Suiting Up Modestly

Suiting Up Modestly

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Summer starts tomorrow, and it's time to make those warm-weather clothing choices, particularly a swimsuit (if you plan to swim this summer). Growing up in a conservative Christian home, I was taught that two-piece swimsuits were off limits. But in the 20 years since then, I've noticed a shift. Lots of Christian young women wear bikinis. It's become acceptable. Of course there are still those who hold out on principle, but they may find it hard to understand what's really wrong with wearing a cute two-piece.

A few weeks ago, a blog post called, "The Bikini Question," started showing up on my Facebook newsfeed. I was excited to read the blogger's arguments for choosing a more modest suit, but it was more of a personal testimony (one with which I agree) than hard evidence.

Then this video came to my attention. In it, designer Jessica Rey talks about the history of the swimsuit, how bikinis were created by a lingerie maker (and quite shocking at the time) and how the sight of immodest clothing stimulates the "using" portion of a man's brain rather than the "knowing and respecting" portion. 

Essentially, women present themselves as objects when they dress skimpily. From the accompanying text to the video:

"The evolution of the women’s swimsuit is one place where there has been a visible shift away from modesty. In the current world of swimwear, small is often beautiful and less is considered more desirable. But designer and actress Jessica Rey asks, 'Who says it has to be itsy bitsy?' Rey argues that within the construct of modesty, there is a freedom—that modesty isn't about covering up what's bad, but about revealing dignity." 

I think part of the reason bikinis have become acceptable for Christian women is that we view being bound to one-pieces as giving something up. But Rey emphasizes that in choosing modest swimwear, women reveal their own dignity and help men have a healthier perspective of them. Something to think about as you suit up this summer.

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  • --Personally, I wear a one piece all the time don't view it as giving anything up at all. Then again, I'm a guy, so I'm not sure the same rules apply.

  • --I have two relatively modest once piece suits which I bought because I'm comfortable in them, but I would never begrudge a woman's right to wear whatever she wants. Do you need to be aware of the image you're communicating with your manner of dress? Certainly. But you need to exercise restraint because it is something you believe in, not because it is something that someone has shamed you into doing.

  • --I am actually more comfortable in a two-piece:  swim shorts (from land's end) and a cute halter top (from Lime Riki) which comes down to the shorts.  I dress my daughters in two pieces as well:  bikini bottoms and a sleeved top, as it is easier for going to the restroom.  In other words a two piece swimsuit does not equal a bikini.

  • --Oh, I need that edit button again. It reminds me of an antecdote I heard recently about a fellow with some daughters who lived next door to some evangelical Christians with sons. His daughters would sometimes sunbathe in their back yard, which had a small fence but not a privacy fence. The Father of the sons knocked on the door and asked the father of the daughter if he would ask his girls to stop sunbathing in their yard because his sons found it distracting when they were mowing the law, or doing homework at the table which faced the neighbor's yard. The Father of the daughters said, "Why don't you just teach your sons to focus on their chores and their homework?"

  • --I think the thought that automatically one piece = modest and two-piece = scandalous doesn't apply anymore. There are a lot of two piece suits these days that cover a lot more real estate than some one piece suits.

    Also, if one feels convicted to wear only a one piece suit, fine. But don't try to shame a woman or girl who doesn't share your conviction. People need to spend at least as much time and energy teaching boys to not be creeps as they do telling girls to cover up.

  • --GrinAndBarrett, I think the debate for guys is more along the lines of "trunks vs. Speedo."  :D  

    I definitely agree that it is important to choose a modest swimsuit, and that's something I've always tried to keep in mind when shopping for one.  When I wore a one-piece, I even wore "board shorts" over it to add coverage.

    I also agree with Kellie, though: a two-piece bathing suit isn't necessarily the same thing as a bikini.  I never thought I'd go with a two-piece, but a few years ago I had trouble finding a one-piece that had a modest I tried on a suit that had a shorts-style bottom and a tank top style top.  It was super modest, showed no midriff or cleavage, and the shorts provided full coverage in every other area of concern.  It was also a much more flattering cut for my body shape (in other words, it disguised a lot of figure flaws!)  So yeah, I wear a two-piece, but it's about as far from a bikini as you can get!

