Everyone’s Opinion of Modest Swimwear

Everyone has opinions of what should or should not be considered modest, especially when it comes to swimwear. For some, the girl in the center is not dressed modestly because her legs and neck are showing. Don’t laugh. For many people, including some in the Christian faith, immodest swimwear is a slippery slope. So, how do we as Christian women navigate the muddy waters of modesty when it comes to swimwear?

Many well-intended people have strong opinions on what is considered modest. Some will say that only one-piece swimsuits are acceptable. Others will say that a tankini is reasonable.

Still others might be ok with a modest 2-piece as long as it covers the cleavage and rear completely. (Not talking about bikinis here.) Take the girl on the left, for instance. Her cleavage, hips and rear are covered. So is this modest, or a disgrace? Is showing the belly a lack of discretion? Or does it depend how much of the belly shows?

What if only a couple of inches of the belly shows like in the picture to the right? Is her suit modest or provocative? Are their hard and fast “rules” to what should be considered appropriate for Christians to wear while swimming or not? The answer? Depends on whom you ask. For myself, I’d choose the one on the right but I wouldn’t judge a girl for wearing the one on the left.

Being a modesty advocate, I take these questions seriously. I’ve been applauded and ridiculed for my opinions on modest swimwear–and will continue to be–but I understand why. It is because often times, our “opinions” as Christians are rooted in something other than scripture. They are opinions formed by upbringing and denomination. Clearly the Bible teaches us to dress modestly, but how that looks by the pool is up for debate. Again, I’m not suggesting a girl can wear anything she wants–there should be guidelines. I have mine, and I recommend girls and their mothers and fathers (or a wife and her husband) develop their own.

This discussion will always come down to a heart issue. God knows our hearts and intentions. If our intentions are to draw attention from guys and men, head back to the changing room. We can say whatever we want, but our intentions in wearing what we wear speak volumes.

Opinions are just that, opinions. And since God didn’t lay out the specifics of how swimwear should look on a Christian woman in the twenty-first century, we must really investigate our motives before heading to the beach.

Some Christians are offended at mixed swimming (guys and girls swimming in the same location). Some insist on swimwear that isn’t form-fitting, so it should have an abundance of ruffles. Some will argue that anything other than a one-piece with a built-in skirt is distasteful. Search your heart. Interrogate your intentions and be sensitive to God’s voice. Ask for God’s conviction in this area and be willing to obey. And always, remember to honor your parents or husband.

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38 Responses to Everyone’s Opinion of Modest Swimwear

  1. hi-d says:

    Hi Rachel,

    I heard you on yesterday’s Family Life Today radio program. Thank you for what you are doing! It is so refreshing to see someone like you share this message. We need more of this.

    Blessings!
    Heidi (hi-d)

  2. kaj says:

    I also heard you on FamilyLife and I agree that we need to understand that we will have to let our own convictions and loving input from those who know us well and can shed light on any heart attitudes guide us. I am saddened by some of the attitudes people have shown because they have differences of opinion. For the record, I wear a tankini (I am also tall, much more comfortable) but with a fuller more short style bottom. So, the tankini shown in the blog would not be one I would choose to wear without another bottom or wearing (non-baggy and well fitting) board shorts over it. Likewise I think the swimsuit on the left is not the best choice for a believer. However, this is the point, I don’t think of my other sisters in Christ as less than if they make another choice. You don’t know what is in people’s hearts, you don’t know where they are at in their walk. If you have a close relationship with them and feel that based on what you know about them that you need to lovingly challenge them. Go ahead. But for me to look at a complete stranger ans start getting so specific. Well, I think I just need to spend more of my efforts worrying about dealing with the issues in my own hear. I do agree there are absolute standards as Christians but I also believe in this area it is not always easy to label others.

    I am very grateful for your ministry and support you fully. Thank you.

    • Rachel Lee Carter says:

      Very well said, Kaj. Thanks for your input. And thanks for avoiding the position of judging others. :) God bless you and thanks again for your support :)

  3. Carter-Brook says:

    I really appreciate this ministry. I am 13 years old, and have been a christian for about 8 months. Modesty has always been a difficult area for me, because I have insecurities about how I look. I have been raised in the church, and my parents have very high standerds about modesty. It is very helpful for me to see that a beautiful model can have high standerds about modesty… esspecially when it comes to swimwear. in my opinion, a women should save her body for her husband.I also think that just because you are swimming, you shouldn’t wak around in something that is equivelent to underwear. However, the women on the left could be at an all girl pool party… so you never know. Anyway, thank you again for all you are doing to serve God. This ministry ha definantly helped me!

