modesty…the swimsuit issue

Y’all, I am overwhelmed with responses to my previous modesty posts!  The views, the comments, the shares on Facebook, the pins on Pinterest have been awesome!  I didn’t realize how strongly so many of you felt about this issue as well.

Monday I shared with you some of my thoughts on modesty, but more importantly the results of the survey I gave to 16 high school and college guys about modesty.  I was a bit surprised about the results and from the comments I’m getting, you were too.  Then Tuesday I gave you some tips, tricks, and resources for dressing modestly.  I originally intended to talk about swimsuits in that post, but ultimately decided it deserved a post of it’s own.

One of the most questioned/commented on topic when I taught the modesty class to the girls at church and when I wrote the first modesty post was about the issue of swimsuits.  Specifically, what should Christian girls do about swimsuits/swimming/the beach/etc.?

modest swimsuits

Honestly, prior to just a few months ago I didn’t have an issue with most tankini’s or one pieces.  In my mind you shouldn’t wear a bikini, but a tankini or one piece was fine.  Recently, though, I’ve started to really think about bathing suits and examine my thought process and I’m finding that I no longer agree with that line of thinking.

I do not believe that bikinis, tankinis, or one piece bathing suits are modest.  Here’s why:

1. 80% of the 16 guys who took my survey said tankini’s were immodest (I didn’t even ask about bikinis because I already knew those were immodest)

2. The majority of the 1,600 guys who took this modesty survey agree that bikinis, tankinis, and one pieces are immodest

3. In all these items, you are showing just as much leg as if you were wearing panties.  The exception to that is if you were wearing boy-short bottoms (which are as short as booty shorts) or a skirt bottom (which is usually just a short as a mini-skirt).  None of those items of clothing are modest or acceptable for us to wear any other time, so why are they ok at the pool or beach?

4. In a bikini, you are essentially wearing a bra and panties out in public.  In fact, bikinis often cover less than underwear.

Ok, so bathing suits are immodest.  Now what are we supposed to do about the beach, church camp, the lake, etc?

First let me say that my suggestions are just that…my suggestions.  The Bible does not tell us specifically which bathing suits to wear or not to wear.  You are going to have to decide for yourself (hopefully through prayer, studying the scriptures, and talking to other Christian women in your life) what you think is modest.  Most of my suggestions are going to be based off what the guys said regarding modest swimwear.  I definitely urge you to go read all their answers regarding bathing suits (they went in to much more detail and have many more comments in their survey than I did in mine).  However, please remember that ultimately our goal is to be pleasing to God, so that should be the main deciding factor in what we wear while swimming.

1. Wear a one piece bathing suit that does not show any cleavage, with long shorts on the bottom.

Modcloth has some cute one pieces that, when paired with shorts, would be modest.

2. Wear a tankini top that  does not show any cleavage and completely covers your stomach, with long shorts on the bottom.  Personally I like tankini’s better than one pieces, simply because it is easier to get on/off to go to the bathroom, etc.  Plus with tankinis you can often get more camouflaging of the tummy area (my problem spot) than with one pieces.  However, most guys agreed that showing the stomach is definitely immodest so if you go the tankini route, make sure it will stay down over your stomach.

This website has some adorable tankinis that when paired with some long shorts would be plenty fine.

3.  If you still aren’t comfortable with a tankini or one piece top, a rash guard and board shorts is a great idea.  I didn’t even know what a rash guard was until last summer when several girls had them at church camp.  Rash guards are t-shirts made out of swimsuit material and lots of surfers wear them.  So basically with that outfit it’s like wearing a t-shirt and shorts.  It sounds like it would look weird, but they actually look very cute and sporty.

I was skeptical that they would have them for adults, but I did some searching and actually found a lot!  You can find some rash guards/swim tops here, here, here (how cute is that turquoise one?), and here.  There were lots more results, I just chose 4.  Remember, Google is your friend…search for “rash guards”, “swim tops”, or “modest bathing suits”.  Also remember to pair your rash guard up with a pair of long board shorts (or a pair of swim trunks will work just fine).

