Part Three: Diving In! Continued…

August 29, 2008 at 6:26 am (Articles, Godly Living, Modesty) (, , , , , , , )

This is the second half of an article on swimwear within the series on Situational Modesty. To view the first half, click here.

Of Swimsuits and Glory

So, in a practical sense, how does a swimsuit glorify my body rather than God? Or, put another way, what potential problems are there with modern swimwear? I’ll address this in a list (not a list of rules, but things to think about).

  • Swimsuits are almost always skin-tight. No matter how much skin they cover, they tend to show every curve, every crease. In some cases this can be even more provocative than blatant nakedness since the sleek fabric reveals the form of your body without any skin imperfections.
  • Typically, swimsuits show a lot of skin, even one-pieces.
  • Swimsuits are usually low-cut, showing cleavage or hints of it, as well as a lot of skin in the chest and back area.
  • Many girls have to adjust the straps, bottoms, or neck line of even “modest” swimsuits because of their tendency to hike, crawl, and cling, and this draws attention to the areas you’re trying to keep covered.
  • Sometimes even “modest” swimsuits will end up revealing more than you bargained for—wear typical swimwear on a cool day and you could be flirting with disaster.
  • Often times, because swimsuits do not measure up to our day-to-day standards, we end up wearing them with a mind to show off our bodies and get attention—even if our swimsuit is the most “modest” one on the market. (Remember how I selfishly looked forward to wearing my high-necked one-piece and shorts because it was a chance for me to show off my body more than I usually could?)
  • We girls have this nasty habit of comparing ourselves with one another and competing with one another—swimsuits only spur this on because they highlight our bodies, making the pool deck a stage for a beauty (or “sexy”) competition.
  • Swimsuits send a message to those around us about our character. Wearing a flattering, stylish swimsuit with little regard for your brothers in Christ tells others that you are either oblivious or care more about your own reputation than your brother’s purity. In contrast, taking even baby steps to cover up your body out of deference to your brothers, love for your (future) husband, and for the glory of God will show that you care and will gain you respect and gratitude.
  • In general, swimsuits are no better than wearing underwear (two-piece = bra and panties, or undershirt and panties; one-piece = leotard, or corset with straps). In some cases (as with bikinis), underwear would be more modest! I actually saw a girl wearing cotton underwear and a matching cotton cami-style sports bra while swimming at the lake! Interestingly, she was more modest in her underwear than a lot of professing Christian girls are when they go to the beach. My sisters, this simply should not be the case! In the context of this series on situational modesty, based on your own standards for dress, would you ever wear underwear in public? No, you’d be ashamed to! (Hey, now we’ve come full-circle!)
  • In almost every situation, Christian girls compromise their day-to-day standards when they put on a swimsuit. Consider these questions: Would you wear underwear in public? Would you wear skin-tight tops in public? If you wouldn’t wear skirts above the knee elsewhere, why would you wear them for swimming? If you wouldn’t bear your back elsewhere, why do it when you swim? If you wouldn’t wear skin-tight, short shorts for any other reason, why should you change your standards in order to swim (especially in light of the fact that men wear the same type of loose, long shorts that they always wear and swim just fine)? What inconsistencies do you see in your own practice?

Oh Brother!

Now that we’ve considered some of the problems that typical swimsuits cause in general, glorifying our bodies rather than God, let’s take a moment to consider the stumbling block they can be for our brothers in Christ. The following question will tie the last section with this one, and it is central to our discussion of situational modesty: Whatever the situation, is it possible to truly dress to the glory of God while creating stumbling blocks for our brothers? In other words, all excuses and situational justifications aside, are we truly modest and discreet when we wear something that causes a brother to stumble?

In God’s word, we see that He takes very seriously the issue of causing our fellow believers in Christ to stumble—we are to avoid it at all costs, even at the cost of our fashion, fame, or friends—and at the root of this is love. In light of the fact that we are to spur our brothers on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:23-25), we’d do well to carefully consider how we can avoid causing them to stumble and instead look for ways to promote their growth in godliness!

Let me take a moment to stress this fact: We are not to dress modestly to gain favor with God, nor out of duty or self-righteousness or fear. We are to dress modestly and discreetly out of love for God and love for our fellow believers, seeking God’s glory and our brothers’ good!