    • Rachel Lee Carter says:

      Thanks for your message. Keep your standards high. It’s not usually a popular message, but it’s one that has great impact on your life and others’ lives. You can be the one that sets the standard with your friends and at your school. Be a light on a hill, girlfriend…the guys in your life may someday thank you.

    • Gina says:

      Amen, child! The Bible states we are to dress modestly and be as Christ. This includes in every way! I wish to design modest swimwear of a loose fitting Capri pant and a loose modest top with cap sleeves.

  4. lisa says:

    As the mom of 2 boys (now men) and 1 daughter about to be 20, I have struggled with the whole modesty issue for years. I struggle for myself as well. Not that I’m going to be flaunting myself around in mini skirts at age 52, but even the “legging” look with boots, etc. can look a little risque. I think this is a topic that needs to be discussed with both boys and girls/men and women. I see young moms trying so hard to keep their youthful look after they’ve had babies. I’m all for keeping a nice appearance and dressing with fashion in mind, but my philosphy is and what I try to teach is “just because it comes in your size, doesn’t mean you should wear it.” In other words, at some point, (IMO-once you have children at least ) a woman should stop shopping in the Junior Dept…even if she still fits a size 2… But again, maybe that’s just me…
    I love your message! Keep up the good work….letting all women know, no matter their age, that modest is hottest…

    • Rachel Lee Carter says:

      Ha! I love it, and am going to use this…”Just because it comes in your size, doesn’t mean you should wear it.” LOL, Well said! I totally agree. We (and I say we, because I’m a 37 year old mother of two) can dress stylish without looking faddish. Fads come and go as quickly as the magazines can change monthly. But “style” is being current. It’s taste that stands the test of time.
      I also address guys with this issue, because after all, it’s them that is most affected by what a girl chooses to wear. And, since I have two boys of my own, I’m especially cautious about how modesty affects the opposite sex. Great post, thanks!

  5. rachel says:

    i just listened to you on family life today…thank you for sharing your story!
    i love how God is blessing your obedience…i am grateful for your message to please an audience of One…that God sets your standards!
    God Bless your ministry!
    {please come visit michigan soon!}

  6. rebecca says:

    I just heard you on Family life today and really appreciated your story and how committed you are to keeping Christ central in all that you do. I have a 7 yr. old daughter and every summer it is so tough to find appropriate warm weather clothes..for both of us for that matter. Any pointers or websites that you have found helpful would be appreciated! Thanks again.

  7. Phillis says:

    Finding cute but modest suits is a struggle for us. My girls desire to be modest but don’t want to look like a grandmother (or even thier mom!). We often end up wearing shorts over another suit. Do you know where you found the lavendar suit at the end of this post? I think my girls would consider it cute. :)

  8. Ashley says:

    Thanks for sharing your heart about modesty. My heart aches when I see young girls, especially in church, wearing immodest clothing. The bathing suit issue has always been a struggle for me. Not because I don’t want to look modest, but because I tend to be a little more developed than many other women my size (I wear a size 6 in pants but am a 32-34D), I was often harassed and treated like a sex object by boys in high school because of it. I tried very hard, even then, to dress modestly but I also was shy and didn’t really stand up for myself. Anyway, about the swimsuit issue…I think it is important to note that just because a suit is one piece does NOT make it modest. I struggle with this every time I try to find a swimsuit. I was often told that I had to have a one piece for church functions and as a Christian camp counselor so I was forced into finding a modest one piece, which for me especially was not easy. However, I have since learned the beauty of the tankini. The last swimsuit I bought has a nice ruched top that fits me well but is not revealing and bottoms that go up higher on my stomach so nothing shows there. I feel great in this swimsuit, knowing that it looks good but does not make me feel like I’m showing too much.

