What To Wear To The Beach: 7 Beach Outfit Ideas That Go Beyond Swimsuits

What To Wear To The Beach: 7 Beach Outfit Ideas That Go Beyond Swimsuits
Photo: Courtesy of LPA, Norma Kamali, Line & Dot, Adobe. Design: Sasha Purdy/STYLECASTER.

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Warm weather is nearly upon us, folks, which means—if you’re lucky—there’s an ocean or pool in your immediate future. Whether you’re able to visit the sunny shores once in your lifetime or once a week, you’re bound to come across the ultimate conundrum: Other than a cute bikini or one-piece, what outfits do you wear to the beach?! Seriously—This question has bugged me for years.

Sure, we all don swimsuits and sunnies while sitting on the sand, but sometimes, you’re in need of something a little more. For times when you’re unsure of what the hell to wear while leaping away from (or into, depending on the situation) the incoming tides, it’s always best to turn to the experts—by this, I mean the “vacation edits” on sites like Revolve, Nordstrom and Shopbop. Scrolling through countless sites for inspiration can be very time-consuming so I’ve gone ahead and made a comprehensive beach style guide.

From terrycloth sets and breezy button-downs to Instagram-worthy halter dresses, there have never been so many different options for beach attire. Whether you plan on just laying in the sand or posing a pic (or 10) for the ‘Gram, this beach edit will guarantee that you’ll be the best dressed at the shore. All you’ll need to worry about is which sunscreen to pack!

What To Wear To The Beach

1. A Terrycloth Set

Do you remember when the two-piece Juicy Couture terrycloth capri set was everything? Is that too niche? Well only the very best trends come back in style and terrycloth sets is one of them. Terrycloth is the perfect material for the beach because it’s basically just like wearing a towel—any sweat or salt water will be absorbed quickly. Terrycloth also can be dressed down for daytime with casual sandals or spiced up for a fancy dinner with platform shoes. There are so many terrycloth sets available right now from sites like Revolve, Frankies Bikinis and PacSun so you’re bound to find one before you’re bound for the beach.

STYLECASTER | Beach Outfit Ideas

Courtesy of Lovers & Friends.

Lana Crop Top

I love this set because it looks sleek and pulled together when you wear both pieces but the skirt also doubles as the perfect swimsuit coverup!


STYLECASTER | Beach Outfit Ideas

Courtesy of Good American.

Coco Terry Button-Up Shirt

The only outfit easier to plan than a two-piece set is a romper. This adorable one-and-done terrycloth romper from Good American comes in four colors and is available in sizes 0-8.

2. A Mesh Moment

Mesh was made for the beach because it’s honestly not very appropriate for many other settings (and because of the whole fisherman’s net purpose). Mesh is a fun way to create a layered look in hotter temps—you can add a mesh dress over your swimsuit, bralette or if you’re feeling scandalous, nothing at all. The material comes in a variety of knit sizes so you’ll be able to determine how much skin you want to show.

STYLECASTER | Beach Outfit Ideas

Courtesy of LPA.

Lanita Crochet Mini Dress

This tan mini dress is super versatile—you can wear it as a cover-up, a naked dress moment or as a long cardigan layered over a tank top.


STYLECASTER | Beach Outfit Ideas

Courtesy of Zara.

Long Mesh Dress

I’m going to let my personal bias step in because I own this orange mesh dress and love it. I layered mine over a cheeky bikini and felt comfortably covered up when walking through non-beach areas.

3. A Classic Button-Down

A good button-down is a shirt that keeps on giving. The style fits every known aesthetic including off-duty model, coastal grandmother, dark academia and the beach-goer. Whether a button-down could be solid or striped, worn with denim shorts or slacks or stolen from your dad’s closet, it will always look good. For the beach, look for a button-down that’s made out of lightweight fabric, like linen and pair it with vintage-inspired denim shorts.

STYLECASTER | Beach Outfit Ideas

Courtesy of Free People.

Rags to Riches Shirt

This striped button-down’s blue and green colorway will look great next to the ocean. The back of this shirt is longer than the front which makes it ideal for a front-tuck situation.


STYLECASTER | Beach Outfit Ideas

Courtesy of Universal Thread.