Now, with that established, I encourage you to check out the Modesty Survey and click on the “Swimsuits” section. Study the statistics and PLEASE take the time to read the comments that guys have left. As you will see from the survey, in general, godly guys do NOT want to see your cleavage, your midsection, your upper thighs, a lot of skin in general, or fabric stretched tightly across your body, showing every curve and fold of skin. I would suggest that, at a minimum, we seek to honor our brothers in these areas. If you do show your cleavage, if you do show your belly, if you do show a lot of leg, if you do show a lot of skin in general, or if you do show your form by wearing something skin-tight, then you are showing off your body at the expense of your brothers’ purity, preferring your own “comfort” or “practicality” or “popularity” or “fashion sense” to their walk with the Lord. Think about it ladies. Die to your own interests and look out for the interests of others. Let’s honor our God by honoring our brothers—men for whom Jesus died!

Consider the following scenario: A young man admires a young lady he knows from church because of her character and love for the Lord. He’s already interested in her, but fighting for purity of heart. At a pool party hosted by a family from church, she wears a “modest” swimsuit that meets her church’s dress code. She’s modest compared to a lot of Christian girls, but very immodest compared to her own everyday dress. The young man falls and falls hard because he sees the outline of her body and considerably more of her skin than he’s ever seen before. His imagination runs wild and the girl that had once been a pure interest and an encouragement has caused her brother (someone’s future husband) to stumble. I’ve asked for the opinion of Christian young men regarding this scenario, and I have found that this is not just a common occurrence—this is typical.

A number of young men, including my husband along with some family members and friends of ours from college, have asked with honest frustration, “Why don’t girls just wear T-shirts and modest shorts to swim in? That would just make everything easier for us!” These guys, like most, swim in shorts. “Why can’t girls do the same?” they ask. And these guys are even willing to wear T-shirts, too, out of fairness to girls. Why do they want both shorts and a T-shirt? Well, for many guys, chests are a big problem—the skin around them and the fabric stretched across them make a godly guy want to look away. So shorts alone won’t do. On the other hand, many guys, and many of the same guys for whom chests are a problem, will have a hard time with a girl who simply wears a dark colored T-shirt over a swimsuit. “It looks like she’s just wearing underwear with the shirt and it’s very suggestive.” Legs can be just as big of a stumbling block as the bust can. Thus, many guys would prefer for girls to just keep both their tops and bottoms covered with a dark colored shirt and shorts.

Granted, not every man shares this opinion, but many guys do. Unless you know exactly where each guy stands who will see you, do you really want to play at odds: “Only four out of ten guys will stumble at what I’m wearing”? And consider the fact that you’d be causing four out of ten guys of ALL ages to stumble. When we talk of tempting our brothers to stumble we usually think of the guys our own age. Lust doesn’t just “go away” in older men, and it starts very young in guys, disturbingly young—in many cases well before the pre-teen years. Jesus warned that whoever caused a little one to stumble might as well have a millstone hung around his neck (or hers) and be thrown into the sea (Matthew 18:6-10). Is your swimsuit going to be your millstone?

Considering all I’ve said in the past two sections, I want to make it clear that we must be careful not to label articles of clothing as “evil”. That misses the point. The point is to be discerning and to seek God’s glory. For example, can I say that bikinis are evil? No, but applying some basic discernment leads me to the conclusion that they (along with many other swimsuits) have no place in public—at least not on Christian girls. Legalism reacts and says bikinis are evil no matter what. Love and discernment respond with reason and say bikinis are not for public consumption, but they can be worn for the glory of God within the context of marriage! I hope that helps you to understand where I’m coming from.

Tips and Creative Obedience

We’ve laid quite the foundation now for determining how best to dress for the pool or beach. Some of you may be shocked at the effect your swimming attire has on your brothers. You may even be wondering if you should swim around them at all! That’s a good thing to discuss with your parents or husband.

Now, as far as getting creative…If you can find a swimsuit (or combination of swimsuit pieces) that is truly consistent with your convictions, great! If you can’t, then I encourage you, with the guidance and practical help of the authority God has placed over you, to seek to create your own swimsuit—tailor made to honor God, your father or husband and your brothers in Christ. Here are some tips when you think about doing your own thing:

  • Watch out for, well, “showing through” your swimsuit top! Wearing a padded bra underneath a T-shirt or whatever top you plan on wearing should take care of this—no matter the temperature outside or in the water!
  • Layer! If you have a nice top you like to swim in that isn’t tight (meaning it may not stay down on your torso), you can keep from exposing your midsection by either wearing a tucked-in camisole or one-piece swimsuit underneath.
  • Leggings or bike shorts are a great way to keep your legs covered when your shorts or skirt may ride up in the water. You can also loosely connect your skirt (or shorts) to the leggings with a loop of thread and a button—this will keep your thighs covered and keep the skirt from floating up when under water!
  • Shop thrift stores for lycra or other water-friendly fabric and colorful prints that you can use to make your own swimsuit that actually fits your convictions.

