Bikini Builders?

Today was the first day of warm weather in the Northeast and so my mind has turned to the topic of appropriate swimwear.

Let me start by saying that I don't dress like an Amish-Catholic. I wear non-tapered pants, and somewhat stylish tops. I wear make-up, and regularly shower before leaving the house. While I am not the most trendy dresser in the room, I will never be caught dead in the one-size-fits-all denim jumper or floral print prairie dress.

Overall, my appearance is important to me, as I believe a put-together and at least somewhat stylish mode of dress is an important part of my witness as a Christian wife and mother. My goal is to blend-in with my surroundings, all the while dressing in a modest manner so as not to cause an occasion of sin for my brothers in Christ.

And so I just don't get those Christian women out there who wear a bikini. Every year, I come across another woman in my life, a woman who I know shares many of my deeply held beliefs about faith, and she surprises me by wearing a bikini.

Here are some possible justification I have heard, or can think up, for wearing a bikini--

1. There are bikinis that are more conservative than one piece bathing suits.

2. I look good in a bikini, how else can I show off my superior physique?

3. I look bad in a bikini, I'm not tempting anyone.

4. Christopher West has approved of the practice in his recently released CD, "Bikini-Clad Without Shame," or something like that.

By discouraging bikini's I am not encouraging the Pamela Anderson Baywatch one-piece. There are obviously non-bikini style bathing suits that are problematic. By ridiculing one form of beachwear, I'm not approving of all other forms (e.g., nudity). Overall, my point is simple--I cannot come up with a good reason for wearing a bra and underwear in public. Can you?

52 comments:

Agreed, Red, agreed.

I purchased a rash guard this year, b/c of my lactating physique (you know what I mean) and I LOVE it. No awkward reaching to get sunscreen on, no worries about the baby hanging out in the swimmy sling pulling on your suit. Very modest, yet, I think, quite stylish.

June 25, 2009 at 10:19 PM  

Very well said, Red.
I've never been able to come up with a good reason. And don't get me started on letting a little girl wear one either....

Texas mommy, I may be clueless but what is a rash guard?

I'm a big fan of the tankinis that look like a one piece (i.e. no bare middrifts) because my proportions are all off they always fit me nicer. I particularly like that the cute skirt bottoms are stylish now. I feel much more comfy in a swimsuit now.

June 25, 2009 at 10:29 PM  

A rash guard is an SPF shirt that protects your body when you wipe out while surfing (been there, done that, and they do help when you wipe out). I got one on amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000FHDFHI/ref=ox_ya_oh_product and wear it with a swim skirt or a swim bottom.

Kids wear them all the time now and they sell them everywhere. It cuts down on sunscreen application to restless boys, which is a huge help!

June 25, 2009 at 10:39 PM  

Speaking of rash guards, I love that my boys totally believe that a bathing suit consists of two pieces.

I do want to get one for myself. I have been wearing a tankini for nursing convenience, but I find it drifts up and exposes my _has held six children_ belly, so I may have to go back to a one piece.

June 25, 2009 at 11:17 PM  

My only justification for bikinis is for babies. Those plump, scrumptious fat rolls look so cute in them. Once the babies hit two and start to thin out, we switch to a one piece (for the rest of her at-home life!).

June 25, 2009 at 11:41 PM  

I'm a fan of the tankini. I like the convenience of a two piece swimsuit, but I'm not a fan of showing off my glaringly white belly. Plus as a mom and wife, I don't think I need to be running around with most of my body exposed for all the world to see. Lands End has lots of options that are modest and cute at the same time.

June 26, 2009 at 6:56 AM  

I have never felt comfortable in a bikini. Even as a kid, I donned my Speedos and swam around the pool like a little fish. I guess I've always made my decision by default due to comfort.

Thank goodness for businesses like Lands End, who have embraced any and all things "mom suit" and have helped us be cute and fashionable while making modest choices. Kristen, I second your bikini-with-baby-chub choice. Adorable!!

I know I've said this before, but this issue is definitely one perk to having only boys. This and dealing with hair maintenance/bows! :)

June 26, 2009 at 7:21 AM  

I have a swim skirt and top from LL Bean. I also love the Land's End suits. I have 6 daughters and the oldest 3 (10,9, 6) all wear either swim skirt or the board shorts. It is so easy for a young girl to walk around with a wedgie in her swimsuit. The skirt/shorts prevents that. One of my dd's wears a rash guard and shorts and it's so stylish, yet she doesn't need much sunscree. Win/win/win.

Thanks for the topic, Red. I agree about wearing the equivalent of undies in public!

June 26, 2009 at 8:31 AM  

I just avoid the beach altogether. Unless I'm in a turtleneck and jeans, I might as well be bacon frying on the sand.

But if I weren't the "fairest" of 'em all, I'd go with a one-piece. When you hit a certain age, a bakini is just not appropriate.

