Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Against the "Modest Swimsuit"

(This post was originally published in July 2013)

Swimming and what to wear is a subject of great controversy in many different circles.  Some women say that bikinis are perfectly modest.  Others criticize the bikini in defense of a "modest" one piece swimsuit.  Others argue that shorts or a tiny skirt cover-up make it decent enough.  And still others wear "modest" swimwear that includes knee length pants, skirt, and short sleeved top.  Of course there are ladies who do not swim at all and walk the beach in an ankle length dress instead...

So obviously there are many standards for women's swimwear.

Where did these standards come from?

In the first public "baths" of England there were laws enforcing women to wear a full costume consisting of long skirt and bodice and puffy sleeves.  As public bathing progressed into the early 1900's women used bathing machines to enter the ocean and still wore bloomers, stockings and a knee length dress with sleeves to swim.  Even then, sea bathing was considered scandalous.  In the daring 1920's and '30's women's swimwear began to get smaller and tighter.  These styles continued throughout the '50s and it was not until the 1960's and '70's that the bikini entered the picture.

The bikini made its debut in France in 1945.  It was so scandalous that regular models would not wear it and prostitutes were hired.  Newspapers said that the bikini was, "Liberation from oppressive Christian morals."  Modern Girl Magazine in 1957 said, "It is hardly necessary to waste words over the so-called bikini since it is inconceivable that any girl with tact and decency would ever wear such a thing."  It was banned in Catholic countries such as Spain, Portugal, and Italy and also in many American States.  The National League of Decency, a Catholic organization, tried very hard to prevent the bikini from reaching Hollywood.

Today the bikini is commonplace.

Some argue this is the inevitable progress of society.

But what drives this "progress"- or, more appropriately termed, Revolution- of bathing suits?  Perhaps a close look would reveal that it was no accident.  The slow undressing of women was not a liberation as some like to think.

Where will it end other than in fully accepted public nudity?  If this is liberation, it is only from morality and higher ideals.  It is so easy to see the gradual slipping of standards.  To reverse the process is impossible without grace.  That is why it is necessary to be Catholic as well as to be a lady.

Wearing a swimsuit that fits some place along the line is not going to change this Revolution.

(Read my post on The Revolution of Fashion here:

Blessed Jacinta of Fatima said, "Those who love God do not follow fashions...the Church has no fashions...God is always the same."

So I will leave you with a question

Does a true Catholic lady swim?


  1. I ponder the same thought. On the one hand, swimming seems good exercise and if your kids want to swim on a hot day to cool off and exercise, an adult needs to be with them, especially if they are little. I usually try to find the most modest bathing suit in the regular stores as possible that I can afford. This usually means a skirted bottom and a higher necked bodice that is sure to not show my midsection. I have a cover-up ready to be put on as soon as I am out of the water.I pretty much only swim at my own house or at my parent's, never going to the public pools. The ones sold online that are all black or black with florescent colors, having sleeves and Capri length pants with a long skirt over them are from a skin showing perspective, more modest, but I just feel too weird in them. Probably just my own spiritual weakness, but I rationalize that a suit like those probably draws attention to a woman and thus, perhaps undermines some of the virtue of modesty she was going for. Its the same idea I get when I see a group of amish women wearing hot pink shoes with their black dresses. To really know what is modest when swimming, I think we'd probably have to ask truly virtuous men for guidance.

    1. Thank you for your input! You are such an inspiration to me!

  2. This is something I've been struggling with as of late. Thanks for your insight! If I didn't have a husband and son, I'd probably never go swimming.


  4. Thank you for posting this! After praying and reading about this topic, a while ago I decided to just not swim. It simplifies things for me and also I think it's significant that Christian societies have been against public bathing.. they had more morals than our society does today so I'd rather go with them than the modern popular view :)

  5. This post caught my attention at the top of your "Most Viewed Posts" column. I think you do good addressing this issue. Many Catholics suffer from a certain bi-polar disorder regarding swim wear. They rightfully think that it is inappropriate for a woman to walk down the street or go shopping in her underwear---and tempt every normal healthy male to look at them and sin in their heart---yet somehow if you do it while walking on sand with salt water within sight it is OK.