Amber wrote a fantastic post about her and her husband’s rash guard and board short bathing suits, including some pictures.  Check it out!

This option actually appeals to me the most…think about it, no straps to keep up/tied.  No tugging to keep your cleavage covered.  No vast expanse of back that needs to be sunscreened but that you can’t reach (I think the not-needing-sunscreen part is my favorite :)).

So you see, there are quite a few options that are modest, but practical so you can still enjoy swimming in the summer.

Now, before I wrap up let me address a few questions that have come up from the girls in my class or in comments on my blog.  Again…totally my opinion.  You may disagree.  If so, please let me know why in the comments.  I’m still trying to decide on some of these issues for myself so I’d love to hear your thoughts.

I’m on the swim team, what should I do about my bathing suit?
Unfortunately I don’t have a great answer for you.  From what I recall, the tops of athletic bathing suits are pretty modest, so maybe ask your coach if you can wear shorts over your suit and you should be pretty covered then.  Sports can be difficult as so many of the required uniforms are immodest – swimming, volleyball, gymnastics, cheerleading, dance, etc.  I’m not 100% sure how I stand on this issue yet.  This is something that I’m going to say you’ll need to pray, study, and talk to your mom (or other Christian women in your life) about.

What should my family do about going to the beach – we’ll be dressed modestly but the other people around us aren’t and that could be a problem from my dad/brother/husband/son.
We can’t avoid everywhere that people are immodest.  People wear their bikini tops and shorts at amusement parks all the time.  Good grief, I see cleavage  stomach, rear ends and more at Walmart, at school, basically everywhere.  Again, this is something that your family has to decide for yourself.  If you know one of the males in your family really struggles with lust then maybe you just need to avoid the beach all together.  Yes, that’s a bummer, but sometimes taking the high road is hard.  Helping someone else avoid temptation may not be the most fun thing, but it is the Christian thing to do.  However, you could try to go somewhere family friendly.  Pick beaches where families are going to be rather than “party” beaches, or beaches that don’t have lots of other people around.

What about when it is just us girls?  Then immodest swimsuits shouldn’t be an issue.
You’re right, when it is just girls the problem of your swimsuit being a lustful distraction probably isn’t an issue anymore (I know there are exceptions…I’m speaking in generalities).  However, think of the example you are setting.  The younger girls at church camp probably aren’t going to know that you only wear bikinis at camp and wear something more modest when you are around men.  They are just going to see a girl they look up to wearing a bikini, assume that is what you always wear, and think that is what they want to do when they grow up…be like you.  Or let’s say you are with a group of girls where they aren’t all strong Christians…again, unless you tell them they probably aren’t going to know that you wear something more modest around men.  You may be sending them the message that immodest bathing suits are ok to wear around anyone, not just girls.

Well, my daughter is only 3 and little baby bikinis are so adorable.  She has nothing to show, anyway.
Why start?  At some point you are going to have to have her switch from bikinis to something more modest.  Why set the precedence now that bikinis are acceptable swimwear?  Babies have delicate skin, anyway, so kill two birds with one stone and keep her skin protected.

So what do you think?  What are your thoughts on modest bathing suits?  How would you answer the four scenarios above?



  1. I’ve been enjoying your series as this is an issue that I’m very interested in. I am a teacher at an Australian Christian school (Kindergaten – Year 6) and I am very conscious of modelling appropriate dress for the beautiful girls I teach and to care for the older boys and male staff in the school by ensuring I’m not a stumbling block. I was particularly keen to read your ideas about swim suits because I am quite involved in triathlon/swimming and I wear one piece bathers a number of times a week. I appreciate your comments about the need for some people to wear certain clothing for sports. I would be extremely hesitant to wear anything aside from my one piece Speedo suit as it would impact upon my performance and comfort. As such, I wear a suit that covers as much as practically possible (believe me, there is great variance, even among sporty one piece suits). I feel comfortable with my choice in this area, but am interested to think, learn and pray about how this issue effects those around me.