June 26, 2009 at 8:58 AM  

I just want to add that even though I have boys, they are ALWAYS very observant of what mommy is wearing. If I wore a bikini, it would be much like me donning lingerie and heading out in public. They would notice and would have difficulty distinguishing undergarments from swimwear. We have to help these someday-men be Godly from the getgo!!!

June 26, 2009 at 9:16 AM  

Fortunately, bovines don't need to worry about beach attire.

Why the silence from Juris Mater on this topic? Does her silence imply support for sensuous swimwear? Has B-mama's good counsel fallen on deaf ears?

And what about Jesusthroughmary? Where does he stand?

June 26, 2009 at 10:20 AM  

My husband and I have talked at length about swimwear, and we've seen it all this summer since we've already been swimming for about 2 months now :) His take is that women - teenagers and moms alike - just look silly in bikinis. He says, "I wonder why they wear that, it just looks silly!"

I would draw a distinction between wearing a bikini and wearing lingerie. While it is similar in terms of coverage, wearing lingerie sends a different signal than wearing a bikini. I would be interested to hear what the male readers' take is on this, but when I see a woman wearing a bikini, I don't immediately think Victoria's Secret. I also remember thinking this when I watched the summer Olympics and saw the women's volleyball team - I wished that they wore at least tankinis and not bikinis, but it didn't seem sensual to me.

I love Lands End as well. I've become a fan of the skirt and tankini top - lets me feel modest and pretty at the same time.

June 26, 2009 at 10:41 AM  

By the way, Red, that was a low blow to Christopher West!

June 26, 2009 at 10:43 AM  

Just curious: what do you think about athletes who wear bikinis? My sister in law is a triathlete (and an accomplished one at that) and they all wear bikinis (the top looks like a sleek sports bra--very similar to what you see on a female track star). I would never consider this immodest.

I'm not sure that I see anything wrong with wearing a bikini--though I don't wear them, because I find them hard to deal with. Bathing suits are all immodest; I mean, you're out there without pants on for Pete's sake, showing all your legs pretty much no matter what you do. I have lingerie that covers more than most one pieces! So I guess I don't see that much of a difference between a bikini and a one piece. They are all very revealing and to some extent immodest. It is true that a one piece may be less revealing, but let's face it: not by much at all!

June 26, 2009 at 10:58 AM  

I've never had a bikini body but wouldn't be interested in one anyway! DD is 8 and now accepts that she will not be getting any bikinis! We haven't had any major modesty discussions per se, but I have explained that there's no reason to show that much skin and she accepts it. We have had luck with cute 1-pieces and a tankini for the past couple of years. Tankinis are wonderful because they have good coverages and ease of bathroom breaks! It's hard for young girls to get a damp bathing suit down and back up.
We have a couple "swim shirts" for both kids too and it helps with sun coverage (us Irish pale skins burn easily). They are also more comfortable when wearing a life vest on a boat or swimming in the middle of a lake (off Grandpa's boat).

June 26, 2009 at 11:07 AM  

btw, does Christopher West really say that bikinis are ok? Just curious...

And someone brought up the bikini type outfits for athletes.... I'm not sure why they are fine for athletes and not for regular swimmers? I believe that having your mid drift show while wearing something that covers only the parts that a bra would is very immodest. I don't see that it is *necessary* attire for any athlete.

Even the women's volleyball team...it would seem better to have your belly covered for sand protection. Ouch!

June 26, 2009 at 11:22 AM  

Red, what a graphic!

Jennifer Frey, I agree with your point. Most swimsuits are immodest to some extent, and there's a sliding scale. Some bikinis could be more modest than revealing one-pieces. The most conservative black one-piece still shows full upper thigh. And we all know the bikinis that are designed for no other purpose than to look provocative and cover as little as possible.

My inclination always has been toward over-modesty since I was a little girl (sorry to disappoint you, mad cow : )), and I've never really liked even putting on a one piece as an adult, because it shows so much, thighs, outlines, etc. A cute pair of waterproof shorts over a regular one-piece works, as do the suits with short skirts.

It's true, the swimming pool and beach can be wierd places because of all the bare bodies. Would covering our upper-upper-upper thighs, midrifts, and chests really somehow diminish our enjoyment of the beach/pool? I'd enjoy it more.

June 26, 2009 at 12:12 PM  

This topic has been on my mind a lot lately as we live by a lake which is situated by a highschool where the students come to swim on all possible breaks. The boys come in shirts and long shorts. The girls come dressed as prostitutes - no joke - do they have any idea that the opposite sex is fully dressed and they are wearing their undies in public? I think they do and they don't and it all drives me crazy. My boys don't seem to notice but my 6 year old girl is fascinated by these teenagers and the behaviour that half-naked girls and fully clothed boys like to engage in. Grrr. Even I can't help staring at their physiques - I don't need to wonder how men feel about their trips to the beach. Also: has anyone noticed that one doesn't need to have a 'good' body anymore to wear a bikini? Bellies hanging out seem to have come into fashion. One more point: other moms in bikinis just becomes an area of sin for me - i.e. comparison of bodies.

