If you visited the beach this summer, no doubt you saw plenty of women letting it all hang out — from Brazilian bikinis to the “slashtini” (bathing suit with cutouts) — and leaving very little to the imagination.
But just when you thought bathing suits couldn’t get any raunchier, there’s a new, refreshing trend that’s making waves: modest swimwear.
What an idea! So, is it silly, sexy — prudish, practical? We want to know. We talked to Wendy Shalit, the author of the classic “A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue,” to better understand the trend.
Q: Why are these suits so popular suddenly? Why now?
WS: It’s interesting because not long ago, modest bathing suits were the punchline of jokes all over the blogosphere, but now they’ve recently been “discovered” in the mainstream media as this dazzling new specialty item. Well, they’ve been here all along but now that they’re offered up in so many new colors and styles, suits with more coverage are more appealing than ever.
Once the punchline of jokes all over the blogosphere, modest swimwear has been “discovered” in the mainstream media.
Q: What about the idea that modest swimwear is primarily for overweight women who don’t look their best in a regular swimsuit?
WS: That may have been the association people had back when modest swimwear wasn’t anything special, design-wise, and women wore it out of necessity, but now increasing numbers of women of all body types are choosing modest swimwear just because they like how it looks. More significantly, they enjoy dressing for their own comfort and style, as opposed to feeling pressured to always present themselves in a manner appealing to men.
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Q: Are the founders of the companies behind modest swimwear all Orthodox Jews?
WS: Not all of them. There’s Jessica Rey’s swimwear line, which was inspired by Audrey Hepburn, but even the Orthodox CEOs aren’t necessarily what you would expect. Yardena Ganem, who started Sea Secret in Jerusalem nine years ago, told me that she was inspired after her baby was born three months prematurely, and it was during her long hospital stay that she made a resolution to make her innovative suits.
Now that the suits are out there, consumers from a wide-range of backgrounds can enjoy them, and actually the Jewish Week recently reported that runways at the 11th annual Swim Week in Miami Beach showcased sleeves as a trend. So now it’s become a mainstream thing.
Q: What if someone looks at UndercoverWaterwear, AquaModesta and HydroChic and nothing particularly speaks to them?
WS: Well, those are just the most popular companies, but ModLi is featuring some cute modest swim combos that are a bit different this season. And as I just mentioned, there is also Sea Secret, which is less well-known in North America but ships a lot of high-quality suits. But ultimately fashion is a very individual thing, of course.
If modest swimwear isn’t for you, then fine — but why the need to vilify women who do love it?
The key is, if modest swimwear doesn’t speak to someone, then why the need to vilify women who do love it? There’s always invariably someone who will cherry-pick the most atrocious, dowdy suit, and then feature it in a blog as if it typifies the movement and everyone will then pile on and make fun of all women who choose modesty. I think that’s unfair.
We talk all the time as a society about the dangers of “slut-shaming,” but really there’s much more modesty-shaming that goes on as far as I’m concerned. The only difference is that it’s socially acceptable and considered “cool” to publicly shame women who choose modesty. These are often people who would otherwise consider themselves “pro-choice,” yet they get so worked up over the existence of modest swimwear, I think it’s kind of hilarious. At the end of the day, we didn’t kill a lion here — it’s just a suit.
We talk all the time about the dangers of “slut-shaming,” but really there’s much more modesty-shaming.