    • Rachel Lee Carter says:

      Ashely, I couldn’t agree more! I sometimes have the same problem with one-pieces because I have a long torso. And “Long-torso” suits don’t come in my size. When you find a really good swimsuit like the one you’re talking about, but it in every color! :) I have a favorite as well. It’s a one-piece suit from Tara Grinna. It’s the featured suit on this page: http://store.taragrinna-swimwear.com/pallassa/ The great thing about this suit is it can be adjusted at the neck, but still covers the cleavage! And I love the “flaps” of fabric on the sides. It fashionably covers the belly, no need to suck in with this suit! :) Thanks for posting!

  9. Kristine says:

    Hi, I have just discovered your site and love it. I was wondering what you thought about girls wearing bikinis when it is just girls around. We have a pool in our backyard and our 14 yr old daughter wants to be able to wear a bikini when she has friends over. All her friends who come over wear bikinis. I struggle with this for several reasons. First, we have a 12 yr old son who might be around when the girls are here. Or, what if my husband comes home while they are here? Also, I’m just not sure I want my daughter to get “comfortable” wearing a bikini. It is a slippery slope. So, do we just not let HER wear a bikini? Or do we say that when friends come over to swim, they can’t wear a bikini? One reason we wanted a pool was so our kids could have friends over to swim. My daughter says her friends won’t want to come swim if they can’t wear their bikinis. See our dilemma? Or maybe it’s not a dilemma. I would love your feedback.

    • Rachel Lee Carter says:

      Yes, I understand. Maybe this could be a great opportunity to teach the girls about modesty. I wouldn’t want my 11 year old son or my husband to have to be on guard at their own home. Although girls sometimes have a hard time understanding how guys are wired, this might be a good opportunity to teach them how bikinis affect the mind, hormones and heart of a guy. Even the “good” guys. I think it will speak volumes in your defense of your son and husband. If you can’t have their back, who will? Also for your daughter. You may not be able to protect or prevent others’ daughters decisions, but you can protect your daughter. If her friends don’t want to swim at your house because they can’t wear bikinis, then what does that say about these kinds of friends? Try to make this a teachable moment. It’s always the right move to defend your daughter, son and your husband. And I’ll bet after a little pouting, they’ll still want to come swim…and will do so appropriately. Let me know how it goes. You’re doing the right thing.

      • Kristine says:

        Rachel, thank you so much for your reply. As a Mom of a teenage daughter, sometimes I just need someone to keep me accountable. Even though we feel very strongly about teaching our daughter modesty, sometimes it is so hard to stand firm and not let the lines become gray – especially when we are so much in the minority. I pray for God to give me clarity and courage. I’m so glad I found your blog! I’m ordering your book now. God bless you.

  10. Elizabeth says:

    I feel that we as Christians seem to let our guard down when it comes to swimming, why does this activity do that? God calls us to be modest; right? Did He say be modest everywhere but the swimming pool or lake or beach, no He said be modest. We need to stick to what He said and stop trying to twist things around to fit our own ideas. *This is not always easy to do. :o /

  11. Crafty Mama says:

    Personally, I don’t think our swimsuits should uncover anything our regular clothing covers up. It seems like people think that stepping foot on the beach means they can throw modesty out the window, and I know a lot of decent Christian girls who shock me with the bikinis they wear. It doesn’t take much to get a guy’s heart pumping and his mind in the wrong place, and we females need to remember that when choosing our swimwear.

  12. SeaSecret says:

    There is also the jewish modesty to consider, we called it “Tznius”.
    It is not as strict as islamic Modesty, but is equivalent to christian one.
    We will be glad to be listed in your review and to get any comments on our collection.
    Our website:
    Modest Swimwear by SeaSecret.

  13. Sophia says:

    To be honest, I doubt any swimwear can be modest. I’m not a beach lover so I would not exactly know what to recommend. But when you are wearing something so tight and skin-revealing, you will always caused someone to stumble. Reading and listening to different sermons on biblical womanhood and modesty (especially in clothing), I realised somehow, us as women, we are not always aware of how we dress can affect men. That being said, I now live in the Middle East and I have to admit there are times when I look at women wearing their black abaya and envy them. It’s easy to wear and it’s in no way revealing or unfit for a modest women. But in the society we live, that doesn’t profess modesty for women, or at least, what they would consider as modest, really isn’t, what are we suppose to wear? I found it so funny how in the office, during summer, men would wear complete suits as women would be allowed to wear dresses, shorts and sandals. Well, until I find a satisfying answer, this issue isn’t one I’m too vocal about, but at least I practice what I believe to be true.

