What Should I Wear to the Beach?

My dear friends,

Growing up I never felt comfortable in a two piece swimsuit, let alone a bikini. I wore a bikini to the beach once in high school and disliked every second of it. Not because I thought my body was without beauty, but because I had this twinge in my conscience telling me that I should be more covered up than this. I honestly felt as if I was wearing my underwear to the beach! From then on I would avoid occasions where there would be swimsuits involved, or if I did end up having to wear a swimsuit I would normally wear one, except with shorts and a t-shirt over top (or some combination like this as a cover up). 

After I had my conversion and started to learn more about my Catholic faith I wondered what I should wear to the beach as a Catholic. Many of my Catholic friends and peers had mentioned that one pieces were modest for the beach, which could certainly work. There are many stylish one pieces out there and I know many Catholic women who wear them to the beach. I have a few cute one pieces that I really like. I was wondering though if there were other options than just a one piece. I still desired to have more coverage than a one piece for optimal comfort. I was also perplexed as to my strivings to become more modest in my clothing, but then those strivings seemed to go to waste at the beach where all the guidelines for modesty seemed to fade away. 

Around this time I also found out about the suns damaging affects on the skin. A tan is actually a sign of skin damage. It’s your body’s way of sending out pigment to protect itself from any further damage. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, clothing is actually the first line of defense against sun expose. Wearing swimwear with UPF 50+ and sunscreen is the safest option for protection from sun damage.

As this summer approached I dreaded that I would have to avoid swimming again or wear my classic t-shirt and shorts combo as I normally would. I also really wanted to take Gianna swimming so I couldn’t avoid it. Around the middle of this summer I found the most darling swimsuits that I actually felt comfortable in and were sun protective! I was so thankful! I have had quite a few friends ask me where I got my bathing suits so I thought I would share. Who knows maybe there are more women out there who wonder if there are more options for swim than just a typical bikini or even a one piece. 

Side Note: You might be wondering why I am posting about modest swimwear towards the end of the summer. Well, I did not find this swimwear until the middle of this summer and right now (or soon) most of this swimwear will be on sale! Keep on the lookout!! I got all of these items on sale or got a significant discount! Disclaimer: I am sure you all could guess this, but I just wanted to let you know that this is not a sponsored blog post and the links are not affiliate. I bought all of this swimwear myself and hope that you enjoy my review-like post for this modest swimwear!

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Rash Guards can surprisingly keep you cool when they get wet. I live where temperatures can get well over 100 degrees and did not have a problem with staying cool even with long sleeves. When I lived in Minnesota we did something called a Polar Plunge. The polar plunge is a series of events where people jump into a frozen lake to support special olympics Minnesota. The people that would wear more clothes to jump into the lake would actually be colder than those who wore something like a t-shirt and shorts. The water takes longer to dry on clothes and can keep you cooler longer!

Rash Guard from Cabana Life in Santorini (there is a zipper by the shoulder hemline making it nursing friendly if you are not afraid to stretch the fabric a wee bit)

Skirt from Cabana Life in Tile Blue

Gianna’s Rash Guard from Cabana Life in Cabana Coast

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Rash Guard from Tommy Bahama in Pansy Petals (nursing friendly!)

Skirt from Undercover Waterwear in Navy

Gianna’s Rash Guard from Cabana Life in Cabana Coast

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Rash Guard from Cabana Life in Hidden Cove (there is a zipper by the shoulder hemline making it nursing friendly if you are not afraid to stretch the fabric a wee bit)

Skirt from Cabana Life in White

Gianna’s Rash Guard from Cabana Life in Cabana Coast

Other helpful swim pieces:

Full Support Swim Bra from Undercover Waterwear (adjustable straps and back latch)

Swim Shorts from Undercover Waterwear

More information about this swimwear, sizing and fit, as well as other modest swimwear companies are located at the bottom of this post.

Is it immodest to wear a bikini?

As I was speaking with my close friend Briana regarding modest swimwear she told me the story of how the bikini came to be. I was startled, but not surprised by what she told me. I am not sure how many others know the story of how the bikini came to be, but I think it is important to share this information.

The inventor of the bikini was Louis Reard, a male french automotive engineer. He worked at his mother’s lingerie business when he created the first two piece bathing suit in 1946. He ended up hiring a stripper to debut the outfit because no runway model was willing to wear the bikini on the runway. So the nude dancer, Micheline Bernardini who worked at the Casino de Paris, agreed to model the bikini. The runway models felt quite differently towards the bikini and modeling it!¹

Listen to Jason Evert’s full talk regarding the question “Should Christian Women Wear Bikinis?” here.

