Thursday, May 22, 2008

Modest Swimwear: Some Thoughts

Well, Memorial Day is next Monday, and one thing that marks the season is that this weekend, the city pools open. We live a block away from a very nice pool, so one thing our family always does is purchase a family pool pass. We always get more than our money's worth and it gives the kids a nice chance to exercise.

One of the things I'm very interested in, personally as a woman, and as a mother, is modesty. And it is very very difficult to mesh the two thing: Swim wear, and modesty.

I always wonder why the presence of a pool or a large body of water suddenly makes it socially OK for people to wear less than what would be covered by their underwear. Personally, I hate wearing a swimsuit. Yes, I'm fat, so nobody is checking me out for being a hottie or anything like that except for maybe the nasty 65 year old men who like fat "younger" women. But I'd like to think that I'm mature enough and modest enough that even if I were a "hottie" that I'd have enough of a sense of privacy that I'd be modest even then. In other words, I'm not modest because I'm fat or embarrassed about my body. I'm modest because of what's on the inside. And what's mine is mine.

But this brings up the question: What is a modest swimsuit? A hot debate, I'm sure, and one that each person who desires to be modest gets to work out for themselves.

As for myself, I think I'd like a long sleeved shirt on top, for the sun-protection factor. I hate schmearing on sun screen.

Is it something that covers you from head to toe, like the burqini?

Is it something sporty, UV protecting, and tight, like the sun-protecting swimwear at Follow the link and see that this site also offers swim leggings of varous lengths, along with several style swim jackets and tops.

Something in between like this gear from Hydrochic? (Click around on this site for a variety of looks.)

Or is it the plain ol' tank suit from a place like Land's End?

Does anything with some sort of "skirt" attachment qualify, even though it shows a mile of cleavage?

Or does one have to go the "extra mile" and make something homemade, or buy something multi-layered such at the outfits at wholesomewear?

Or, I could sew something myself.

I suppose it all comes down to what an individual is comfortable with. And I've been doing lots of thinking on the subject. And it boggles the mind. Some of the styles really do make me want to shudder. Why do I have such a negative reaction, when I'm fully supportive of the idea? And some, like the outfit from Wholesomewear , I just know would billow up and get waterlogged and be difficult to move about in.

What's really really interesting, though, is that as I've been cruising around on the internet I've consistently come across so very many comments by people just utterly derisive of people wanting to be modest. Now, why is that? Why should anyone care whether or not 80% of someone's breasts are showing OR NOT? It's almost like, in some people's minds there's this idea that in order to be "free", a person has to show off her body. Religious modesty is also mocked. It seems that not much respect is given to those who want to defy culturally endorsed poolside near-nakedness.

Not that I, or anyone else interested in modesty, really gives a flip what others think. It's just that it seems to me like members of an "enlightened"society would live and let live.

And the other thing I'm wondering is: Why is "American Christian modesty" always so much aesthetically less pleasing (at least to my eye) than jewish or islamic attempts at modesty?


Veiled Glory said...

I would feel comfortable in a long-sleeve sun protection shirt with a bike short & skirty combo. I don't actually swim so I would just be splashing around a pool or playing in the sand.

More fabric than that would probably make me feel like I would get dragged under.


Alana said...

I think that's what I'm leaning towards, as well. I'm waffling between what is at and what is at hydrochic. Wish I could find a sewing pattern for such, but so far, all I can find is really ugly stuff at the link I provided. (Well, it wouldn't be so ugly if I had a cuter that, I mean, a waist.)

Of course, I could design something myself. It would not be a big stretch.

Amber Lee said...

It really is a mindset thing! Example, I grew up a runner. I've ran competatively since I was seven. When you put me in a running situation, my thoughts about clothing becomes "How restrictive is this? Can I feel it? Will it rub? Will it slow me down?" I wear as little clothing as possible because that's what I'm use to since being a wee one, and I feel heavy and burdened in tshirts and shorts. Even "running shoes" are too heavy. I need trainers or spikes!
But put me in a bathing suit and I hate it! I don't swim. I can't. I can barely not drown. We had to swim every Monday morning for Cross Country in college. I always wore a sports bra and a pair of athletic shorts. My teammates would usually wear string bikinis and a few were actual swimmers and had racing suits. I was very aware of my body, unlike when I was running.

