Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Is There Such Thing as Modest Swimwear?

Disclaimer: I am not challenging doctrine of any sort. However, I like discussing culture and standards, especially within the church. I am attempting to be fair and well-rounded in my argument (with myself). Please feel free to comment your own feelings in a kind manner and I will respond with respect and consideration as well. I love creating and engaging in a stimulating argument! Also, throughout most of this post, I am referring to modesty as defined by "physical coverage" because that's the only way a lot of people see it. Take it with a grain of salt.  

I could not sleep tonight and when my mind wanders into a back-and-forth dialogue with itself, I know it means I should just write it out and hopefully fall asleep in doing so. The topic came into my train of thought when I saw a picture of my best friend B in a full-body wet suit on Instagram and thought, "DANG her bum looks awesome!" Which took my mind into a whirlwind of whether or not there is such a thing as modest swimwear. Are the standards we set forth through LDS culture logical? 

First, let me start with a background in case you're non-LDS and lost. As a kid I was told that bikinis are the devil and one-pieces are "modest." Okay, fine. In typical LDS dress we don't wear tank-tops or short-shorts, in addition to other things (good news for me and my big biceps and hairy thighs). I truly love the modesty standards set fourth. I am certainly not a champion of modesty or a great example but I love finding longer-hemmed or sleeved dresses because I feel good in them and think they look great. Plus, I love a good challenge when it comes to shopping with a limited selection for an event (ex: make an original modest Harley Quinn costume in two days). Modesty in daily dress is easy, and pretty clear-cut (mostly thanks to G's- learn more here). However, modesty pertaining to swimwear is where things are significantly more undefined and tricky (*Cue awful terrible Blurred Lines song*).

Now that you understand the basics, let's take this a step further. I've mentioned in posts before that the idea I grew up with (Bikini bad & one-piece good) is absolutely not true. How so? Well, simply put, a one-piece can be immensely revealing (I would know, I have some) and a bikini can offer plenty of coverage. "BUT BIKINI BAD!" No. "Modest bikini" is not an oxymoron. For example, a bikini that features a higher neck (no cleavage at all), a high waist (leaving maybe a three inch strip of rib- oh soOOoo sexy), and a full-coverage 50's style bottom could be incredibly modest. I own one-pieces that have a high-cut leg, minimal butt coverage, a low back, side-boob galore, and some front cleavage-all at once! But hey, my stomach is covered so I am in the clear, right? I find the, "how dare your swimsuit be split into two separate pieces," concept beyond illogical.
A one-piece with a cleavage concealing top half and a decent amount of butt-coverage is super revealing compared to daily LDS dress. Yet it is considered ideal or "the norm" for swimwear. So why is that idealized suit, give or take a little coverage, where we consider a suit in the clear? What about a bikini with short-sleeves paired with a high waist bottom? I have one like that. It has far more arm-coverage than your common "modest" one-piece but it is still a bikini and "BIKINI BAD."  

What about your body type? How and why does modest clothing vary by physique? This is where things get super-sloppy and I almost don't even want to mention it. I'm going to try anyway, because I still can't sleep. So, if someone naturally has an exceptionally curvaceous figure through no intention of their own, they need to cover up way more than someone who doesn't. I saw this firsthand at church camp when a friend couldn't find an acceptable pair of pants, not even my baggy sweats, because her bum looked too good according to our councilor. In regards to swimwear, there is no way to hide a big beautiful booty, so no matter what wetsuit you wear, you're still going to flaunt it even if you don't intend to. Can straight and slim women get away with more form-fitting clothing and do the triple D's in the world need to wear something looser to hide their shape? I actually don't know. According to the little religious school I attended and church camp, the answer was always yes. I don't really like that.

Consider this: 
So far I have been using the example of a modest bikini being one that features high-waist bottoms because there is so much coverage. What if I told you that I think a bikini with regular bottoms, revealing a little belly button and abs, but still sufficiently covering the booty and girl parts, could be modest too. *Well that would be blasphemy!* I thought the same thing too until I realized a female stomach is essentially the same as a man's stomach (perhaps less hairy but still). So why is a man's stomach in swimwear totally okay without even a slight consideration that it could possibly be too much skin. They are the same. Many girls-camp-approved one-pieces flaunt cleavage or maybe feature cheeky-style bottoms and no one thinks twice, but show a little stomach or rib and people loose their minds. If all my woman parts are sufficiently concealed in a bikini, and all his man parts are hidden beneath some tropical-printed briefs, while both of our bellies show, then what is the problem? 

Shop this Billabong look here

Now I am going to take this even further. I was bringing up the discussion of leggings and modesty (thats a fun one!) on Facebook and a good friend commented that because of the way modesty is defined in the For the Strength of Youth, they are immodest. Why? Simply because they are "tight and revealing." He isn't wrong and I felt no need to argue. So is the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet where we base most of our modesty standards? From that one small section? I have reason to believe it is exactly that. Feel free to read it for yourself (page 6-7 or click here). It's short and sweet so don't hesitate to click! I really like the pamphlet and I've found much guidance through it. I love how it briefly explains that dressing modestly is a way we show we love, appreciate, and respect our bodies because they are a precious gift. People have varying opinions on ways in which we can respect and appreciate our bodies and that is okay. I am not challenging that. Nudity may empower some while modesty empowers others. That's okay and totally not the point of this post. One thing you will notice while reading the section on modesty is that it fails to mention swimwear. Swimwear has always been a hot topic of discussion within LDS culture because there are no clear-cut standards. So if there are no definitive standards of modesty in regards to swimwear, why do we act like there are? BIKINI BAD! Remember? My best friend B's wet suit is ridiculously modest compared to your average girls-camp-approved one-piece but according to the pamphlet it is still tight and revealing. So what is modesty?

After thinking deeply on this topic for so long, I've narrowed it down to this. First, since there are no clear-cut standards (as it wouldn't even be possible in the first place) you have to make choices according to what you feel is best. I am also not saying you should push all lines as far as you can. Modesty is so much more than what you are or are not wearing. It is more so the manner in which you act and reason behind your selection. Modesty is in your attitude. You can strut down the beach in a wet suit, without an inch of visible skin, flaunting all your curves to those around you, like you're the hottest human in the world. That is not modesty. That being said, you can wear a fuller-coverage bikini with an appropriate attitude of humility and respect and err far more on the side of modesty. It isn't black and white. There is so much more to modesty than square inches of skin exposed vs. covered and we need to drop the idea that it is - immediately. The bottom-line is that you need to do what you feel is right. Consider your surroundings, peers, activity, reasoning behind your swimsuit choice, and comfort level to help make the right decision for you.      

Where is the line?

1 comment:

  1. Very thought provoking Amy! I love how you look at every angle. Good for you for bringing this up for discussion! I think it is very hard for larger women to find great clothing because the industry is geared toward the size 0-2. For curvy women, finding a bathing suit that fully covers the bum is absolutely impossible. But because of that alone, does that mean curvy women should never wear a bathing suit at all? I am so grateful for the bathing skirts!