"The colors are hot but fresh-looking," Rachels says.
Retro looks also are resurfacing, says Jim Gerson, general manager of junior swimwear for Jantzen.
Styles from the '50s, '60s and '70s are popular, including Hawaiian prints on textured fabrics, Gerson says. Prints are reminiscent of those found in vintage shops.
Other comebacks include "flower power" optical prints and plastic "wet looks," as well as zippers, piping and plastic accents.
The remakes are fun for kids because they're something different, he says.
"This is all new to them," he says.
Hip-hugging micro shorts, similar to the hot pants of several decades ago, and triangle tops are two of the hottest looks this season, Gerson says. Both are featured in Jantzen's Electric Beach line.
Halter tops are popular both in one- and two-piece suits this year, says Greg Lutchko, a spokesman for Ocean Pacific.
The junior swimwear collection is showing a two-piece halter suit in bright red, green and purple, trimmed in white, which adds to the mod look.
Ocean Pacific, which is marking its 25th year, is featuring fabrics with texture. Stretch corduroy creates soft, supple suits, while denim is updated with tiny puffed daisy clusters.
For young men, classic surf styling is popular, including board shorts that tie at the waist, Lutchko says.
Boys ages 7 to 10 also like the surfer look and will be wearing jams that stop at the knee or just above, Rachels says. Lands' End is offering a number of nautical looks, including ships, flags and stripes.
What they want
Research shows that young women first look at color, followed by print, styling, size and price, Gerson says.
Most will try on several suits before deciding which to buy, he says.
Jantzen's target consumers are young women ages 15 to 23. The company, based in Portland, Ore., surveyed 2,000 of them this year to learn their swimsuit preferences.
They know right away if a suit is their style, he says.
"Either they love it or they hate it; they have a definite opinion," he says.
Most want a color that looks good with their skin tone and a silhouette that suits their figure, he says.
"These kids want the whole package," he says. "It has to have the right look."
The average girl in the survey owned 3 1/2 suits and planned to buy 1 1/2 more, he says. Twenty percent of those surveyed owned more than six suits.
Swimwear designers do consider children's suggestions, Rachels says.
After receiving letters from girls who wanted black swimwear added to the Lands' End line, the company based in Dodgeville, Wis., included a black Tricot tank suit.
Today's swimwear often does double duty as sportswear, and the micro short trend is a good example, Gerson says. The wearer can put a T-shirt on over the suit, and she has an athletic look.
Comfort is important, as teens need to be able to move in the suit, he says.
"They want to play volleyball, run around, swim and be active," Gerson says. "They're not just sitting there."
Fit is a big deal to kids, Rachels says.
Look for straps that don't fall down, and fabric with a four-way stretch, she recommends.
"Nothing is more embarrassing or bothersome than a suit that is see-through or baggy," she says.
When ordering from a catalog, follow the sizing chart to get a correct fit, Rachels says. Take the child's height, waist, chest and hip measurements.
A suit that is too small is uncomfortable, so if a child is between sizes, it's best to buy the larger suit, Rachels says.
She says swim accessories can make the pool or beach experience a safe one.
One possibility is a water shoe that protects children's feet from hot sand and from slipping on lake and river bottoms.
Young children should wear hats to protect their faces and scalps from the sun, and use plenty of sunblock.