Swimming Modesty

When anyone discusses modesty invariably the conversation eventually goes to swimming. Why? Because most feel that it is impossible to swim modestly. I agree and disagree.

I agree that it is practically impossible to swim modestly because if you are in any kind of public area be it the beach or a pool you tend to have any number of immodest people around exposing themselves with abandon. No matter how modestly you or your family are dressed, very rarely are the other swimmers dressed modestly.

But it is possible for families to dress modestly themselves for swimming. I am surprised at the women who think they would never be immodest but yet when swimming they choose what is deemed by the world as a “modest” swimsuit. By the world’s definition of modest, this means a one-piece swimsuit that is not high on the thighs, low in the chest area or open in the belly or back. That is what most would deem a modest swimsuit today.

But think about it, it is that really modest?

Does modesty change according to location?

Why do we excuse certain attire for the beach when we would never, ever want to walk around in public like that?

Why is it acceptable to wear “colored underwear” in public?

My family strives to be modest and yet enjoy swimming at the beach and pool.

There are two portions to our modesty.

We strive to be modest with our eyes.

What this means is we avoid as much as possible environments where there will be large amounts of immodest people. That means we won’t be swimming at European beaches since topless swimming is still practiced in some areas. We also would not be swimming in public pools in France since tight swimsuits and swim briefs (think Speedos) are required for public swimming.

Since my family is very fair skinned and skin cancer is thus always a risk, we use lots of sunscreen. Nevertheless, I have also learned that if I take the kids out very early in the morning we can swim for a few hours without so much of a risk of sunburn. So we tend to swim until 10:00 or 11:00 AM, still with sunscreen on. Then we might head to an indoor pool for a while, if available, or head inside. Then later that day we will head out again around four to five PM and swim until dark or later.

It turns out this schedule has an added benefit. Seems the more immodestly you dress the more likely you are to be out at noon until around four. Sleeping late and a late breakfast delays many from being out early and then by four or five everyone starts heading in to dress for supper. I guess also the more immodestly you dress the more you want others to see you, thus you aim for the peak crowd time.

We strive to be modest ourselves.

Since we must worry about sun burning, my children have always worn a t-shirt or some type shirt when swimming. It saves on sunscreen costs and time (lathering up seven people takes a while!). So the boys wear long swim shorts (board shorts) that are thankfully in style and easier to find now. They also wear a t-shirt, either a regular t-shirt or the newer types that the material doesn’t hold water. An added benefit is to have them all in bright colors (orange, green) so that I can easily spot them. 🙂

The girls when young wear regular one-piece swimsuits with shorts and a t-shirt. My oldest daughter and I wear regular swimsuits and beach cover-up like pants and shirts. My daughter actually made her own swim pants from a tight mesh material in royal blue and cut from a Capri pants pattern. They have lasted her a couple of years already. My pants are bought beach cover pants from white heavy lace type material. Both of us wear three quarter length sleeved shirts made from lightweight gauzy material. I have had total strangers come up and ask where I got my shirt from. One was handmade but should have been slightly heavier material thus less clingy when wet and the other was just a bought ladies white summery shirt.

We don’t have problems swimming in the pants and shirts nor have my children even when teens thought it was strange to dress that way. The boys would never swim without shirts. Why cook your back and shoulders if you don’t have to? The girls enjoy not having to get sunscreen in all the little gaps in the typical swimsuit.

Although many public pools even in the US will require swimsuits and not street clothes, never have we had a problem with swimming as we are normally dressed to swim.

There are several companies that make modest swimsuits. I haven’t found any that I liked enough to make it worth the price and so far, our method seems to work well for us.

Two things I have learned though:

~ White tends to stain over time with sunscreen use. I prefer white myself, but it does not last as long.

~ Check the material. Don’t use heavy cottons. Sport like material is better and less clingy. I wish I could better name the type materials that work best.

History of Women’s Swimwear

Modest Clothing Directory

HydroChic Water Sportswear


Modest Swimwear


4 thoughts on “Swimming Modesty

  1. Pingback: Carnival of Modesty for October 16th 2010 : Is This Modest?

  2. I found your website this morning
    Thank you for posting this. This subject has been much talked about between my husband and myself for the past 2-3 years. I think the things we are mos struggling with is if we go to the beach and how to best talk about it to our families. They definitely view swimwear as something totally seperate
    Also, i teach the highschool/ college girls one night a week in our congregation and am.trying to approach this subject with them ( most all are on swim team and a few are lifeguards)

  3. (Didn’t mean to push submit just yet) thanks for any insight you could give me on the subject. I think it is hard for us because not everyone thinks of modesty as a very real issue.
    In Him, Amber

    Berean Wife Reply:


    This is an area that can cause a lot of backlash with unsaved family members. Often though I’ve had good discussions with other believers. Most though are unwilling to change their swimsuit ways either because it is too difficult, it is too embarrassing to look different, and/or their teens would never agree to it. Until the Lord changes their heart there is not much you can do beyond kindly discussing the issue.

    For your teen girls I would suggest going through Carolyn Mahaney’s “Modesty Heart Check” by Carolyn Mahaney. That might even work into a several week study as you help young ladies look at their clothing and attitudes with modesty.

    Berean Wife

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