    The idea of public bathing on the beach was considered scandalous from the Middle Ages until about the 19th century (and even into the 20th) regardless of dress.

    The following is my opinion from a Catholic (and male) perspective.

    I believe that, at a minimum, mixed-sex bathing on a public beach is never acceptable no matter the circumstances, age, or modesty of the swimsuit. Swimsuits necessarily have to be form-fitting and cover less of the body than a normal outfit in order to be safe for swimming. When they get wet they reveal much, if not everything, of a woman's body.

    Children swimming together is not a problem in itself, but after a certain age boys and girls should not swim together.

    Can a woman swim?

    First, I would say that women swimming in a single-sex environment in modest swimwear (nothing form-fitting) is not bad in itself.

    Should a Catholic lady swim?

    All men are not "born and remain free and equal in rights" as the Declaration of the Rights of Man says. Just as God-given sex roles, strengths, and rules of modesty are different for men and women, so too do rules for swimming apply to men and women.

    Woman is naturally called to nurture her family, to provide a loving ambience for her children and her husband, to excel in the domestic arts such as sewing, cooking, cleaning, music, singing, and the overall management of a household. In short, everything the Holy Ghost mentions in Proverbs 31. Ideally she should not have to do outdoor work or activities outside the home that might brutalize or erode her femininity.

    Men in general are more fit to do outdoor work, to be in contact with nature, subduing it, dominating it, and harvesting from it to provide for and protect his family. Boys and men love to explore the woods, climb mountains, hunt animals, and show the scars to prove it. Swimming is related to this rough, tough, more "outdoor" nature of man and is therefore more of a "boy" activity.

    Swimming, like bathing, is by nature a very intimate activity. There is something about the nature of swimming that makes it very easy for a person to forget their normal decorum, inhibitions, manners, propriety, and modesty in demeanour, to just let themselves go. Women have a special role in setting the example for their families and society in all these things. Why is it that we often associate the word "frolic" with beaches? Is that how children should see their mother?

    The word "beach" is so linked to modern neo-pagan immodesty that a counter-Revolutionary Catholic lady could not tell someone "We went to the beach last weekend" without causing him or her to imagine that they went in a bikini, like everyone else. You have to qualify it in order not to give scandal: "We went to a deserted beach with just the family" or "Just the children swam." Our world has taken impurity and immodesty to levels never seen before in history. Going to the beach during the summer is not just a common practice but is practically obligatory If you live within driving distance of the ocean and say "I don't go the beach" you are looked at as strange.

    Should a counter-Revolutionary lady, one who wishes to oppose the corruption of our world, participate in a pastime that is so linked to impurity and sin?

    No. A Catholic lady should not swim.

    1. Thanks, Mr. Bascom. I agree of course but I really appreciate you making clear this line of reasoning. I didn't know it was you until I was almost at the end- I was shocked someone could be so spot on!

  6. i love swimming so much. i love beaches and pools and am a fish I have always been that way. It would literally devastate me that as a mom of soon 3 and a Rosary loving Catholic, I would feel as though i couldn't swim. It's actually pretty ridiculous. I don't wear bikinis and I swim with my kids. Craziness.

  7. There are these things called wetsuits that, amazingly, cover one's entire body. From the neck to the ankles.

  8. Pope John Paul II wrote,
    ""While we are on the subject of dress and its relevance to the problem of modesty and immodesty it is worth drawing attention to the functional significance of differences in attire. There are certain objective situations in which even total nudity of the body is not immodest, since the proper function of nakedness in this context is not to provoke a reaction to the person as an object for enjoyment, and in just the same way the functions of particular forms of attire may vary. Thus, the body may be partially bared for physical labour, for bathing, or for a medical examination. If then we wish to pass a moral judgement on particular forms of dress we have to start from the particular functions which they serve. When a person uses such a form of dress in accordance with its objective function we cannot claim to see anything immodest in it, even if it involves partial nudity. Whereas the use of such a costume outside its proper context is immodest, and is inevitably felt to be so. For example, there is nothing immodest about the use of a bathing costume at a bathing place, but to wear it in the street or while out for a walk is contrary to the dictates of modesty."