June 26, 2009 at 12:19 PM  

I agree, Red! And also with the other posters on the benefits of tankinis and Lands End.

June 26, 2009 at 12:56 PM  

In regards to the graphic, I will say that this post did not come without some sacrifice on my part. When you google--fat woman in a bikini, and then click images, it ain't pretty. I had to sort through some pretty awful stuff before settling on the wonderful graphic you all love. I went for the mom fat look.

And just to clarify, the Christopher West thing was totally a joke. His actual book (DVD series) is called Naked Without Shame, and as far as I know does not touch upon the topic of bikinis.

June 26, 2009 at 1:00 PM  

I'm above average tall so a one piece just doesn't work for me. I am so grateful there are so many cute tankinis out there nowadays. I've got a L.L. Bean two piece with a skirt. I wish the skirt part were about six inches longer, though.

I agree that is seems odd that I show so much more skin at the pool than I ever would otherwise. I don't wear skirts above the knee at any other time. If I could easily find a more modest alternative that wasn't hugely expensive, I'd go for it. But it hardly seems worth the expense when I only swim maybe 3 or 4 times a summer.

June 26, 2009 at 2:51 PM  

I just "discovered" the importance of modesty this year so this has been the first summer that I've really had to think about this. I've not let my daughter (age 6) wear her bikini this year, and I do have hesitations with the one piece as well. Since she's still young enough to be intrigued by a swim dress, I bought a pattern and fabric from Simply Modest (http://www.modestswimwearsolutions.com/). I haven't made it yet but need to get on it. For myself, when I've taken the kids to the beach I wore a skirt like I usually do, but did find that I wanted to have an actual swimsuit so that I wouldn't mind sitting in the wet sand. I think I'd like to get one of the Simply Modest suits for myself too. I used to think that modest swimsuits would be too embarrassing to wear in public. But these are actually quite nice, and I would feel much better in one of them than in a regular one piece or tankini now.
By the way, I'm not sure there is such a thing as "Amish Catholics," but Catholics who wear that style of clothing refer to themselves as Plain Catholics, and they are wonderful people.

June 26, 2009 at 9:02 PM  

I can't think of a good reason. The pool seriously kills me. We have a ton of teens (why aren't they working?) and it is out of control. I feel like I am in the middle of VS catalog. We're not talking sports bras and briefs, which I still think are inappropriate. I know more and more catholic men who are avoiding the pool "prime time". In our own extended family we started avoiding the beach during the day for the sake of all the guys. We spent our days at the house pool and went to the beach at 4:30 when everyone else was leaving. It was much more comfortable for all involved.

June 27, 2009 at 9:11 AM  

There is no excuse for a well formed catholic woman to wear a bikini. You can always find a more modest suit. You just can, it is just fact. If a woman honestly doesn't realize that what she is wearing is immodest, perhaps husbands need to be more forthcoming with their wives about their swimsuit and other clothing choices because our bodies our meant for our spouses (and this goes both ways, men!) and not for everyone at the YMCA! I also think women need to be more humble if their husband does say, "Honey, you are showing a bit to much cleavage."

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
2521. Purity requires modesty, an integral part of temperance. Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity.

2522. Modesty protects the mystery of persons and their love. It encourages patience and moderation in loving relationships; it requires that the conditions for the definitive giving and commitment of man and woman to one another be fulfilled. Modesty is decency. It inspires ones choice of clothing. It keeps silence or reserve where there is evident risk of unhealthy curiosity. It is discreet.

On another point, I do believe that men and women have been so used to over exposed bodies that perhaps they could say "it doesn't bother me" but guess what? At some point and in sometime it did bother you and you should know that there is always the chance that you are leading someone to struggle with impure thoughts and feelings because you decided to dress in skimpy clothing. I feel very motivated to talk to those who are closest to my family about modesty so that when my son grows up, he can have an easier time. I really believe if we lovingly help our friends and family in this area we can regain lost ground in the culture wars!

June 27, 2009 at 12:47 PM  

I have a different question for RsR. I am curious about this statement: "Overall, my appearance is important to me, as I believe a put-together and at least somewhat stylish mode of dress is an important part of my witness as a Christian wife and mother."
Why do you feel this way?

June 27, 2009 at 2:17 PM  

For my part, I completely agree with Red's premise, and one of the main reasons that I rarely go to the beach is the perpetual scandal and temptation. Any Christian woman should have the good sense and common decency to clothe herself in public, and I don't see how the fact that she is going to be wet in public would make the need to be fully clothed anything but more pressing.

June 28, 2009 at 4:29 PM  

I'm beginning to think Christopher West might not be such the expert as some have made him out to be....