    • Cat, thank you so much for your comments! I’m glad you’ve enjoyed my series. What a blessing to get to teach in a Christian school and be that example. I went to Christian school growing up and am so thankful for the teachers I had to look up to.

      It’s also nice to hear from someone who participates in swimming as a sport. I think that this is one of those issues that several commenters have mentioned, where modesty can mean different things depending on the situation. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the issue as well!

      • Hi Caitlyn. I just wanted to say, that I think a lot of women and girls (especially teens like myself) are being lead astray by the Modesty Survey. When I first read the answers to the modesty survey, I was shocked that wearing jeans and an even a relatively modest one piece could lead my fellow brothers in christ astray. I began to feel guilty for the clothing choices I was making. Not convicted, but guilty. The majority of the guys who answered the survey did take responsibility for their sin, but it seems as though the survey is acting like a means through which girls should reevaluate their wardrobe because the majority vote said that “insert clothing item here” was immodest. Anything can be immodest depending on how a person views it. Anything a girl/women wears could lead a man astray, because no matter what we wear, guys will always be physically attracted to the opposite gender. The survey blurred the lines between physical attraction and lust, and that is very dangerous. I have a feeling that a lot of guys are now feeling guilty for being physically attracted to a girl, and the girl’s are now feeling guilty for wearing clothes that they previously thought were modest. I absolutely agree that modesty is important, however, I also believe that modesty has more to do with the heart of the person, and the reasoning behind the outfit. Although a page of the survey website did address the fact that modesty is a matter of the heart, most of the questions were about outward appearance. While it’s never a bad thing to re-acess one’s reasons for wearing a certain item, I do believe that it is wrong to present a man’s opinion of modesty as the standard to which women should adhere. Modesty had nearly nothing to do with the opposite gender, and almost everything to do with where one stands before The Lord. If your are striving to honor God in all you do, and if your identity is in Jesus Christ, then your wardrobe will reflect that. You don’t need men who have texted in answers on a modesty survey to tell you what is immodest and what isn’t. I think that since one modesty survey has been done, to be fair, another should be done as well. This time, it should focus on a women’s/girl’s opinion of a man’s modesty. I have the first answer/question in the swimsuit category that can appear on the new survey:

        Statement: A bare chest and low rise swim trunks are immodest.

        Answer: Yes! Especially guys who have six pack abs-this can be a real stumbling block, because then I focus on the guys “hotness” instead of his personality. A loose fitting non-clingy swim shirt can definitely help with this problem. Also, the low-rise swim trunks are one of the biggest stumbling blocks there are. They leave little to the imagination.

        • Thanks for your well thought-out reply! I appreciate you sharing that. Like I’ve mentioned before, I hope people don’t take that survey, or the one I did with my girls’ class, as the be all and end all of modesty. Mostly, I just thought it was a good way to show girls what guys are thinking – they just think so differently than us that sometimes it is good to take a peek into their brains to help us see their “side”. It wasn’t meant to be a list of rules, just something to make us think and give us some guidelines on what might or might not be a good choice to wear. As you said, modesty is a matter of the heart and how you act before God. However, love is also a matter of the heart, yet we look to how others around us feel loved as a way of knowing how to express our love. I think modesty is similar – we want to be modest, so we look to those around us as examples of what is considered modest.

          I completely agree that guys are just as immodest as girls in certain outfits, especially shirtless!

  2. Great post and ideas!! I wrote a similar post on my blog a couple of weeks ago, and one of my points on little girls in swim suits is it sex-ifies them and devalues their innocence! Not to mention it makes them easier eye candy for perverts or child molesters who already have a sick attraction to little girls!

