What Is Modest Swimwear?

by Elizabeth Morgan 4 min read

Last Update September 27th, 2017

Modest swimwear is any clothing that is appropriate for the beach, water park or pool. What is considered modest varies from family to family, person to person, and religion.

Both my church and parents have shaped my views on modesty. Boys and girls are given the For The Strength of Youth pamphlet when they turn 12. They are instructed to read it and follow it.

Here are some of the main things it says about modesty:

  • Immodest clothing is any clothing that is tight, sheer, or revealing in any other manner.
  • Young women should avoid short shorts and short skirts, shirts that do not cover the stomach, and clothing that does not cover the shoulders or is low-cut in the front or the back.

Interestingly enough, not a single swimsuit guideline is mentioned. However, I did find that prior to 2011, the church did say not to wear two-piece swimsuits. While this isn’t a current guideline, it is still recommended that we dress modestly.

Judith Rasband did give some timeless advice when she said the following: “It’s time to assert your fashion independence and choose what’s right for you, your figure, and your standards of modesty.”

We believe in the teachings of the Apostle Paul. In 1 Corinthians 3:16–17 we read, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. God is holy, which temple ye are.”

A Brief History of 20th Century Swimwear (1900 to present)

Swimwear has evolved quite a bit in the last hundred years, as you can see from Jessica Rey's speech at Q Ideas.

Fascinating huh? Watching that was definitely an eye opener for me. I had no idea that women went through all of that just to go swimming. If we did that nowadays, I would think swimming was a giant hassle and would probably never go. 

It seems that swimwear has gone through a roller coaster as far as modesty is concerned. I would consider what was worn during pre-bikini times to be super modest, more than I would care to wear. 

Modest Swimwear Options

What’s available? Thankfully there are lots of options available to those wanting more coverage than a bikini. When you find a swimsuit that's modest, stylish, comfortable to swim in, and easy to wear, you've found a winner! You might even find yourself swimming more. 

One pieces

examples of one piece swimsuits

Image credit - middle, right

One piece swimming suits, or maillots as they're sometimes called, are easy to slip on and won't slip off. They Compared to a bikini, they are more figure flattering, slimming, and provide more coverage.


examples of tankinis

Image credit - left, middle, right

A tankini is basically a two piece bathing suit that has a tank top and a swim bottom. They are better for people with long torsos, easier to put on than one pieces, and easier to go to the bathroom in than a one piece. Tankinis also give you more styling options because you can mix and match tops and bottoms. 


examples of monokinis

Image credit - left, right

With a monokini, you get some of the benefits of one pieces, but you're able to show a little more skin. They're more unique than other swimsuits. Sometimes they cover the belly button and other times they show it. 


examples of midkinis

Image credit - leftright

Midkinis are two piece swimsuits and are more conservative than your average bikini. They have high waist bottoms and the tops are usually longer than a bikini top. Like tankinis they also give you the flexibility to mix patterns and styles.

Swim skirts

three swim skirt examples

Image credit - left, middle, right

Linda said it best when she said that "swim skirts cover up (your) hips without sacrificing on style!" They're also great for moms after they've had children. 

Swim shorts/board shorts

examples of women's board shorts

Image credit - left, middle, right

Women's board shorts are more loose than your average swim bottoms. They vary in length, some are shorter and some go to the knee. Some people prefer to put these on when they get out of the water. 

Swim dresses

examples of swim dresses

Image credit - left, middle, right

With the exception of the burkini, more about this below, they are very modest and will provide you lots of coverage. According to Kristen Smith, they are usually "made from the same material that swimsuits are." Some swim dresses come with leggings and others require you to wear them over another swimsuit.

Rash guard tops

rash guard top examples

Image credit - left, middle, right

Rash guard tops provide extra sun protection. More coverage = less sunscreen. Joy from Artful Homemaking said, "I bought one of these last year after getting the worst sunburn of my life from a day spent at the lake."

Swim leggings

examples of swim leggings

Image credit - left, middle, right

These are leggings you wear while swimming! You'll see surfers wearing them, but they're not alone. Some women, like Aimee, wear them when they feel terrible and miserable about themselves after having a baby. Instead, swim leggings helped her enjoy playing in the water.


examples of burkinis

Image credit - left, middle (Lindsay Lohan), right

The term burkini is a word mix of burqa and bikini. Wikipedia defines a burkini as a "suit (that) covers the whole body except the face, the hands and the feet."

I'll be wearing tankinis and one pieces this summer. I'd love to hear from you. What will you be wearing? Why do you wear the swimwear you wear?

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what is modest swimwear

Elizabeth Morgan
Elizabeth Morgan

Elizabeth Morgan is the co-founder of Cleo Madison. When she's not blogging about modest fashion, she's taking care of her twins, going on walks with her husband, watching reality TV, and trying new vegan food.

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