Not long ago, Shari Riehl took her young nieces to the Bahamas as a graduation present. She was having a blast until she had the thought, “Am I gonna have to put a bathing suit on?!” She went around to different shops, trying to find pieces that would look right but also jibe with the beach life. “I got a pair of bicycle shorts and a little skirt and I wore a tank top,” she says. “Somebody saw me and said, ‘That is really cute.’ That’s where the thoughts about my project really took off.”
Guided by the certainty that women need something they can wear right from the beach to dinner, Shari created the SugieWogie SwimDress. “You even may want to go dancing in it,” she says.
We chatted with Shari about her swimwear and her philosophy: “Why try to fit in when you’re born to stand out?” she says, quoting from the movie, What a Girl Wants. “I’ve always wanted to be my own unique self, and I think that’s so important for every woman. You can follow a trend, but put your own stamp on it.”
What inspired you to create the SugieWogie?
Most women love clothing, but they hate swimwear. When it comes to swimsuit season, they’re dreading putting their swimsuits on. I wanted to create something that women could look forward to wearing and buying.
What were you doing before starting SugieWogie?
I owned an interior decorating business, which I ran for the past twenty years. But I’ve had a love for fashion since I was a little girl.
Why hasn’t the fashion industry come out with something like this sooner?
Maybe because men were designing and they like to see more of a women’s body? I don’t know.
It’s amazing how the bikini has become “normal” swimwear. It’s no different than underwear! The SugieWogie seems to address that.
When I was younger I didn’t mind wearing my bikini. But as you grow older, your body changes, and you want to be a little more modest and not advertise your flaws.
A lot of women know that as soon as they put their swimsuit on, they’re going to feel very conscious of their bodies. And they’re grabbing a cover-up of some sort.
I thought, we need to find something that gives women confidence when they’re heading to the pool—that will make them feel elegant and classy.
How did you come up with the name?
It’s what my father called me since I was a little girl. I wanted a name that would reflect me and the garment. When you say it, it makes you smile—it’s not uptight. That’s how I am--creative confidence with a sense of humor.
We like the models on your site.
We used real women, from 20 to 50. We didn’t alter their bodies in any way. That’s another thing that’s important to me – using real people. I really loved the Dove ads. We need to use images of real people because it’s hard to achieve perfect. There is no perfect.
It’s funny how fashion used to be so modest. Then we went completely in the other direction – super exposed. Seems like you’re finding a middle ground.
Even the spring fashions coming out now are more ladylike. The retro look is in. This fits with that. But it’s updated.
And this has shapewear in it, so it does help shape your body. There’s such a big market for shapewear. And it won’t cling to every flaw.
What’s it like in the water?
It’s fine. It’s not performance swimwear—it’s elegant swimwear. This is something you’ll swim around in a little bit, then towel off and be absolutely fine and ready for the next thing. If you want performance, wear your Speedo.
Are you married?
What’s your husband’s name? Does he like the SugieWogie?
My husband Ben loves it. He’s the one who really encouraged me. He said, “Are you gonna just talk about this, or do it?”