On Memorial Day, swimming pools and beaches open for the season. It's an occasion for sun-worshipers to assess their beachwear, digging it out from the depths of dresser drawers. That desire to make a style splash at the shore is nothing new. To celebrate the arrival of beach season in 1950, LIFE’s Nina Leen photographed that season’s trends for women: strapless and halter-top swimsuits, “pirate pants” drawn from fashions of the French Riviera and island-inspired straw hats. Thighs were in and midriffs were out, as simple suits allowed accessories the spotlight. As for the age-old one-piece versus two-piece debate? LIFE had the scoop: “The two-piece suit in general is running a poor second this summer.”
Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter @LizabethRonk.