June 28, 2009 at 4:31 PM  

I think we are forgetting the issue of practicality. Jennifer Frey (hi SIL !:) brings up a good point about athletes. Most people aren't reminded of a VS add when they watch athletes perform in something that looks very much like a bikini. This uniform serves a purpose for the athlete. It lessens chaffing and isn't restrictive. This can cause athletes to be more competitive (think, male swimmers shave their legs to cut seconds off their time - it works!).

I'm not saying that I think bikinis are necessarily OK, but JTM, I also don't think it is particularly practical to have a bunch of wet, baggy clothes hanging off you while you try to swim. In fact, I recently went swimming in a shirt and shorts and they actually caused me to reveal more because they kept floating in different directions!

I agree with JM, most people at the beach should cover up more, but JesusthroughMary, I'm not going to refrain from going to the beach because others aren't.

June 29, 2009 at 12:09 AM  

Mrs. Awesome, we are talking about leading people into near occasions of sin here. Surfers wear those rash guards and board shorts while doing intense stuff. I played soccer for years and volleyball (beach) and it is not necessary to prance around in only a sports bra and underwear to get full range of movement. Shorts and a T-shirt get the job done without exposing what I look like almost naked.

Even if you do get better range of motion in less clothing, that is not a good reason to dress immodestly. We are called to die to ourselves in the faith. If that means sacrificing in our fashion sense or catching a bit more wind in our Umbros, better that then cause a man to lust after us.

June 29, 2009 at 7:33 AM  

After having done a few triathlons myself and being a competitive swimmer most of my life, I can say that the speedo bikini vs. speedo one piece have negligible differences in their effect on the performance of an athlete. There's no reason to wear one over the other just for performance's sake. If anything, donning a full body suit like the ones the Olympians wore would be your best bet for speed. Also, many triathletes opt for wetsuits to aid in buoyancy.

When faced with a choice between bikini vs. one piece, I'd go with the one piece for modesty's sake knowing that I'm not losing any ground on the competition.

June 29, 2009 at 9:44 AM  

OK, I have to admit I'm a little scared to be the first of 30(!) posts to stick up for the catholic-clad bikini! Ah! here goes....

I am catholic, I am conservative and I dress pretty modestly throughout the day. I also where bikinis. Now, my bikini comes from Lands End, and I concur with the above praises of the LE's swimwear section. So that said, one of my bikinis is LE, so it stays in place and has more modest coverage than most on the beach. My other suit is a Nike two-piece (sports bra and briefs). I usually only wear these two suits. My conservative catholic friends here (we live by the beach) also usually wear bikinis to the beach (opting for a tankini in post-partum months), and we all usually go with our husbands. It has never been a problem (so I know of) in our group.

I could give you a litanny of excuses much like the ones Red posted (it actually is easier to nurse in a bikini), but the bottom line is i am more comfortable in a two piece. I am athletic, and I am super tall. I haven't been able to properly fit in a speedo without the top pulling down and the bottom riding up since the beginning of high school. the two piece allows me freedom while avoiding wedgies, allow me the convenience of changing into one piece at a time when i'm at home, and quite frankly, my stomach gets hot in one pieces. sitting on a 100 degree beach with warm ocean water, the one-piece is restrictive, hot and a little slimy. I'm sure I could get used to the feeling, but for now, I just don't like it. Might be a dumb reason, but the two pieces are just plain more comfortable for me. I am comfortable with my body and I am usually playing sports on the beach or in the pool. I have found the bikini (or athletic 2-piece) just works better for me. Even when i'm swimming laps in an indoor pool in the middle of winter.

I'm sure the day will come when I switch to the tankini or full one-piece. But for now, I enjoy the water and air on my belly and enjoy the freedom of a two piece. If I know the family will be around or there will be others occasioned to sin, i usually go for the nike suit and leave athletic shorts on.

There you have it, a (weak) defense of the bikini...have at it!

June 29, 2009 at 11:21 AM  

Sorry, but I respectfully disagree!!!

First off, I don't like the implication that those who don't wear bikinis aren't comfortable with their bodies. Actually, I think I am so smokin' hot that men wouldn't keep their eyes off me in one! ; ) Second, I am tall and their are tall suits (see LE) so I find that a little weak. Third, have you asked your husband what he thinks of your friends walking around in their bras and underwear in front of him? I am just saying that he might not be as comfortable with it as you are. The fact that you wear different suits around different people makes me think that you realize that it might not be hunky dory for all on the beach.

I think we ladies are kidding ourselves if we don't think that men don't struggle with lust WAY more than we do. There are statistics out there that something like 50% of churchgoing conservative men look at porn or something like that.....impurity it is a huge temptation for men. Anything we can do to help would be an act of charity.

June 29, 2009 at 1:38 PM  

Ps I only went anonymous for the smokin hot comment!! I am seriously debating and I fear my last email looks mean and snarky...I just get REAL fired up about this issue. Sorry if I got a little too heated!! This issue is worth discussing!