    Love in Christ

    • Rachel Lee Carter says:

      Thank you for your kind response, Sophia. I admire you for living what you believe and understand that geographical modesty plays a huge role where you live. But I also understand that it penetrates your heart. The Bible teaches in James 4:17, “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” You are obeying your conscience and in turn, the Lord with your reverence. There are differences in generational and geographical modesty. And what I teach is primarily for girls and women living in the 21st century in the West, (because that’s where I am, and this society has more influence on the world than any other.) Thank you so much for your post. I applaud your wisdom and obedience to Christ in your life :)

  14. kaj says:

    Landsend has the cutest modest swimsuits I have seen. They have little swim shorts or swim skirts you can pair with different long tankini tops.
    http://www.landsend.com/ix/swimwear-swimsuits/Swim/Women/index.html?seq=1~2~3&catNumbers=644~645&visible=1~2~1&store=le&sort=Recommended&tab=6&pageSize=72

  15. Kat says:

    Wow, I’m so glad I happened across this blog post. I have been searching and searching for modest swimwear, but I was unable to find what I was wanting (something I could canoe and swim in, but still feel modest). I just looked at the site for SeaSecret posted in the comments and found what I wanted!

  16. JAC says:

    The question doesn’t just apply to women. What is modest swimwear for guys?

    • Rachel Lee Carter says:

      That’s a great question! For men, Modest swimwear for men are NOT speedo’s, they sit above the hips and not super low, and we don’t have to see their underwear hanging out above or being seen through them. What are your thoughts? :)

    • Richard says:

      Something I’d like to know as well. Having done a quick image search for Olympic swimmers (just to see what they wear, as I assumed this would be for performance and practicality) and what do I come across, but some of the male swimmers (presumably) posing in a way which shows off their muscles. Is this modest? I doubt it.

      Personally I still just wear trunks much of the time though prefer shorts these days. I still tend not to wear any thing covering the upper body, though I’ve very little in the way of muscles to show off and plenty to hide!

      I would like it if we could go back to the 1920s, where both men and women wore costumes that covered a reasonable amount without going too over the top (which might be of dubious practicality, though I understand some Muslim women even nowadays wear swimming/bathing attire which covers almost everything- the so-called “burkini”! This has applied to at least one Olympic competitor, too.)

  17. Nelly says:

    Hi Rachel! It’s past 2 @ dawn and I suddenly woke up. With an iPad beside me, I unintentionally clicked on 700 Hundred Club show and there, popped out your slot on Modeling Christ. While watching, the Spirit of God convicted and convinced me to share this to our Church ,relatives , friends and apply for myself and two daugthers As it is written, whatever you do, wether eat or drink, Give GLORY to GOD. I thank the Lord for your ministry and modest life shared to million mothers like me. I speak wisdom, excellent health and overflowing provisions from God straight to your vessel .

  18. Jennifer says:

    Hi I am an 11 year old girl who really wants to fit in. My parents want me to wear modest clothes(which I respect) but sometimes I want to wear things that they aren’t comfortable of. My friend has a backyard that is fenced in and she has a pool. She is wearing a bikini(she is Christian) and so are my other Christian friends. I wear tankinis but I feel that only 5 year olds wear them. I want to find a “modest” bikini for the all girls party if such a thing exists. I want to fit in and be modest. Can you help?

    • Rachel Lee Carter says:

      Hi Jennifer!
      Well, I wear tankinis, and I’m not 5 :) LOL

      Tiny bikini’s do two things: 1. They expose way to much of ones body and 2. It gets a girl used to them and desensitized to how much flesh she shows. If she’s only wearing them among her girlfriends, pretty soon, she’ll be comfortable wearing that same bikini around men and boys. It’s a slippery slope. And it’s kind of hard to imagine at 11, but it will happen. Reputations, testimonies and self-confidence are all at stake. Sweetie, be so thankful that your parents understand this :) Fitting in with your friends is about your friendship and attitude, not what you wear. Be very careful that you never put any of your identity into what you’re wearing :) Talk to your parents more about this. You can trust them on it. Praying for you :)