On the other hand, I don't think I could wear something like from that wholesomewear shop. Anything that resembles a jumper to me always makes me think a woman is ashamed of her body. Jumpers just creep me out. I don't like to stand near women in jumpers. I'm afraid they'll try to convert me to something.
Once again though, personal experience ;)

Maggie said...

I'd never be derisive of someone wanting to be modest. For the past few years I've been fat but before that I had a 1950s voluptous figure and I know how AWFUL it is to be eyed up and down. Still I think that Edwardian bathing suits take it too far, you know, if modesty is supposed to be about not attracting attention to oneself. Too many frills and furbelows are their own kind of immodesty. I try to go for the plainest, most practical high school (my generation) gym teacher look. I have to say though I prefer the ones that - can't think of a modest way of phrasing this - cover the "vee". If you can avoid that and avoid cleavage you're pretty well okay, I think, and a flowery rubber cap is - let's hope - a lust-killer. It sure should be.

Alana said...

The comment about the flowery rubber cap being a lust-killer made me LOL. Too funny, and too true! Too bad we can't really find those in the USA, but I remember them well from my childhood in Switzerland, where you could go to the poor topless, but that rubber cap was required by pool rules.

Theodora said...

Interesting remark about Christian modesty (I assume as practiced in modern America) being much less aesthetically pleasing than Islamic or Jewish modesty. I wonder if it's because there is "history" behind the more middle Eastern dress that our young nation just lacks.

I've been wishing for years that the Indian salwar kameez would come into real fashion in America. (I wear them sometimes but always feel like I'm in costume.)

Anonymous said...

I thing it what you feel comfortable in. It really doesn't matter what other people think as long as you are comfortable in it. We moved to an apartment complex that has a pool. Me and my modest suit are going to be there as often as possible.
Another lust killer is to wear the rubber nose plugs along with the pink plastic swim cap.

elizabeth said...

i hear you... a lot of what is worn now days makes me squirm just seeing it. SIGH.

Caldonia Sun said...

I think you should wear what you feel comfortable and modest in. I am a swimmer, love being in the water and doing laps. I taught all my children to swim and we had summer pool passes, too. I had a reasonably good figure and was always comfortable in a modest, one piece suit that allowed freedom of movement. Yes, I was aware of looks from some men, but the alternatives were not acceptable: either to never go swimming or wear something that draws more attention because you appear so different. That justwholesomewear stuff is not attractive and would be mighty uncomfortable for lap swimming! It Figures (and some other companies) make some lovely, modest suits that I would be comfy in.

Liz in Seattle said...

Junonia's got some good stuff for plus sizes. I like the rash guard shirt/boy short combo. Also, black is very slimming, especially w/a colored top.

IMHO, skirts don't matter once they're wet...they cling just as much as regular suits.

I'm thinking about starting swimming laps again, so my one-piece high neckline w/bike shorts might not work (any thoughts would be helpful!). It's a big pain to put back on after running to the loo! But I love bike shorts in general.

Jennifer said...

I know a brother in Christ who is really unable to think out of the box on this issue. He wanted my opinion of the Wholesome Wear site and I told him I thought the suits were ugly. He thought I was being unreasonable. But we have two opposing ideas of what it means to be modest. To him, modesty means, "Cover as much skin as possible." To me, modesty is about moderation.

For example, this brother simply does not want to consider that a neckline which exposes one's collarbone really can be modest in the grand scheme of things. We all know that one of the ways in which we can minimize the appearance of a large bust is to elongate the neck. I often wear scoop-necked shirts to minimize my bustline. If I cover my collarbone, my bust appears much more pronounced. I would never wear any bathing suit that does not expose my collarbone for this reason. For me, modesty is not about covering skin. It's about exercising moderation by minimizing the parts of my body that really are sensual. After all, I never once overheard a man say, "Dude, check out the collarbone on her!"

*sigh* Thanks for letting me blow off a little steam!

modest said...

I just came across this blog and found it very interesting indeed.

Dania G said...

I think your modesty endeavour is admirable. I am a 23 yr old, thin, newlywed young lady, and I am on a similar quest. I feel comfortable with a long-cut tankini and skirted/shorts bottoms. I found some great options at Lime Ricki. My friends have poked fun at my "modest wear". I'm appalled! What is wrong with choosing to show respect for my husband, by covering up what other men should not see?!?!? Women everywhere should be choosing to develop more self-respect by clothing our bodies in a way that displays our intelligence, inner beauty, etc first. :)