If you're looking for a beach cover-up this summer, you'll come across an array of options, from tunics to kaftans. But the best of them — the most stylish, least expensive and most practical — is a sarong.
A sarong couldn't be simpler. After all, it's nothing more than a large rectangle of fabric that you wrap around yourself and secure by making knots or folds in the fabric. It comes in various styles — including Polynesian, which tends to be flowery and drapey, and Indonesian, which is relatively tailored and looks more like a skirt. If you're over 50, it's best to take the simpler route and choose a fabric with a batik pattern or stripes rather than giant hibiscus flowers. Your goal should be bohemian chic — a look reminiscent of the sarongs that have appeared on the runway of Dries van Noten. You don't want to look like an overage hula dancer.
It's not necessary to purchase something called a sarong. Just find a cotton fabric with a pattern you like, and buy a couple of yards of it — you can even leave the raw edges. If you prefer a finished product, click here and here for some examples. Many of the sarongs you'll find online are made of rayon, which drapes beautifully but doesn't tie as securely as cotton. But whatever fabric you favor, it's best not to buy a sarong with fringe, which tends to interfere with the more sophisticated drapes.
Now comes the (slightly) tricky part — learning to make those folds. Wooden buckles are an easy alternative, but they look tacky and it's much cooler to tie the sarong. This video shows you how. (To go straight to the tutorial, jump ahead to 1:55.) And here's a homemade video in which a man in Bali demonstrates his own method. (He adds a fabric belt to his sarong, but you can skip that part.) This is the real deal — a traditional technique straight out of Indonesia. You can even hear a rooster crowing in the background. —Lola Ehrlich