  19. Genesis says:

    Hi I just want to put out there God bless you for what you’re doing. You’re a great example for Christian women and girls. I am an 11 year old who wants to fit in with all my other friends(from what I can remember even though I have a lot of friends they are all Christians or respect God and how he loves us). My mom is trying to teach me to be modest but not ashamed of how I look. I really want to wear a bikini with my friends(girls only) and I wouldn’t wear it around guys. I understand a womens body is temptation for males and I wouldn’t want to be responsible for them falling for that temptation. I don’t like bikini bottoms(I would wear it with shorts) but my friends mothers let them and just like Jennifer I feel like a baby in a tankini. I think that it is all about your reason why you want to wear a bikini cause not everyone wears them to be “practically” naked.

  20. Julie says:

    While it’s appropriate for a young lady (teenager) to have her heart in the right place regarding modesty, the perverts don’t care where her heart is! And frankly every teenage boy (even the God fearing ones) have out of control hormones that don’t need to be thrown “raw meat” in their eyes. As the mother of three sons, I have to tell you that this is a huge issue for them. They don’t respect girls who call themselves Christians then dress immodestly. and why be a stumbling block to your brother or fodder for the pervs? Girls need to know this. Please tell them how their dress affects all guys. Wearing a long (no belly showing) top with a modest covering on the bottom (i.e.: board shorts) is doing your brothers in the Lord a huge favor. It’s SELFISH to dress otherwise. You can still be trendy and cute. It is doable.

  21. peter says:

    Yeesh, this is a real tough issue here. I was just at the beach and sheesh, I don’t think the word “immodest” really describes what I saw. I’d say flat out tramp city. I don’t know if in todays world you can be totally modest without being thinking your weird or a prude, but personally I think a one piece is the way to go with girls swimsuits. it was strange that i didn’t see even one single one piece on the whole beach. just tough times is all i can say.

  22. Sierra says:

    Hi, I am 17 years old and trying to find out what type of swimsuit I can wear that is still modest. I have been wearing a tankini but it really is not my style and I feel like I’m a bit to old for that… I have been looking at “midkinis” and wondering if they are still modest? They cover a bit more then a bikini (not all but a few I have seen). I have two groups of friends and I want to be able to fit in with both. My church friends wear tankinis and are completely against me getting anything else, and my school friends think its completely weird that I wear a tankini but understand the reason. I want to be able to fit in but still be modest…any advice?

  23. William says:

    I appreciate the focus on the heart. As a dad to three daughters and a leader in a singles ministry, I am too quick to judge or to be frustrated with immaturity. I’m praying for God to give me wisdom as I search for how to teach modesty. I’m also wondering, what are the modesty challenges for men versus women?

  24. Chad says:

    I completely agree with searching your intentions. But my question goes deeper, as a man who is married and has two daughters and a son, myself who struggles with lustfull thoughts and porn. I know exactly what it takes to make me fall into sin. Take for example the deceiving pictures online were all you can see is a crack in skin, for men they instantly think its breasts or a rear but in reality its the front view of an armpit. Women dont understand that all it takes to make men fall into sin is not even 1 inch of cleavage. So in knowing this, what as Christians should we consider modest swim wear. Also I am not the only man that thinks like this or struggles with this other wise the book EVERY MANS STRUGGLE, or EVERY YOUNG MANS STRUGGLE, would not have sold over 3 million copies. As a man who started this struggle at the age of 8 to 10 years of age, women are not only affecting the adults you are affecting young innocent boys. And setting them up for failure in life. The reason I say this is because this struggle for me ways very heavily on my marriage and family. My question to you is what would god tell you is modest? I also believe that as a man I should always wear a shirt and shorts.

  25. Jennifer says:

    Companies that sell sun protective swim wear usually have very cute modest options. I’m partial to rashguards and swim shorts. There are some very pretty tunic style rashguards that would also look good with swim shorts or skirts. When people hear that my swim wear has upf 50 sun protection they don’t think twice about me covering up because of the sun. Some of these people would think I had joined a cult if I told them I was covering up because of the Son. See what I did there? ;P Just google sun protection swimwear. I have particularly liked the Cabana Life brand swim wear.

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