Modest Swimwear at the Beach

The Bible says women are to be modest (1 Timothy 2:9). Does that exclude the beach? Is it okay to wear a typical one-piece or even a two-piece swimsuit if the context involves water? Let me phrase the question another way: When is it ever okay to let men other than our husbands have a peek at our breasts and bottoms?

If you wouldn’t feel comfortable going to the store in just your bra and panties, or even in a dress slip, why would you want to go around anywhere else in what covers essentially as little? Does the context really matter so much, or is that just what people say to make themselves feel better about their immodesty?

In my opinion, modesty is important no matter where we are; a man can struggle with his thoughts just as much when he sees a woman in a one-piece at the beach as when he sees a girl come out of the changing room half-naked. Breasts and crotches are not suddenly fit for public appearance because we’ve stepped out of the grocery aisle and onto the sand. No matter where we are, we as believers in Jesus must obey His command to be modest the best that we can while still being practical. It is possible to be both at once.

During a recent beach outing, I wore this husband-approved outfit:

It was short enough to not get wet when I leaned over to dangle my baby’s feet in the waves, and long enough to cover my upper legs, with shorts underneath. I wore a top under the dress so that my bust would not be revealed; as I look back at our beach photos I realize it wasn’t snug enough to keep it from gathering up under my dress. Next time I will either wear a different undershirt, or get a different dress.

Even though my beach outfit was not made of swimwear material, that wasn’t an issue for me since I didn’t plan on getting wet, anyway. In the future, I do think I would like to look into modest swim dresses made especially for the water.

My goals when choosing an outfit were pretty simple:

  1. The dress had to cover me at least to my knees.
  2. I needed a dress that wasn’t too tight (and that didn’t make me look fat).
  3. It had to be fairly easy to nurse in.
  4. It shouldn’t cost too much money.

All in all, I think I spent about $12 on the dress, maybe $10 on the shorts, and I already had the undershirt. So, $22 for a modest beach outfit isn’t too bad.

I realize that we have different standards of modesty; some people may not think my outfit conservative enough, while others may think I went too far. However, it seems obvious to me that whatever outfit we choose, it should at least cover our privates in such a way that they will not be readily visible to others. Tight material is almost just as bad as taking it all off and going stark naked, since you can see nearly as much. In fact, in might just be worse, since it gives a tantalizing peek at the forbidden while leaving just enough unseen to excite the imagination.

For more information, I strongly recommend the following book on how the swimwear industry influenced our society’s gradual decline into immodesty:

Christian Modesty and the Public Undressing of America, by Jeff Pollard

In addition, you might find these modest swimsuit sites helpful:

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What principles do you think are important to keep in mind when going to the pool or the beach? Can you quote any helpful Bible verses? Have you found a great modest swim outfit that you just love? Please, do share!

~Jessica

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31 thoughts on “Modest Swimwear at the Beach

  1. When my son was a little boy,I took him to beach and pool several times in summer. I always wore one piece swimsuit with loose T shirt and short denim pants which conceal my knees.
    I did not swim,just watched and played with him,so the style had no problem for me.if I wanted to swim,I think I chose Lycra.

    Sadly it is difficult to find modest but feminine swimsuit in Japan.Lycra covers your body,but not so feminine.
    But I think that christian lady should be careful not to show off her body.Photos on this article make me feel happy.I think that you are really good mom,thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comment, Sanae! It was so encouraging to me to hear how you covered up at the pool with a T-shirt and jeans over your swimsuit. It’s a challenge to find ways to be modest when it comes to the pool or beach. But it helps to learn from other people! Another thing my husband and I have learned, is that we don’t always have to go to the pool for our children to have fun. There are plenty of ways to get out and have fun that don’t involve water.
      Thanks,
      Jessica

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  2. Thanks for this, swimwear is a big problem for me and I think for a lot of Christian women especially when you have children who want to go to the beach or pool.

    For me the real issue is balancing modesty (coverage) with modesty (not standing out too much). My answer has been to wear a modestly cut one piece swimsuit, covered by a dress or towel unless I am either lying down (on the beach) or in the water. Even that makes me feel very conspicuously ‘modest’ by European standards.

    But your phrase “husband approved” struck a real note because my husband has said that he doesn’t believe it is appropriate to show so much flesh and has asked that I wear at least a swim dress which has a skirt covering my bottom etc ideally he would prefer much longer and with more coverage on top, it’s that balance again.