June 29, 2009 at 1:43 PM  

Wow. I can't believe I am reading this and we actually live in the 21st century. We might as well all don burkas at the beach if we're scared we might bring about a rise in the 50% of conservative men who might give in to temptation.

For those who compare the bikini to lingerie...there are plenty of lingerie pieces out there that cover up the belly and STILL get the message across that it's lingerie.

June 29, 2009 at 3:36 PM  

Anon4thisOne:
I did not mean to imply that if you don't wear 2-pieces you are not comfortable in your body. I am sorry if it seemed like that. I did notice a comment earlier that women need to be more receptive to their husband's comments about something showing too much cleavage, etc. I think that is a good point and I think we should encourage our husbands through our (gracious) responses to be honest with us. I frequently ask my hubby what he thinks of something and respect him if he thinks it is too revealing (I tend to keep everything, so i have some more-revealing suits from college that he has nixed, and I respect his comments when trying them on before heading out). Finally, my husband doesn't care what our friends are wearing on the beach. he is usually having more fun drinking beer, swimming and playing sports. I'm sure as all men, he might notice, but seeing as this is the culture we live in, he just chooses not to indulge any thoughts or looks and carries on doing other things that interest him (e.g., beer, swimming, sports).

In sum, I am sympathetic to this whole topic and am interested in all the comments and reasons, i'm just trying to give a different perspective than the previous thirty comments. I said I was scared to post my comment at the beginning of my previous one, but thought it help might make other bikini-wearing catholic moms not feel so guilty or awful for their choice of swimwear. I know bikini-wearing catholic moms exist, so I am trying to make room for "them" here as well! I really think there is some room for personal judgment in this area, and not all women who show their middrifts at the beach are harlots. some of us are actually very faithful, but just like to feel sun, water and air on our bellies! I am actually very surprised at the homogenious responses to this post, given the number of bikini-clad catholics I do know. Perhaps they are scared to speak up too?

I also thought about posting anonomously b/c I was nervous about the responses, such as the one from anon4thisone. However, I figure if I can wear a two piece on the beach, I can stick up for it with my real name.

June 29, 2009 at 3:59 PM  

Thumbs up to Erin. Sorry, ladies, but reading these swift and judgmental-sounding comments makes me want to get a bikini (which I have never had in my life) and a bikini-ready body (long gone). My husband agrees with me. And I am very conservative in all sorts of ways.

June 29, 2009 at 4:18 PM  

So after reading all of these comments, I still can't come up with a single justifiable reason to wear a bikini ;-) It just seems pretty obvious to me that a well formed Catholic woman wouldn't want to expose that much skin. I know of MANY great Catholic men, men trying to love their wives and families, who struggle with women exposing themselves at the beach and pool. It seems one should have a pretty strong reasons in order to put those men in that position.

I would like to add that I am very tall and thin, so a one-piece has never been comfortable for me either--and that is why I love the tankini! Feeling the sun shine on your stomach or worrying that your stomach might get too hot hardly seem like justifiable reasons to put men in an awkward position of looking at your half naked body. While some men may not care, or may not be "tempted" there are plenty of great men that are tempted. Most of the men I know admit to struggling in this area. While it is one thing for them to have issues with non-Christian women dressing this way, what type of a message does it send when their sisters in Christ seem to not care?

Believe it or not, covering your entire stomach area and lower back does make a difference in causing our brothers in Christ a problem. While shorts and a t-shirt are impractical (for reasons already mentioned), a tankini is hardly an impractical option--and it sends an entirely different message than a bikini!

Some women have written that their husbands don't struggle in this area, and in many ways that is a great blessing! But unfortunately, there are many other men out there who do struggle in this area, and it is for this reason that I think a more modest approach is the most gracious and loving way. Most women just don't understand how much men struggle with lust.

As for being judgmental, I think it is good when women are concerned about men viewing half naked women, and I do think if more women spoke up about this issue, less holy women would be tempted to expose themselves in this manner.

And I would like to add that I am a jock who regularly listens to the local sports talk radio station. I had to turn off the coverage during the Olympics because I couldn't let my children listen to the male talk show hosts talking about Misty May and her beach volleyball partner. The sexual nature of the discussion was AMAZING! I never once heard them talk about their athleticism-- only their body. This was a problem on EVERY talk radio show, and practically every male caller made a comment as well. These were just your average guys, watching women's beach volleyball because they loved to see a lot of skin. How sad for those females who think their male audience respects them for the great athletes that they are.