Why is it modest for a Catholic woman to cover her stomach?

Well, God the Father sent His Son Jesus to enter into the world through our Blessed Mother. The very first dwelling place Jesus made His home on earth was within a woman, specifically in the womb of Mary. Therefore the womb of a woman is sacred for the reason that Jesus first resided in the womb of Our Lady. Mary became the first tabernacle as she carried Jesus within her. When a tabernacle is veiled in a Catholic Church it is because it holds within it the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. The tabernacle is veiled because it holds what is sacred.

Since the wombs of every single woman are sacred we veil our stomachs. What a great gift and responsibility God has given to us as women! We as women are chosen by God to receive life (whether physically or spiritually) through our bodies! This is why us Catholic women cover our stomachs. We realize that within our stomachs holds a type of tabernacle waiting to receive life within it.

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Swimwear before the modern bikini:

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Photo taken in 1897

“But as they [bathing suits] got skimpier, the exposure of the belly button with bikinis caused a huge uproar. And for a long time, that was really quite taboo in America. Two-piece was fine to show some midriff. But you didn’t want to show the belly button itself.”2

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Photo taken in 1898
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Photo taken in 1918

“The amount of skin revealed at the beach had as much to do with modesty as with class, said Steele: ‘Plenty of working-class women wore, for example, shorter skirts, and their legs would show. But it was not appropriate for respectable middle-class women.’”2

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“In 1922 Lt. Col. Clarence O. Sherrill, Superintendent of Public Buildings and Parks in Washington, D.C., issued an order that bathing suits at the local bathing beach must not be over six inches above the knee.”2

More information about the modest swimwear featured in this post and even more options for modest swimwear:

  • Cabana Life
    • The founder of Cabana Life, Melissa Papock, was diagnosed with melanoma at the age of 26. She was shocked when her dermatologist told her to wear “sun protective clothing,” because lightweight clothing wasn’t protecting her as much as she thought. Melissa partnered with Alyssa Adams to begin Cabana Life to create stylish and protective swimwear to prevent skin cancer.
    • Some surprising facts you may not know about sun damage from Cabana Life’s website:
      • A tan is your body’s way of saying, “Stop! I’ve been damaged from sun exposure and am sending out some pigment to protect myself from further damage.”
      • A base tan is just a sign of skin damage; it’s not a way to protect yourself from further damage.
      • According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, clothing is the first line of defense against sun exposure.
      • Even if you’re in the shade, if you can see the sun, your skin can be damaged by UV rays.
      • Clouds can actually increase the amount of radiation that reaches your skin.
      • You are safest from the sun when your skin is covered with UPF 50+ clothing and sunscreen.
    • Includes maternity friendly and adorable one piece options!
    • Sizing and fit: everything that I ordered from Cabana Life fit true to size. The fit in the arms for the rash guard is looser than most other rash guards. The rash guards are very comfortable and the white colored swimwear they sell is not see-through, which is a huge plus! The skirts are not tight like I have found some swim bottoms to be. The longer swim skirts also include built in swim panties.
  • Undercover Waterwear
    • Undercover Waterwear is a modest swimwear company that sells swimdresses, swim skirts, swim leggings and swim tees for both ladies and girls. All of their modest swimsuits are UV 50+ blocking out 98% or more sun’s harmful rays. From their website: “Whether you’re shopping for sun protective swimwear, or just want to look stylish while staying covered, Undercover Waterwear is the right choice for you.”
    • If you prefer to wear short sleeves this company has many short sleeve swim tops!
    • Sizing and fit: most items fit true to size. I did size up in the darker colors (navy and black) for the a-line swim skirt as the darker colors did have a tighter fit. The a-line swim skirts do not have a built in panty.
  • Tommy Bahama
    • From their website: “We call this living the island life, and Tommy Bahama offers the best of what you need to do just that – whether you find yourself lounging on the beach, golfing in the desert, or just enjoying the peace of your own home.”
    • Tommy Bahama can run on the expensive side so I would suggest trying to find their clothing at other stores. I got a huge discount on my rash guard by doing so.
    • Sizing and fit: when it comes to swimwear most of their items are true to size. However, I would size up for the rash guards. The fit in the rash guard is tighter and I felt more comfortable in a size up. The rash guard I am wearing in this post is an extremely soft swimwear fabric. 
  • Downeast Basics
    • If you would rather wear a one piece to the beach this store has many cute options. I found my favorite one piece from this store! Though again, I rarely wore it because I felt better with a little more coverage.
  • ModLi
    • “Endlessly chic and intentionally modest.” A company that includes all kinds of modest clothing from swimwear to activewear to maternity and everything in between.
    • If you prefer to wear short sleeves this company has many short sleeve swim tops!
    • Although I have never actually tried any of their clothing yet I hope to be able to in the future.
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Photo from ModLi
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Photo from ModLi

