GeneralPurity & Freedom

Itsy Bitsy and Not for Me: Finding Modest Swimwear

Is it possible to love the beach and love modesty?

Better yet, is it possible to enjoy the beach modestly?

In a world of itsy (itsy itsy itsy) bitsy yellow polka dot string bikinis, it can be hard to find comfortable (and functional) swimwear that doesn’t leave your decency hanging by a thread (literally).

Mainstream, it seems there are two options: bare all in the name of the new woman, or cover up in less-than-tasteful swimsuits closely resembling those your grandmother wears- now.

I grew up in a conservative Christian family, and attended a conservative Christian church.  If co-ed swimming was allowed (in most cases it wasn’t), then women could wear whatever swimsuit they wanted—underneath their short-sleeve colored t-shirt and cullotes (not shorts: cullotes).

If you’ve never tried to swim in cullotes, let me tell you, it is an experience.  The material soaks up water like a sponge, and the elastic waist is necessary to keep them from falling off.  They don’t dry on their own, so a trip to the pool always resulted in a laborious trudge back to our cabins bearing what felt like 50 extra pounds of water weight.

Don’t even get me started on the chafing.

Reasons to Cover up

Years removed from that environment, I still believe in covering up when going to the beach or the pool.  I have a few reasons.  First and foremost, besides modesty, is the fact that my pale skin sunburns easily.

A tan is actually the body’s way of blocking out the sun.  As my high school biology teacher put it, “A tan is your body saying, ‘Hey stupid!  Get out of the sun!  You’re killing me here.’”  Well, I don’t tan, so my body has no natural protection against the sun, and even high UV protection proves inadequate.  Summer is the time my hair turns red and my freckles come out to play.  It’s the Irish in me blood.

I once had been exposed to the sun so much that I had second degree sunburn on my back and legs, and began hallucinating from ‘sun poisoning.’  I will tell you, I would happily wear cullotes and a t-shirt if it meant not having to go through that experience again.

Finding Modest Swimwear

Thankfully, there are other options.  But to get away from mainstream thinking, you’re going to have to look outside of the mainstream market.  You probably won’t find modest options in your local Target.

Occasionally you can find tankinis, which are a nice, no-bared-midriff alternative to the yellow polka dot bikini.  You don’t even have to worry about those strings coming undone on the water slide!  If you’re looking for a little more than your strapless tankini, here are a few options:


Our grandmothers knew how to be cute and stylish at the beach without baring all.  Vintage swimwear is a great, cute alternative to modern ‘cutting edge’ swimwear, and pairing a vintage top with boyshorts instead of bikini bottoms adds to the modesty factor.  There are also some suits with swimskirts.

Racers (Speedos)

Some women (present company not included) need extra support for some areas of their bodies.  For those women, the Wal-Mart brand one piece just doesn’t cut it.  I recommend stopping by a local sports store and looking into racers.  If you don’t want a knee-length (or ankle-length) racer, there are typical swimsuit style racers available.

Racers are great because they are designed to make you aerodynamic.  In other words, they are designed to hold everything in.  They are also lightweight, sturdy and comfortable.  Many come with very cute designs across the bust.  I paired my old racer with swim shorts.

Surfer Chic

Still wanting even more coverage after my last racer gave way, I decided to skip the department stores and go straight to the sports store.  I’ve always been a bit of a tomboy anyway, so having a girly swimsuit is not important.

I am all business at the beach- I need something functional that will prevent me from turning into a lobster.  So, I ventured into the lovely world of rash guard for adults.

I purchased a short sleeve baby blue rash guard shirt and paired it with swim shorts that hit 3 inches above the knee, and I’ve been a happy camper… er, swimmer.  I can go to the beach and not worry about bringing a change of clothes or a cover up.  I do, for the record, wear a two-piece underneath the rash guard and shorts.

While most other swimsuits go skin-tight when wet, the swim shorts I have hold their shape, staying loose around areas I would prefer to have loose.  The rash guard dries quickly, springing back to its original t-shirt like appearance.

I don’t have to worry about sunburn or strings and can enjoy my days on the water with comfortable confidence.  No one looks twice at a woman wearing short sleeve rash guard and board shorts. In fact, I get lots of compliments on it, unlike my days of slogging around in a t-shirt with cullotes.  No compliments there.

It’s a practical modesty that doesn’t draw attention to the fact that I am trying to be modest.

That’s what I hope for you as you head into swimsuit season.  Ignore what popular culture dictates you wear to the beach.  You don’t have to sacrifice your dignity or your comfort just to enjoy the sun and waves.  Have a happy, safe, and modest summer, ladies!


Here are some sites for you to look through:

Please note, just because I link these sites here doesn’t mean I advocate everything these companies stand for.  Nor am I saying every suit they sell is modest.  I’m just saying I liked the look of their products.  Please remember to surf the net wisely.  I have not affiliated with any of these products or received any free products for linking them here.  I have not tried all of them- in fact the only ones I have tried are Speedo (for my racers) and Body Glove (my current rash guard).  Please shop wisely, and when it doubt, head to your local sports store to ensure proper fit and coverage.

Rey Swimwear


 Land’s End  (might be available at your local Sears)


Hydrochic (plus sizes are available here)

Speedo  (guys, no.  A speedo on a man is to a woman as a bikini-clad woman is to a man.)

Body Glove



  1. Swim Outlet is a great place to buy racing suits for a cheap price. If you want a suit to last 10x (seriously) longer then buy one that’s made with Polyester/PBT.

  2. MarSea Modest Swim & Stretchwear offers over 30 styles designed for women & girls who want modest swimwear coverage * for religious reasons * for personal modesty (to cover age/weight/medical imperfections)* for added sunprotection.

    Made from high-quality Italian nylon/lycra swimwear fabric which is chlorine resistant, non-transparent, UV50+ protective, lightweight & quick-drying.
    Some styles suitable for maternity wear.
    Plus sizes available.
    Mastectomy option available.

  3. Shabby Apple has some good stuff, mixed in with some not-as-great stuff. I really like their swim minis though…a short skirt you can wear while swimming.

  4. mod cloth and shabby apple are fabulous sites with a large selection of modest swimwear. 🙂

  5. Title Nine and Athleta also have nice suits with tankinis and rashguards.

  6. Hi. I am the designer and maker of my own modest, sunsmart and glamourous bathing suit collection called #Playsuit. I am based in Australia, however, I would love you to go onto my website and let me know any feedback ( I read your blog and in part, it could have been me talking about trying to find suitable swimwear. I have a strong and focused philosophy to help ladies have fun in the sun and have a carefree life without having to worry about sunburn and being uncomfortable with their bodies. Hope your readers might enjoy my label too. Kind regards