    Another point I’d like to add from one of my GUY friends who used to do youth ministry is that; Yes, we do need to watch what we wear and allow our youth girls to wear, BUT it is also our job to teach and train the young men in our groups, our sons, brothers, etc… To control their thoughts about how they see another sister in Christ. It’s not the girls fault for the sexual thoughts men or boys ALLOW to enter their minds.

    A female could be wearing a turtle neck and long skirt, but they’re still imagining what’s underneath, and getting “excited”. That’s not on the girl, that’s on THEM, and they must get a hold of it. We can control, to some extent, what our youth girls wear to swim, but we have no control over the other females at the same pool, beach, park, etc…. So that’s when we’re really under fire as to what we’re teaching, and how we’re raising our young men… What are they thinking when they see another non-modestly dressed female? Are their thoughts “whatever is good, pure, and right?” Or something else….

    So much is always said about the dress of females, but there’s a whole other side that’s responsible as well. This modest dress shouldn’t just apply for females! Females are also predisposed to be sexually and physically attracted to more “fit” physique males….therefore lets not leave out the boys on making sure their top halves are covered as I know many a woman, myself included, who’ve lusted over a shirtless, board short wearing, tanned up male! ;)

    Lets not make our girls feel like there’s something wrong with them, or our boys like there’s something wrong with them, because we just focus on one gender more than the other. We must teach them both that it’s an equal path to righteousness, or to destruction, and they’re BOTH equally responsible for the path they allow their thoughts to take.

    Thank you again for sharing this! It’s not very popular, but it needs to be said!

    • I absolutely agree about the men being equally responsible. The girls even asked me when I was teaching this lesson if the guys (who are having a similar class at the same time in a separate location) were going to discuss modesty as well. They indicated that they had some issues with the way guys dress, too. And I agree…why else would we have all these topless pictures of guys all over Pinterest if that wasn’t appealing to women? And for sure, we need to raise our young men to think on good, pure things. Great comments!

  3. I think swimming falls into the category of situational modesty. By that I mean that the some attire is appropriate in some situations, but not in others. The example you gave in your first post about clothing being modest while sitting still at church, but not when bending over teaching elementary school is a great example. In the case of swimming, there is never going to be an option that would be appropriate away from the water. Even rash guards and pants are tighter than what most would find modest in another setting. And, if they start out baggy, they will be stuck to you as soon as you get wet, revealing every curve. Do we just completely throw out swimming because we can’t dress the same way we while doing it that we would in other situations? What about guys walking around with their tops off at the pool? Why is that ok if it’s not in other places? I also think an important thing we need to consider is the guys’ roles in all of this. We tend to put the responsibility solely on women. (I don’t mean in your post, but in general in Christian circles) Guys need to be protecting themselves by not viewing movies and television that put their minds in the gutter to begin with. Perhaps they would be less likely to be tempted by a bare shoulder if they weren’t spending so much time viewing things that focus their minds on sex. And how do we convince younger girls to dress modestly when they see the sexy girls getting the attention, even from Christian guys? It is definitely a complex issue!

    • I definitely agree. I think wearing rash guards, etc. may help a little just to not have as much skin exposed, but like you said there is still a lot of clinging as soon as it gets wet. Growing up in our youth group we had a “no guys/girls swimming together” policy. Of course, there were people within our congregation who had private pools that would have guys and girls over at the same time, but as far as at camp, on retreats, for youth group activities we never swam together. That pretty much helps eliminate the bathing suit around the opposite sex.

      I completely agree about needing to put more responsibility on the guys! I didn’t mention that for several reasons, some being because this post/series was born out of the lesson I was teaching the girls at church, I don’t typically focus as much on teaching the guys, and my reader base is primarily female. But yes, guys protecting their minds is a huge issue that needs to be addressed. That’s something I will teach my sons and I hope there are older men who will teach the younger men at church the same thing (hopefully in addition to being taught at home, but sadly many are not).

      You’re right – a very complex issue! One with no black and white answers and lots of strong opinions!