June 29, 2009 at 4:58 PM  

I been reading these comments and something came to mind. There is a great line in A Man for all Seasons where St. Thomas More says to the man who has lied under oath. " Our Lord said it profiteth a man nothing to gain the whole world if he lose his soul, but for Wales, Richard! "

I find myself saying, but for a bikini? or for time off a run? or so my belly can be tan and comfortable? Before the bikini defenders write saying I am banishing them all to the fiery depths and being judgmental, let me explain. Its not about you, its about our brothers and sisters in Christ. All virtues Modesty included is derived from Charity. It can be a true lack of Love to lead others to sin whether it be through bad advice or bad example or yes by immodest dressing. Why not ere on the side of dressing as modestly as you can in the swimsuit department so that you can say to God: "You know what, Lord? I really did try not to lead a brother in Christ to look at me wrongly." I find it very frustrating that if one suggests wearing something more modest then a bikini, it means they want everyone in Burqas.

A tip I heard once is to bring your Mother in Heaven and your Guardian Angel into the dressing room with you. I honestly believe they might urge you bikini wearers to get something a little more modest, because there are more options than just bikini or burqa.

June 29, 2009 at 5:01 PM  

Kudos to Erin for being honest, I know a lot of catholic women agree with her, but I suspect that they don't want to engage on this topic. That being said, I disagree that bikinis are ever ok. It burns me to no end that in a conversation if I say bikinis are not appropriate that my co-debater often immediately says something like above, i.e. "so do I have to wear a burka then?" I keep hearing it. Give me a break!!! I swear I am going to write a modesty book "Between bikinis and burkas." I hereby copyright and trademark that right now!!


I would argue that men have a harder time "not thinking" about things than we do. They are wired diffently than we are...even the catholic christian ones. I think it was in the book men are from mars, women are from venus that said "Men are firecrackers, women are ovens." We can't understand how they could be bothered by immodesty or how those images come back to them when they don't want them to. There's a reason that porn and prostitution are mainly male oriented. Now, I am not saying that christian catholic men are totally addicted to that trash, but we are being naive if we think its not a temptation. How much custody of the eyes do we expect our husbands and sons to have to do at the pool and beach?? Talk to a solid priest who hears lots of confessions and I bet he preaches a pretty hard line on modesty. Think also of teenage boys...who's hormones are raging way faster than our own husbands. We should wear suits that we would want our teenage son's future girlfriend wearing, the same teenage son that we want to live a pure and holy life and not doing anything untoward with his girlfriend.

I was reading something yesterday that Thomas Aquinas wrote along the lines of the fact that "the life of grace in one soul is worth more than the entire created universe." Is it laying it on too thick to say that we should err on the side of caution when it comes to being an occasion of sin for others??

I just can't understand the callousness of the above commenter on not caring about the 50% of men who'd give into temptation. It is our job to help get as many people to heaven as possible. Lord knows we are all sinners....I appreciate all the help I can get and guys do too!

June 29, 2009 at 5:15 PM  

I like to think a man looking at me while I am wearing a bikini is like a man looking at a too-expensive sports car; he can look all he want but he'll never get to test drive it.

Can't we just focus on teaching our children and everyone else that bare skin DOES NOT have to scream sex?

What do you think of women who breastfeed in public?

June 29, 2009 at 5:46 PM  

I just wanted to say that I really appreciate this topic. I've always liked to dress modestly. As a teenager I definitely did not like that my peers dressed so promiscuously (I wouldn't even wear my uniform skirt b/c it was too short). As a married adult with a husband who isn't tempted horribly by this stuff, I tend to forget that this is a source of struggle for many men.

Anonymous, I disagree with the "look, but don't touch premise." Lust is a sin even when no touching is involved. And if you are a source for that sin, you will also be held accountable. But, I do think when considering what it means to be modest, the context matters (this is why I posted the stuff on sports). I think it is absolutely appropriate to breastfeed in public, there is after all, nothing sexual about this. The same I think is true for cultures where the breast has not been sexualized. Often these cultures might sexualize the upper thigh. It seems appropriate, then that these woman remain topless but take care to cover their upper thigh.

June 29, 2009 at 6:11 PM  

MargaretJDMom - You are rapidly becoming one of my favorite commenters. I especially enjoyed the thought of the future girlfriend of your son.

JesusthroughMary - Good to see you back.

Erin - Though I completely disagree w/ your position, I appreciate your charitable tone.

Burka commenter - Why are you wasting everyone's time?

June 29, 2009 at 6:22 PM  

That probably wasn't the most charitable tone. Sorry, it's the neurodegenerative disease.

June 29, 2009 at 6:26 PM  

I think it is interesting that this issue raises so many tempers. It is definitely a topic worth discussing.

No one, though, has addressed the fact that at the beach we are all wearing clothes that we would NEVER, ever wear anywhere else. Where else would you go without pants? In what other context do you have to trim your pubic hair in order to wear your outfit?? It seems to me that anytime you are doing something pantless, you are, by definition, being immodest. So, as I said earlier, I really don't see that big a different between a bikini and a one piece. Some here have claimed that a bikini is like being in your panties and underwear. While, just to put things in context, the underwear of yesteryear (and apparently, the ones the mormons still wear) is far more modest than 95% of all one piece bathing suits on the market.