Here are a few examples of girls that have sought to be consistent with their convictions when in the water:

  • One of my college friends wears a bikini for her husband, but only for her husband. She wears long board shorts and a dark T-shirt to swim in public. She simply doesn’t want to show any more of her body in public—she doesn’t see why she should!
  • Another girl I know has standards that are more conservative than my own. She’s working on making her own swimsuit that includes a skirt, but also has leggings down to her ankles. I’m delighted to see that she’s seeking to honor the Lord by being consistent with what she and her family believe!
  • ModestSwimwearSolutions.comHere are some girls who made their own swimsuits because they didn’t want to compromise their convictions when they swam. They sell swimsuits, swimsuit kits, and patterns (though they’re not cheap)!
  • Abigail and I usually wear T-shirts and shorts. I wanted to come up with something more feminine than just a dark T-shirt and long gym shorts, so I recently bought two skirts at a thrift store, made of swimming-appropriate fabric, one black and one with a tropical floral design. I made the black one into a knee-length skirt that I wear with knee-length bike shorts underneath (covering to the knee being my personal standard). Then, I made the other flowery skirt into a top—it has cap sleeves, a boat neck, and blouses nicely. I wear a camisole underneath, tucked in to my skirt. My goal was to have a swimsuit that I would be comfortable wearing anywhere in public. My husband and I are really happy with the way this project has turned out!
  • Some girls I know are ok with sleeveless tops in their day-to-day dress, so they might wear a long, very conservative tankini swimsuit top and shorts or a skort that also meet their standards, or those of their family.

The results will be somewhat different for different girls and their families. The point here, however, is that wherever you do draw your lines for modest dress, you don’t have to compromise them when you swim. Be consistent! You’re free to pursue creative obedience as long as you are submitted to the authority God has placed over you, seeking to please your father or husband.

I hope you’ve been able to see the heart of this issue more than the specifics mentioned. To sum up, we should embrace the godly sense of shame that compels us to cover up, rejecting the world’s wisdom, so that we can dress to swim for the glory of God, being careful to guard our brother’s purity. And we should first and foremost seek to grow in love for our God and our brothers and sisters in Christ—the love that motivates careful obedience in this area (and in every other part of our lives, as well!).

Grace and Peace!

part one / part two / part three / part three cont’d / part four

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12 Comments

  1. princessesindisguise said,

    Sorry! We forgot to tell you about the award! I hope you’ll still pass it along. I love your blog, though I haven’t popped in for a while. This is a great thought-provoking post!
    ~Princess S

  2. Pearls and Diamonds said,

    Thanks “Princess S”! 🙂 We’re grateful for your encouragement!

  3. Nathaniel said,

    Lauren– I think you are so hott!

  4. Pearls and Diamonds said,

    LOL, I love you Nathaniel. Even when you’re silly. 🙂 (By the way: Thank you, sweetie!)

    Your adoring wife,
    Lauren

  5. Esther said,

    AMEN! I am so grateful to know that I am not the only one who wears shorts & t-shirts while swimming. Thought I was pretty much the only one in the whole wide world!! 🙂

  6. Christa Taylor said,

    Hey Lauren great tips! Thanks for sharing-

    Check out the “modesty Carnival” at http://www.empoweredtraditionalist.com/2008/08/28/modesty-carnival/

    I would love to add your article(s) to the list- Let me know!

    Sincerely,
    Christa Taylor
    http://www.christa-taylor.com
    modest fashion

  7. Lindsey said,

    I have searched EVERYWHERE for girl’s knee-length board shorts. Any suggestions? I found men’s but I don’t want men’s!

  8. Pearls and Diamonds said,

    I’ve never been able to find them in the local stores (probably because I don’t shop any places pricier than Wally World and Target). But they sell them online. My friend ordered a pair of Roxy board shorts. The longest I’ve seen have either an 11 or 13 inch inseam. I’ve never bought any since I don’t feel like forking over quite as much money as they sell for–especially in light of the fact that I am not an avid swimmer. They may be well worth the investment for girls who swim often, though.