  4. The only issue I have with the rash guard and long shorts is that it’s just not feminine enough. Even if it’s a girly design it still looks too masculine to me. I much prefer a swim dress or skirt for the feminine aspect. Hydrochic has some nice options and I love a lot of DivinitaSole’s suits.

  5. Thanks so much for all the links to rash guards. I live in Phoenix so we swim as a family almost weekly in the summer (we go to a neighborhood pool and usually have the place to ourselves!)–and I go through so much sunscreen on my back, shoulders, neck, I’ve been thinking this year I’ll get a rash guard but have had trouble finding what I want. I think that turquoise one from Land’s End might be perfect. (I have a brown swim skirt–it was hard to find a skirt long enough–some as you say are as short as a bikini bottom, but I found this one at Kohls and love its length.) And I think I’ll seek out board shorts for our beach vacation. Great suggestions!

    • Did you get the swim skirt from Kohls recently? I sure hope so…I’m going to go try to hunt it down! I’m glad this was helpful. I ordered the Land’s End rash guard but it hasn’t come in yet. I also ordered this Roxy rashguard from Zappos. It has already arrived and I really like it – cute and covering! I can’t wait to try it out this summer. Now I just need to find board shorts or a swim skirt like you mentioned.

  6. Thanks for your support of modest swimwear. It takes true maturity to approach this question with a clear mind, free from bias of what our society accepts as normal.

  7. Thank you so much for these modesty blogs! I am teaching Theology of the Body to teen girls and this information was perfect! Thank you so much!

  8. As a guy I’m feffinately an odd ball on this site. I just wanted to share my belief on this subject. I’m the youngest and only boy out of four children and when ever my sisters went swimming they wore a t-shirt and shorts over there swim suit. Coming from a very christian family I fell a way from the LORD in this area, viewing extremely immodest dispicable images which I’m embarrest and shamed to say I’ve viewed. I’m a highly competitive swimmer so I do we’re tighter ‘Jammer’ suits. However in practice I do we’re a mesh resistance drag suit over my regular suit. The girls on my team were speedo one piece competitive suits which are not revealing at the top although they do show there entire legs. Speaking as a guy legs if just the legs have never seemed like a stumbling block to me. Ps I appreciate your view point on guys responsibility to not place themselves in tempting situations. It is both the guy and the girls responsibility to protect against compromising situations. Ps to view competitive swim wear go to

  9. I realize this is a very old post, but I just stumbled upon your blog recently and it makes me very sad. The fact the women need to be ashamed of their bodies because God tells them to seems very backwards and demeaning. If women are not comfortable with their bodies, it will make it very difficult to have relationships, especially sexual ones, with partners in the future. I also think this whole thing is sad because it makes women change the entire way they dress to prevent men from looking at them. I highly doubt God has a dress code to get into Heaven, and I think being proud of my strong and athletic body in a swimsuit is something to strive for. My body is only immodest if others make it that way.

  10. apittmanmy says:

    I know this is an older post, but I just came across it. Love it! My husband and I are just starting our family and we have a son and another little one on the way (we don’t know gender yet) but he brought up how to raise girls modestly and he even mentioned that he seemed uncomfortable with the sports wear for swimming and gymnastics. I had never thought of it in that way – so I was intrigued by your post even though you didn’t quite have an answer for that specific topic. However – after a little research, I came across many competitive swimming suits that have longer legs, mid thigh, etc. These suits are made my speedo or other competitive swim companies and from what I read on comments they work great. I did not find such luck in the gymnastics suits – mainly because “attractiveness” is something they are trying to use to influence the judges. Which is very sad. Maybe they will develop more modest suits in time if enough people demand them. Anyway – at least there are options for the swimmers (like me!) out there!!

  11. I think it’s appropriate because of the setting. If you are in water, it’s not very comfortable to wear a lot of fabric. It sticks to your skin and doesn’t feel very pleasant. The only problem is that men over sexualize women. There are swimsuits that are way too revealing, but overall many bikinis, tankini’s and one pieces are fine for the pool and beach.


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