    Can I say that one thing I really don’t understand is how parents allow their young (say under 10) daughters to be on beaches without a top. Not something I would ever allow.

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    • Do you mean, people actually allow little girls to go around half-naked? I must say that even here in the US that isn’t a usual sight! I wouldn’t understand it, either!

      I remember when I was a little girl, going to the beach or to the pool with my family. Normally, my mom would wear moderately modest clothing, though she hardly ever wore skirts and dresses. But when she put on a swim suit — a one-piece at that — I remember always feeling so embarrassed! It wasn’t normal for us to see her bust or her crotch area so clearly visible! I was embarrassed to dress in a swimsuit myself, but I wore it because it was the customary thing to do. I thought I just had to “get over it”; now, I realize that my uneasiness was due to my conscience speaking up.

      I recommend listening to one’s conscience, no matter how much it makes one stand out. It isn’t good to become skilled at ignoring our conscience; why should we care that we stand out from those who have a tough and insensitive one? Especially when we have the opportunity to wake theirs up a little by showing the difference.

      Thanks for your thoughtful sharing (as always)!
      Jessica

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  3. I have never allowed my daughter to go without a top in public (or even private except to bath etc) and she also always wears a cami or a slip under whatever she is wearing (as part of her underwear) but it is not at all unusual for younger children to be seen especially on the beach (not so much in a pool) without a top in the U.K. / Europe. The excuse being that as they have not developed it is innocent and harmless. Which we find quite unacceptable.

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      • I grew up in Europe in the 80s where topless bathing was very in. My parents loved it. I didnt care as s child but as i was starting to develop a womanly figure around 11/12 i had a adult man wisteling as i walked by not assuming anything special. This was it for me. Never again .!!! Interestingly enough non of my brothers nor their wifes practice this shamelessness anymore even tough they are not christians. But of course immodesty is still everywhere. And it is a challenge to keep alert and not becoming used to it.

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      • I think Ruth is right in observing that the topless thing on beaches is becoming less popular (certainly among women over 25) and something we very much try to avoid.

        Even in the house etc modesty is something we absolutely expect and respect with our children and having brothers has I think really helped my daughter in developing a morally healthy awareness in terms of what she is wearing and how she behaves.

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  4. This is a real dilemma for me. I believe that nakedness is a sin – full stop – in all circumstances the Lord calls us to cover our shame. I also believe that even modest swimsuits are not sufficiently modest but a suit following your standards (which I agree with) would be (sadly) so unusual and draw such attention to us as a family and to my daughter and I that it would also not be modest.

    I don’t visit the pool during ‘mixed’ sessions but the beach which the children love is a really difficult problem.

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    • I understand your dilemma. I think the solution may be to go online and purchase a swim dress/outfit. There are many different styles; you can find one to fit your standards and your taste. Since they look more “swimmy,” I think they may fit in better with what other people have on at the beach, so you won’t stand out TOO much; but still, I think one has to accept that being different comes with being a Christian: it’s a package deal, to my way of thinking.

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    • I’ve noticed this season that very modest suits seem to be in fashion! You might not stand out so much after all 🙂

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  5. I bought my swim wear at the gym apparel section in the sport store its a sleefless top with a built in bra a high neck line and wide straps. The material drys very quickly. Just perfect and so much more covering than any swim suit. I wear middle tigh shorts with it.
    We all love swimming but we prefer the lake side in summertime and always seek to find the most private spot possible. Our canoe helps a lot there.

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    • Great points, Ruth! That sounds like a great, workable alternative to the average swimsuit.
      And, just like you guys, we try to find the most private spot possible, too (so we don’t have to see other people’s immodesty right up close).
      Jessica

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  6. Id like to ad that i tried to wear looser swim clothes but for actually swimming i think they dont work. For one while swimming they float wich doesnt serve the purpose and when getting out the garment clings and is not serving the purpose either. My solution :Quick drying snug swimwear that allowey me to dry off when im out of the water and quickly slip on a dress. Works fine.

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    • One of the first times I wore the outfit pictured, I went to a private pool with my husband and children. I tucked my undershirt into my shorts to keep it from coming up. I don’t know how I looked, wearing a dress into the pool! But it felt comfortable enough.