    All that to say, be careful when you say that someone is wrong for wearing a two-piece bathing suit.  Just because it comes in two pieces doesn't necessarily mean it's immodest.    

  • --I have no words for how nauseated I am after watching that video. I'm sure Jessica Rey has pure intentions, but this is a textbook example of rape culture.    

  • --I don't mind a two-piece swimsuit, but I can't stand it when it is wire-thin. I may be asexual, but it still hurts my brain to see wire-thin bikinis.

    When it comes to the men, I think that they should stick to trunks as opposed to tights.

    Most of the beaches I like to visit are actually quite cool and cloudy, even in the summer. For those beaches, I recommend bringing a jacket.

  • --One thing I thought about while writing this post was the fact that all women's swimwear could technically be considered immodest. So choosing to wear any swimsuit is choosing to show more than you would, say, going to work, heading to the store or going on a date. Nevertheless, seeking to be as modest as possible in your clothing choices—based on personal conviction and seeking to honor Christ—is a virtue. This is not to say that men are not responsible for how they handle "indecent exposure." But women can certainly help to ease their temptation.

  • --I'm with you Alyson. It stopped just short of, "She's asking for it."

  • --So much I want to say, but can't find the words...this irritates me so much. There are no definitive modesty standards. What the speaker in the video is wearing would have been considered immodest just a few generations ago.

    Who is to say what is modest? Are pants ok? Capris? Really, if we want to be as modest as we claim to want to be, we should be like Muslims and wear full burkas. And why is it only girls who have to cover up? Like at church pool parties, all the girls had to wear one pieces and/or shorts and t-shirts, but the guys could run around with their chests exposed. Always seemed a little unfair. From what I understand of guys, ANY  ounce of skin causes them to stumble, so we really should go back those first swimming costumes she talks about (because we all know it's up to girl to cover herself up and not cause the guy to stumble, it's not the responsibility of the guy to actually control his thoughts or anything).

    I wear a bikini at the beach, because there are a million other girls wearing them and a lot look better than I do, so guys are looking at them (I'm married, so I'm  not wearing it to get attention from men anyway). I wear it because I feel cute in it. If you wouldn't feel comfortable, that is your prerogative.

  • --Like the author, I to have seen that many Christian girls are increasingly dressing in ways that don't appear modest (not limited to swimsuits).  It baffles me, really, because I also see so many young women/ladies who dress well with style, yet sticking to their convictions.

    As far as swimsuits go, I agree that a two piece does not always mean "bikini".  I also have a two piece.  I wear a skirt or board short bottoms and halter top and feel much more comfortable.

    --Concerning guys...I asked my brother "Does a bikini distract you away from thinking Godly more than a one-piece would"? His reply was that, if a guy were to lust after a women, it would happen regardless of weather she was wearing a one or two piece.  Just food for thought;

    Anyway, I guess in all we do, we should think WWJD...yep I'm bringing it back.

  • --Really, my bathing suit is modest. It is a two piece but it is a skort with a tank top style top. It's a scoop-neck but it isn't at all low. My rule of thumb is if it's not modest enough to wear for everyday activities, it's not modest enough. I don't understand why girls think that it's okay to dress less modestly on the beach than to church/etc. I mean come on! Some bikinis are like a lot smaller than my underwear! And that's okay to wear to the beach? I heard some of the "modesty is relevant" arguments, but I ask you, should modesty be relevant? Shouldn't there be some standard for both girls and guys? Truthfully, I would not consider what I wear more scandalous if I went to some Muslime country where all the ladies wear burkhas.  Would I dress even more modestly to avoid trouble/respect their beliefs? Probably. But that doesn't change my standards.

  • --@Joy:

    I have seen that sort of two-piece before, and I think that's fine. In my opinion, it's far better than a bikini.

  • --As a guy, revealing clothing does draw the eye, even regular summer fashions which may be relatively modest. It's worth considering modesty when dressing but I don't like over simplified statements like this one:

    "and how the sight of immodest clothing stimulates the "using" portion of a man's brain rather than the "knowing and respecting" portion"

    Respect is to do with character, not which part of the brain is stimulated. It shouldn't be viewed as a mutually exclusive thing, since that's the logic that has women wearing burkas.

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