Boyfriend Fit Linen Button-Down

This breezy linen button-down from Target is only $20 and comes in six colors. It’s available in sizes XS-4X.

4. A Lightweight Knit

Move over sweater vests, I’m crushing on the sweater dress. It may seem counterintuitive to wear knit sweater material to the beach, but the finely woven material will make you feel (and look) cool. Knit dresses are all about texture which will complement the grains of sand you’ll feel between your toes. They can be long sleeve, cut-out or trimmed with fringe so there’s not a single way to nail this style. The best part about a knit dress is that they’re also a great option to wear to a beach wedding.

STYLECASTER | Beach Outfit Ideas

Courtesy of Line and Dot.

Megan Wrap Dress

This chartreuse wrap dress will look even better with a tan. While the overall shape of the dress is simple, the back has fun criss-cross detail and the side slit keeps it flirty.


STYLECASTER | Beach Outfit Ideas

Courtesy of Zara.

Knit Peter Pan Collar Dress

Caption idea: gilded glamor takes the beach? I’m kidding. This peter pan collar dress is a unique take on the knit trend and features a slightly-sheer trend as well.

5. A Versatile Scarf

It’s time to pull up the TikTok video you saved about 100 ways to tie a scarf. A large scarf can either be the ultimate beach outfit or accessory. Depending on the size, you can tie it around your waist, twist it into a top or tie it around your head. Scarves also take up virtually no room in your suitcase so they’re an easy way to maximize your packing room and outfit options. I love mixing and matching scarf patterns and tying a small scarf around my bag to match my outfit.

STYLECASTER | Beach Outfit Ideas

Courtesy of Norma Kamali.

Oversized Silk Bandana

This oversized bandana scarf from J.Crew is the perfect example of a scarf that can be worn in a multitude of ways. Wear it as a strapless top with baggy jeans, cargo pants or a mini skirt and pair the look with strappy heels.


STYLECASTER | Beach Outfit Ideas

Courtesy of J.Crew.

Ernie Scarf

There are two ways to look at this option—it’s either an expensive scarf or a reasonably priced dress. The good news is that you can wear it as both! Wrap this one by Norma Kamali around your shoulders on the plane and then wrap it around your waist when you get to the beach.

6. A Halter Dress

Halter tops had their moment and now it’s time to take things up a notch with a halter dress. In my opinion, a halter is one of the most universally flattering silhouettes—the high neck is elongating and everyone looks good when they have a little extra shoulder to shimmy. Plus, it’s a great silhouette to wear for the beach if you want to get a little sun (just make sure to layer on the SPF). Wearing a strapless bra to the beach is annoying so use the halter dress as an opportunity to let loose (if you get what I mean).

STYLECASTER | Beach Outfit Ideas

Courtesy of Eloquii.

Halter Neck Maxi Dress

I love the groovy print of this bodycon maxi dress from Eloquii. It will look just as good at a swanky bar as it will at a beach cabana. It’s available in plus sizes 14-28.


STYLECASTER | Beach Outfit Ideas

Courtesy of BCBGeneration

Floral Halter Neck Dress

Florals aren’t just for spring, they’re for summer too! This floral halter dress would be perfect for a beach wedding or a nice dinner. Plus, the straps are attached to the back of the dress so you won’t need to worry about a skinny halter tie hurting your neck.

7. Full-On Fringe

If you’re a “pics or a didn’t happen” kind of gal (like I am), you know how important it is to have a ‘Gram ready outfit for every occasion. Fringe is going to be one of the biggest trends this summer and there’s no better place to wear it than on the beach. I’m personally excited to go big with the trend and wear fringe sets and full-length dresses.

STYLECASTER | Beach Outfit Ideas

Courtesy of ASOS Design.

Tiered Fringe Beach Mini Dress

This lime green dress is begging to be paired with a margarita and a night of dancing on the beach. This flirty dress also comes in light pink.


STYLECASTER | Beach Outfit Ideas

Courtesy of Beach Bunny.

Haute Summer Top

If a day party is on your calendar (or there’s a chance for a spontaneous party), this strapless fringe top should be at the top of your packing list. Don’t forget to buy the matching skirt.

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