I hope to see more posts on modesty in the future. I think it is an important issue. I live in Pittsburgh, which is a very conservative Catholic area. In my own Church, there are women who take modesty very seriously, and they don't show their elbows or their knees for any reason (and they give the same justifications given here--leading men into sin, etc.) But Red herself admits that she does not go in for this interpretation of modesty. But I wonder what makes for the difference? (btw: I know that none of these women would be caught dead in a bathing suit, for any reason).

Anyway, like I said, it's an interesting topic. I think, though, that some of the commentators should go easier on their bikini wearing counterparts.

June 29, 2009 at 6:47 PM  

Wow! Like Red, I can't see any good reason to wear a bikini.

It's difficult, "modest" is not an objective term. Context is hugely important here, as a previous commenter stated. Just because something is covering your mid section does NOT mean that it's modest. There are grey areas that can cause Christian women difficulty. The other thing is that what we once thought was modest may not seem so modest anymore as we age.

I think the bottom line is that we should err on the side of caution. Always opt for being more modest in our dress than not, there is never any harm in that.

Mother Mary, pray for us, that all women may dress in a manner pleasing to your Son.

June 29, 2009 at 8:47 PM  

oh no, I should probably sign this "Bikini Addict" but well....
I own seven bathing suits and they are all bikinis. Probably everything I say after this will only sound like rationalizations, but... I spent my college and young adult years in SoCal. Like in many beach towns that are temperate or warm year round, bathing suits tended to become part of the general apparel. I mean, people came to class barefoot with surfboards.
Now that I'm a mom and my pool or beach time is often spent with my child in a setting with other families around, I have considered that there are times when a bikini would be inappropriate. But I don't think they are NEVER okay. Another issue I've found as a thin and tall person is it's actually hard to find one- pieces that fit. The small sizes are generally sized to fit petite women so the torsos always end up being a couple inches too short on me...not comfortable or even wearable. That's actually a main reason why I never buy them.

This may open a whole new topic but I also wonder what is everyone's take on how I should present myself as a single woman? What I mean is, all the other moms (I assume) are answering as married women, meaning that being attractive to the opposite sex is not a concern...but shouldn't it be for me as a single woman? I don't mean trying to be a sex symbol or send the wrong signals, but I definitely feel like if I were married I'd just be throwing a big t shirt on and lugging the kids around,whereas as a single woman I'm still trying to make an effort to be tan and in great shape in part to catch someone'e eye.

PS-I also think body type makes a difference...I honestly feel that as a small chested woman I can "get away with" wearing a lot of things that would look overtly sexy/trashy on a larger chested woman because I'm not pouring out of my clothes. Thoughts?

PPS-What about men? Men's and boys' swim trunks cover a lot less than their regular clothing would...would you say it's inappropriate for a man to go swimming shirtless? And who's to say that women aren't "tempted by lust" seeing muscular men in shorts? I for one know if Tom Brady hung out at our local pool...anyway, isn't it a bit of a double standard not to address the issue of men's clothing but suggest that all men are catapulted into a great moral struggle at the mere sight of a woman's belly button?

June 29, 2009 at 9:23 PM  

Jennifer -

That was where I was headed with my thoughts, but thank you for pointing it out so forcefully. At the supermarket, this isn't even an issue. The bottom line is that to defend a bikini, you must relativize modesty. The justifications for this that I have seen are:

1. I may be less modest because everyone else around me is less modest.
2. I may be less modest because it makes me more comfortable.
3. I may be less modest because it will cost me less money or time in finding an outfit.
4. I may be less modest because we're in the 21st century.

Replace "modest" with "honest" in any of the above statements. How many would Erin (who was brave enough to not post anonymously, so I will pick on her) defend?

I don't think anyone debates that men are far more quickly and violently aroused to sin by the nude female form than vice versa, regardless of the context. Back when people used to love Jesus, every child was taught that there are nine ways that one can be an accessory to another's sin and thus be culpable for it. One of those is by provocation. It simply isn't justifiable in a Christian worldview for a woman to expose herself to being the object of lust any more than it is for a man to lust after her. A married woman should reserve her body for her husband, as we all know, but a single woman should carry herself in a manner, through dress, speech and action, that inspires a decent and holy response from a man that she seeks to attract. Kyra, the beach is not where you should be spending your time looking for a potential husband.

I also can't let you get away with the comment that you're "getting away with" outfits because you have small breasts. If you honestly feel that way, you're honestly misguided - 10 minutes on the Internet will disprove your logic.

Lastly, it also follows from the difference in nature between men and women, that men wearing swim trunks (usually to the knee) without a shirt is not an serious as an issue as is the issue of women in bikinis, although I do think you have a valid point.