      However, I do agree with you that it could sometimes be preferable to wear a high-necked, one-piece swimsuit with long shorts over it than to wear loose fabric that, as you say, can float up or cling. I also think that the modest swim dresses with leggings attached underneath look like they’d be just fine, too.

      Thanks for the great points, Ruth!
      Jessica

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  7. These are great thoughts that honestly I never even considered. Funny how we learn like this. I’m grateful to you, Sister, and welcome myself in learning so much more from you!

    We are going away end of June to the southern coast of New Jersey (in our area – The Delaware Valley that is – everyone calls it “The Shore”)….Anyway, I have some beautiful Caftans that I am looking forward to wearing this summer. Caftans are beautiful 1 piece ankle-length dresses. Some are see-through (which I will not be wearing)….but most of are a soft cotton or satin material that is incredibly light to wear during the summer. In fact, I wear them pretty much from April until end of September because the flannel PJ’s come out! When I email you (hopefully this weekend I will respond to you amazing email you sent), I will send you some pictures of what they look like. Back in the 80’s it was mostly older women like Mrs. Roper from 3’s Company that wore them (otherwise called Moo-Moo’s)…but they have modernized quite a bit and some of them are very feminine and pretty yet conservative. I stay away from the ones that women wear next to nothing underneath! Why Why Why would women do that to themselves??????????

    Love you!
    Bridget

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    • Hope you all have a great time at “The Shore”!
      The caftans sound nice! I’m so glad you feel similar to how I do about dressing modestly (without see-through material). I agree that even if a dress is long, if it is see-through, it is not modest. And I agree that women who dress like that are not being kind to themselves, since they are basically treating themselves cheaply, and inviting others to do so, too. We women need to treat ourselves with dignity and respect — not show everything off to strangers!
      Thanks,
      Jessica

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  8. Great article. But for me , weather i dress modest at the beach there are still woman going around almost naked, so i dont think its the place to bring a family when we are trying to teach our boys about not looking lustfully at other woman. 🙂

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    • Thanks, Helo Life!
      Yes, I see what you mean: I’ve had similar experiences myself. It was nice that the day we went to the beach (see the pictures we snapped in the post above), there was almost nobody else there! The other people were far away, and they had on all their clothes. It was so nice! But that sort of situation might be hard to duplicate. To protect our children’s eyes (and my husband’s)we have chosen to stay away from the public pool, and other situations where immodesty would be expected to be rampant. We can’t avoid all social situations where people would be immodestly dressed, but we do have control over at least some of them.

      I understand you, and I agree with you heartily!

      Thanks,
      Jessica

      Liked by 1 person

    • I do entirely understand – I think it’s absolutely amazing how little respect women have for themselves. But of course feminists would say that women should be able to wear what they like – it is the men’s fault for lusting.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I do really agree but my kids love the beach so it is so difficult.

      I confess I don’t feel very confident or comfortable, I can’t help feeling frankly jealous in that I don’t see how my husband can’t be tempted yet he is very strict that I am completely modest. I know I should be and I want to be and I trust him completely but I mean he’s only human !

      Liked by 1 person

      • your so right, i feels the same way, we goes to this smaller beach on week days , not many people around then and earily in the morning is the best. At one beach here woman wears thongs for swim wear i cant go there. Men are tempted, pray God covers his mind and guards his eyes. I will be praying for you guys as well. xo

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  9. Nice. 🙂 After five years of going back and forth with myself about this issue, I just bought myself a modest swimsuit from stitchintimes.com Unfortunately, she’s going out of business soon, but for now she’s selling the remainder of her stock, so I got to snatch one up! Lucky me! I simply hate the way I feel in a “normal” swimsuit. I was fine as long as I was only around my husband, okaaaay around other women (not super-duper uncomfy, but not exactly comfy, either), but horribly uncomfy around other men. Now all those self-conscious feelings are gone and I can just enjoy being in my swimsuit 🙂

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    • Thanks for sharing that, I’m Me!
      I’m glad you took the leap and went for the modest swim dress — good choice! You know, I think the source of our discomfort (when wearing regular swimsuits) is really our conscience telling us that something is wrong. I’m glad you decided to listen to yours.

      I hope the best for you,
      Jessica

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    • I think increasingly many of us feel uncomfortable wearing ‘normal’ swimsuits in public. It just seems illogical to me to cover yourself ‘shoulders to knees’ (as a minimum) in normal clothes but then wear what is in essence underwear on the beach.

      Liked by 1 person

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