Know that you are not alone if you feel uncomfortable wearing a bikini to the beach. I know many other women who have decided not to wear bikinis. I have also had multiple women ask me where I got my swimwear, which is the reason why I decided to share this post with you all. If others say that not wearing a bikini is due to a lack of confidence I want to remind you that it takes more confidence and trust in God to go to the beach wearing modest swimwear than it does to conform with society’s fashion and standards of beauty. Every woman is beautiful because God made women that way. We don’t have to show our bodies off to prove that we are beautiful and wonderful. You, my dear friend, are beautiful and have inherent dignity because you were made in the image and likeness of God!

“You [women] don’t cover up your body because it is bad, no your body is wonderful! Perhaps it is so wonderful that it is wonderfully distracting to us [men]. It keeps us from seeing who you are beyond your body. So I think when a girl covers herself up you reveal more of yourself to us. You reveal to us that there is more to you girls than just your bodies” Jason Evert.

I hope that my words and the information provided in this post will put you more at ease the next time you get to go swimming. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me!

“To a great extent the level of any civilization is the level of its womanhood. When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more noble her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, and goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women” Archbishop Fulton Sheen.

With love,

Nina

References:

  1. Jason Evert. “Should Christian women wear bikinis?” YouTube video, 3:53. 4 Oct. 2010, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WtzIcz7MOkc.
  2. CBS News. “Swimwear through the Ages.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 8 Aug. 2015, http://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/swimwear-through-the-ages/.

+JMJ+

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7 thoughts on “What Should I Wear to the Beach?

  1. AMEN, sister!! I’ve been perplexed at how even those with a firm commitment to modest dress in daily life seem to make an exception with swimwear and exercise. This is definitely a topic that needs to be discussed more, along with modesty in general. I love swimming and didn’t want to just refrain from it because I didn’t have swimwear, just a t-shirt and gym shorts. Though I don’t love running, I also wanted something comfortable and modest for that as well :). I was able to find a couple lightweight exercise skirts that are also appropriate for swimming. They’re knee-length with shorts or leggings underneath. I found that feature important particularly for swimming, since when you’re actually in water, a skirt will float. The skirts came from Kosher Casual, though I didn’t research the company much, just found it on Amazon. Then I have a shirt designed for swimming, so it’s lightweight and dries quickly, which helps it be less revealing as tends to happen with wet clothing. Just a few more ideas! Nice job with the post!

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words Kim! I agree wholeheartedly with you. I have been praying about the virtue of modesty (among others) and I think it really comes down to the virtue of humility. Growing in the virtue of modesty means that one desires one’s exterior disposition (including clothing) to lead others to see God and not oneself. Just as Mary desired to be hidden and to lead all to Christ. Mary desired more than any other creature that “He [Christ] must increase I must decrease” John 3:30. When people see us Catholics they should see Christ more than anything! I was thinking about creating a blog post specifically dedicated to modesty, which I have started and now that you have said this I think I may post it! Good points and ideas! I will certainly check out Kosher Casual! Again, thank you for your comment. Whenever I see you I always see Christ radiating in you sister. What you have said is so encouraging! God bless you! 🙂

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      1. Thank you, Nina! What you said is so true. I have often thought about how Mary has made herself visible to people. She’s appeared in many different places looking in a way that is familiar to the people, yet always very modest. If she were to appear now in the States, can you imagine her wearing bluejeans or slacks? The thought seems outrageous! And if she truly is our model for holiness, why should we then make the exception?

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  2. I love love this Nina! Lately I’ve been struggling with feeling comfortable in my one piece debating if it truly is modest enough. I’ve had my eye on a rash guard and wondered if it was really needed. Well this post surely convinced me! Thank you ☺️

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    1. Thank you so much Emma! I am so glad you liked this post! Thanks be to God! I had been thinking and praying about modesty at the beach quite a bit and thought I would share my thought. I am so thankful to know other women who are striving for virtue, including modesty. You are such a beautiful woman and you always dress so modestly feminine. You shine with the light of Christ! Thank you again for your kind words 🙂

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