st-superscript>®</sup> model wearing black shorts. Model wearing blue tank top and matching shorts.

You’ll want to choose breezy fabrics on top, like cotton, and it’s always a good idea to opt for lighter colors to keep you cool in the sun. 

How Can I Look Fashionable at the Beach?

If you’re looking to up your beach fashion game, it’s  all about how you style your outfits. The suggested looks above are a great starting point but outfit finishers, like shoes and accessories, are what seal the deal. 

Beach accessories, like a floppy hat, will take your look up a notch but also shade your face from the sun. If big hats aren’t your thing, you can go for a sleek woven visor instead. Look for one that’s easy to roll up and pop into your bag when you’re not using it. 

Soma<sup class=st-superscript>®</sup> models wearing green tropical dress, white sandals, and oversized beach bag. Model wearing white cover-up and wide-brim hat. Close-up of black slide sandals.

Speaking of bags, to create a quintessential beach outfit, you’ll need a cute beach bag. If you’re planning on spending a full day in the sand, the bigger the bag the better. An oversized tote is perfect for holding your sunscreen, towel, and the rest of your beach accessories when you’re in the water.

Lastly, shoes can make or break any outfit so go for a pair of chic sandals. You’ll want a pair that are easy to slip into and kick off like slides with adjustable straps. If you invest in a neutral color, they’ll mix and match with all of your beach wear.

How to Dress for Colder Days at the Beach

As much as we wish every beach day was a perfect seventy five degrees and sunny, that’s not reality. Sometimes the overcast causes a drop in temperature making a chillier day by the sea. With that said, you’ll want to bring an appropriate layer to keep you warm.  

Soma<sup class=st-superscript>®</sup> model wearing a white tank top, black bottoms, and off-white cardigan. Close-up of navy sport jacket.

epending on how cold it gets, you can go for a breezy wrap like a cocoon cardigan that’s easy to take off and put on. Alternatively, a lightweight jacket with wrinkle-resistant properties is easy to stash in your bag just in case. Consider packing light layers like a long-sleeve top and flowy beach pants. They can come in handy when the sun goes down.

Can I Wear Jeans at the Beach?

While you can wear jeans to the beach, they’re not an ideal choice for beach clothes. Denim isn’t the most breathable material and when it gets wet, it gets heavy. Plus, the sand will stick to your jeans like crazy. Are you set on wearing long pants? Instead, opt for wide-leg pants or joggers made from moisture-wicking fabric that’s quick-dry and has UPF 30 sun protection. Soma®’s Everstretch collection checks all of those boxes and are perfect for on the go.