June 29, 2009 at 10:26 PM  

I, too, have struggled with bikinis. For my daughter I am doing bikinis until she in potty trained then one pieces until she's old enough (and hopefully formed enough!) to decide for herself.

A friend of mine actually started a modest swimwear company so I bought one from her that is a long top, boyshorts, and a swim skirt and I finally feel comfy!!

I've talked to my hubby about swimsuits and it seems like the images of other girls just get burned into their minds without them really realizing it. It's up to us to help protect them, even if we can't wear exactly the swimsuit we want. Their purity (and ours) is worth it.

Lastly, I love the idea of taking Mary and your guardian angel into your dressing room. If they wouldn't approve then we shouldn't be wearing it!

June 30, 2009 at 12:48 AM  

Hi, This is for Erin if you check this.

First of all, thanks for your honesty in posting.

I realized they closed the comments on the Mode of Dress post because it was getting a bit uncomfortable. However, I really wanted to respond to you, Erin, because I was actually the person who made the Wales Comment. I do believe in objective truth and the reality of sin. I assert that there are more modest swimsuits to be chosen than a two-piece and that we ought to do everything in our power to be more modest than less. The Wales comment refers to why we justify our actions, not that you Erin are Richard. St. Thomas More asks if it was worth Richard to send a man to Death for Wales. I was setting up the analogy, is a bikini's comfort etc worth possibly being immodest to another. I think we both agree that immodesty is wrong. What we are actually debating is whether a bikini is objectively immodest. If you had come right out and said, I don't think it is immodest, fine. I can't change your mind. However you seemed to conceded that you'll cover up a bit more around family or someone who might be sensitive. My point is why not have that attitude all the time? Why not ere on the side of caution.

I feel like those who make objective assertions claiming certain things to be true are called judgmental, but if we are catholic we all believe in objective truth. I stand by the fact that a bikini is more likely to cause problems than a tankini or one piece because it is less modest and therefore why would you risk it. I do not judge your upbringing or the circumstances that have led you to believe something different than what I believe is truth, but I refuse to backdown from what I believe is true about the modesty.

Again thanks for your honest comments.

July 1, 2009 at 12:34 PM  

One other thing. I understand that you were feeling judged. I want to draw a distinction between judging a person's outside actions and judging one's soul and their motives for those outward actions.

July 1, 2009 at 1:19 PM  

MKO,

I'm not Erin, nor do I usually read this blog, but I have to take exception to the notion that dressing in a competitive manner for a tri or a marathon or any other competitive athletic event is somehow tantamount to selling our souls to Satan.

When I compete, I'm in it to win it, or at least to do my very, very best. Minutes and seconds matter, and if wearing a two piece gives me those minutes or seconds, that's what I'm wearing.

When I wear a two piece Speedo, I'm not doing it with the intention of turning heads or inciting lust in onlookers. I'm doing it because it's both necessary and appropriate to the situation. I'm almost six feet tall and there is nothing more uncomfortable or chafing than a too-short one piece digging into your skin while you're moving hard and fast. I've done that and ended up raw and bleeding from it. I can't run/swim/bike in one piece without hurting myself.

Another important factor in all this is context. The onlookers at triathalons and marathons and other athletic events are people who have a vested interest in a particular individual or in the athletic event itself. They're not there to check out the hot bods (while the bods may be hot, it's mostly because they're just sweaty and gritty and grimy -- it's not the big lust fest you may think it is).

Assuming that the participants are deliberately out to incite lust or that the onlookers are there with the intent of getting an eyeful is not really fair on your part, and your disclaimer doesn't work because the outward actions in athletic competitions are indeed a reflection of the inner motivations. I'd even go as far to say that deliberately choosing a less functional and competitive form of clothing just to prove how ubermodest you are to the world is a form of IMmodesty in the long run, or at least a form of legalism. Besides, we're not to assume the worst about people. Assuming the participants are being deliberately immodest or the onlookers deliberately lustful isn't Christian.


Sure, there are women who definitely dress to seek the wrong sort of attention, but body language and attitude can have more to do with their attention seeking than the clothing they're wearing. A demure black sheath dress, for example, can be either prim and proper or va-va-va-voom depending on how the woman is moving and what her tone of voice, facial expressions, etc., are.

In Europe, a bikini is a LOT of clothing on some beaches and no one thinks twice about it or is unduly aroused by those who wear even less than a bikini. Of course, they don't have the hyperfreaky Puritanical attitude towards sex that's prevalent in so many American Christian faith communities.

Context, situation and culture all play a part here, as does personal responsibility. Men are not mindless, knuckle-dragging troglodytes who need to be guarded from their supposedly base instincts by women. Assuming you're a huge temptation to every man in your path can be a pretty insidious form of vanity in itself.

Nora

July 2, 2009 at 9:44 AM  

Great modest swimsuits by a Catholic designer: http://reyswimwear.com/index2.php ...love them!

July 7, 2009 at 5:41 PM  

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