    Here are some options I found on one site. Two are board shorts and one is for a surfer shirt (which I would recommend buying bigger than you need as it looks like it’s made to fit skin-tight). Most of the swimwear on this site is immodest, but these were some decent options:
    http://www.altrec.com/hurley/juniors-deco-boardshort-11-in
    http://www.altrec.com/billabong/juniors-redwood-boardshort
    http://www.altrec.com/billabong/juniors-dreamer-rashguard

    I hope that helps. If anyone else knows how you can get them cheaper, I’m all ears. 🙂

    ~Lauren

  9. Trey Edwards said,

    I have been asked to comment on this series, by the author, so here goes(soli deo gloria)…

    The points in these posts are very true, I couldn’t agree more. I think that most Christian girls genuinely have good intentions, but are so constantly bombarded by the notions of immodesty that the culture holds, that they have come to accept it as normal, and even acceptable. This is wrong, and not only does not glorify, but DOES lead their brothers in Christ astray. A person can read a blog like this, and think that they are some good principles in general, but wonder if a “modest” one-piece swimsuit really causes guys to stumble. Yes. It does. I just want to say that Lauren and Abigail represent how Christian guys think and act, very well. We really do appreciate people like them who have the boldness to step up and teach you young ladies what we young men think of you, because we are afraid to tell you ourselves. We do not like to approach you on issues such as these, because that would make for one awkward conversation, and guys who have a genuine desire to be polite to ladies and to act like a gentleman, have a real reluctance to start an awkward conversation. We need more people like Abigail and Lauren in the Christian community, not just blogging, but talking to other young ladies at church, teaching classes on issues such as these, etc.

    I was very interested to learn about the option of wearing a short-sleeve shirt and shorts while swimming. I had never heard of that before, and I did not think that clothes like that would really work well in the water. I think that this is a wonderful idea, and I hope that more Christian young ladies will start doing this. Another idea: Don’t have multi-gender swimming parties. No matter how modestly you dress, these such parties are always a stumbling block, and there are many other fun activities that people can enjoy together. However, if you do attend such parties, the way you dress will say a lot about your heart to the other people there.

    The main point that Lauren brings up repeatedly in these posts is that of motive/heart. No matter how modestly you dress, it is the heart that matters. If I see a girl walk through church with the most immodest dress possible, but constantly flirts with guys, I will think much less of her than a girl that comes to church that is trying to be modest, but is not completely succeeding. If you truly have a heart to not tempt your brethren in Christ, and to preserve your body for your husband and your husband alone, and it shows itself by your actions, you will be more modest in a Christian’s eyes than someone who simply dresses “modestly” because their parents tell them to.

    There is one more point I would like to touch on, also in agreement with Lauren. We (Christian guys) DO NOT want to be tempted by you. You might think that while, yes, we aren’t supposed to have bad thoughts about young ladies, we enjoy it. We don’t. Immodesty by young ladies is one of the biggest stumbling blocks in a young man’s life. I don’t know how to stress this issue more without going into inappropriate details, but I will say this: modesty is not just something that your parents and Christian peers are encouraging you to do. It is despised by the very young men you are trying to attract, although we may have a hard time expressing it when it happens.

    …This review will most likely not end up that good, because I do not have much experience at this subject. I have never dated, never openly had a crush on someone, or accepted that of another. On top of that, I have never really done anything like this before. I write a lot of articles, but not very often in response to another one. So forgive me if this ends up seeming badly written and not applicable to the subject at hand.

  10. Abigail V. said,

    After I took a look at the modesty survey, my view on modesty was totally changed. Not just with swimsuits, but in other ways. I tossed several items out the door. And I put my bike shorts in the swimsuit part of one of my drawers. I never realized how much even a “modest” tankini would affect guys.

  11. Pearls and Diamonds said,

    Thanks for your comment Abigail (and yours too, Trey)! I’m going to get around to more than just swimsuits in the next few weeks. I’ve taken a break from blogging, but I’m getting back to it this week. Abigail, I’d love to hear more of what you’ve learned as I post these next couple of articles to finish out this series…the next one will be formal wear…

    In Christ,
    Lauren

  12. Part One: Setting Standards and Sticking with Them « Pearls and Diamonds said,

    […] one / part two / part three / part three cont’d / part […]

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