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The Perfect Swimsuit
Kimberly Blair

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Cynthia Del Marco

After years of searching for the perfect-fitting bathing suit, Cynthia Del Marco began to believe such a notion was nonsense.

So she settled on what she could find at tourist shops in Destin. That was until about a year ago, when she walked into Tropique Fashion Swimwear to use one of the tanning beds and met the owner, Sophie Longmire, who is also a swimsuit designer.

“Sophie said, ‘Let me make you a bathing suit,’ ’’ the 37-year-old Milton resident said.

Del Marco scoffed at the idea at first, but Sophie persuaded her by offering the suit free if she didn’t fall in love with it.

“It fit like a glove,’’ she said. “My husband was over the moon.’’
Now Del Marco has a collection of about 20 custom-made swimsuits designed by Sophie and made in her shop at the corner of Belmont Street and Ninth Avenue.

Since launching her business in the garage of her West-side Pensacola home in the 1980s, Longmire has created collections for Hawaiian Tropic, Fredericks of Hollywood, Cigarette Racing Boats and Panama Jack. She’s out-fitted many contestants of bikini contest and beauty pageants.

But the core of her business is catering to everyday women who want to look their best for a day of boating or sunbathing. Faster than you can untie a string bikini, Sophie has you sized up and knows exactly what style and size suit is best for you.

“I’ve never met anyone that I could not look at and know exactly what size they wear,’’ said the Moroccan-born Sophie. She can cut the styles generous or skimpy for a better fit.

Jenny Franklin, the shop’s top model who organizes bathing suit shows, said Sophie is honest with customers. “She’ll tell you what cut looks good and what doesn’t.”

Del Marco said the first suit Sophie made for her was a style she would not have considered, but it ended up being a perfect fit.

Customers chose from dozens of different types of material in the season’s latest colors and patterns that are stocked in the sewing room. This year’s hot colors? Neutral and earth tones. The European-cut bottom, which is worn low, but not as low as a hip hugger, is one of the most popular styles this year. Sophie said it can be worn by women of all body types and ages. Fuller-figured women usually look better in the Brazilian cut bottom, which covers more of the abdomen and hips, but is cut high on the thigh for a sexy look. Thinner, younger women look great in a hip hugger.
Custom suits are priced from $110 and up. This year, Sophie will have a larger inventory of ready-to-wear suits starting at $69 and that come in two lines: Tropique, an elegant line embellished with beading and crystals; and NoTSO, a brand name her business partner Dr. Randall Brown dreamed up.

“NoTSO is Not Totally Stressed Out,’’ said Brown, an oral and maxillary surgeon. “It’s the name of my boat.’’
He and Sophie decided to put the brand on her line of brightly colored, fun suits that can be worn while boating, or enjoying a pool party or a day of volleyball at the beach.

Lindsey Smith, a 21-year-old University of West Florida student and model, has been buying custom-made suits from Sophie for years. “I love them because I feel confident that I’ll be the only one with the suit,’’ she said. “They are unique, and I think it’s neat to come in and see what Sophie has made.’’

Tropique Fashion Swimwear:
Where: 824 East Belmont St
When: Hours: Monday – Friday,
10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Details: For details call 437-8183 or log on to www.tropiqueswimwear.com

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