What is a Cover-Up?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 04 January 2020
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A cover-up is a lightweight garment designed to be worn over revealing outfits such as bathing suits. A cover-up can be worn to the beach or to an informal social event, and is used primarily to bridge the gap between being fully dressed and wearing a bathing suit. Both men and women can wear cover-ups, although women tend to wear them more than men. Many stores which carry bathing suits and accessories for tropical destinations sell cover-ups.

Since a cover-up is designed primarily to be worn over a bathing suit, the assumption is that it will be worn in warm weather. Subsequently, cover-ups are made from lightweight fabrics which do not offer very much warmth to the wearer. Cotton is the most common choice of material, since it takes dye readily, can be easily washed, and will not be damaged if it is worn over a damp bathing suit.

In many cases, traditional garments from tropical cultures are used as cover-ups. The most common example is the sarong, also known as a pareo. A sarong is made from a single large rectangle of fabric which can be wrapped and tied around the waist, or wrapped and tied around the neck to create a casual dress. These garments are usually brightly colored and decorated with tropical themes.


Long shirts, caftans, and casual dresses are also designed for use as cover-ups. Many swim wear companies sell accessorizing cover-ups for their products, so that women can coordinate their layers. Some of these garments are made from heavier, more opaque fabrics, to help protect the skin from the sun.

Many people wear a cover-up to the beach or pool, to avoid getting sand on regular clothing. Once by the water, the cover-up can be left on or taken off, depending on whether or not the wearer is cultivating a tan. While swimming, the cover-up is removed. After getting out of the water, it is generally advisable to allow the bathing suit to dry before putting the cover-up back on, to avoid the sensation of damp fabric against the body.

In the tropics, a cover-up may be acceptable wear at a casual party, especially if it is being held on the beach or near a pool. Guests who are not sure should ask the host, to avoid embarrassment. Cover-ups can also be seen in resort towns located near the beach, as people may throw a cover-up on to run to the store or do a few errands.


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