    --- from Love and Responsibility by Karol Wojtyla

    ...and, that's good enough for me. Of course, the SSPXers and other sedevacantist protestants will have to figure this whole issue out on their own, but we Catholics are spared such nit-picky nonsense.

    1. However if there is such a thing as immodesty at all it logically follows that we must have standards even on the beach. My article is meant to emphasize the differences in dress between a Catholic culture and one that has moved far away from the dignity of Christianity. Also, the reference to SSPX seems unrelated? I personally have no association or favor for that organization.

    2. Thank you for this quote, from a saint nonetheless! (It helps he's my namesake ;) )

  9. Certainly an intriguing topic... I would have to add, though, that if it is unbecoming of a Catholic lady to swim, I don't see how it'd be appropriate for a Catholic gentleman to swim in public. Just saying. It's easy to draw the line between the sexes and say modesty of dress is a woman's concern, while custody of the eyes is a man's concern, but I certainly see both applying to both sexes, though perhaps not in equal measures.

  10. Well, I researched briefly the history of swimming in the Middle Ages in Europe and it was done, usually in the nude, and sometimes men and women together! I also researched bathing, and there are a number of illustrations (illuminations) of women fully dressed bathing nude men in a large half barrel! There is an explanation for this. Catholic Europe had not gone through the English/Protestant Victorian era of extreme prudishness. Catholic respects healthy nature. It was the Puritans who used water as a punishment, dunking the "sinner" into a river in a sort of basket at the end of a sort of crane! Now, there were some immoral pictures, to be sure, but mostly just healthy swimming. There is even a 1578 era book instructing one how to swim; "title page
    To the Worshipfull and well accom∣plished Gentleman, Maister Simon Smith.
    To the Reader.
    Of the Art of Swimming.
    Whether all thi swimme by nature
    Man swimmeth by nature.
    Of the place and time to swimme.
    To swimme on the back." and these chapter titles continue for a couple of pages.

    Here are some links-nothing too shocking, I do not think, though I am an artist.;idno=A20436.0001.001 is the best link, as it gives links.

    The book How to Survive in the Middle Ages in the children's section of your public library gives a respectful yet much more sensible and realistic look at the Middle Ages. It was a rather bawdy time. The Victorian is Anglican, it is not Catholic, yet Traditional Catholics often point to this often artificial time of corsets and impossible petticoats as the Catholic ideal. Such does not seem to be the case during The Greatest Century, the 13th. See Walsh. Hope this helps bring some balance common sense into the discussion.

  11. God covered 70% of our world with water and made beautiful beaches for us to enjoy... just because we've hyper-sexualized EVERYTHING doesn't mean we can't MODESTLY enjoy beaches and swimming, in my opinion. we do need to pick places/time, though, where we limit exposure to scandalous lack of attire and bad behavior. this is tough, but can be done if we try hard, think out of the box and do our research. God Bless.

  12. Ave Maria!

    Interesting blog, so I wonder does CJ's quote of Pope John Paul II (references would be great) advocate for use of the bikini? And does parts of history where possible lack of modesty (middle or otherwise) lend to solid examples of modesty...

    The quote doesn't provide clarity of distinct lines which is what I suspect most are looking for.

    I'm discerning this area myself and as a Father of three very young girls, I'm grateful to comes across this blog.

    Also with regards to @cinnamongirl, God made us naked, that's not really a solid case either... But you are correct, why we should discern carefully.

    God bless

  13. Let's not be puritanical. There is a time and a place for everything. No, not for bikinis, but yes, for swimming in modest bathing suits. A skirted bottom or board shorts with a high cut top are fine. We all have to guard our eyes, but if the sight of a woman's modestly covered upper legs and bare arms are an occasion of sin for a man, then maybe he belongs in a monastery. should women thus not ride horses or ski, since those involve wearing pants (and tight pants at that, in the case of horseback riding...and don't tell me to ride side saddle.)

  14. women's bikini swimsuitsRingToFashion - Get the best online women's bikini swimsuits ✓ popular accessories brands ✓ ring to fashion accessories ✓ Classic high heeled shoes for women ✓ with affordable Price.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...