Fashion, Function, and Faith: My Cyclical Journey Towards Buying a Swimsuit

So it’s January, but I’ve already begun thinking about the always-impending swimsuit season.  My voluptuous body, combined with a desire to be modest, and further combined with a few self-consciousness issues usually makes the processes of buying and wearing a swimsuit more frustrating than fun.

Every year I find myself at the cross-section of three troublesome bathing suit issues- fashion, function, and faith.

Fashion.  I like to wear things that are interesting and that I feel I can brand with the “Juliet” stamp.  I’m attracted to things that are different, quirky, and unexpected (while still being tasteful).  This is done easily with dresses and jewelry, but is nearly impossible in the realm of swimwear.  The cuts for bikinis, tankinis, and one-pieces are extremely common and the patterns are usually *yawn* boring.  Cherries, hibiscus flowers, stripes and polka-dots basically sums it up.  There is usually little embellishment or other detailing that typically gives clothes a “oooo wow” factor.

Function.  In case you haven’t gotten the memo about my boobs, read this.  Now, if you think that buying a bra to fit a set of 34Gs is hard, you’re in for a world of hurt when I tell you about the bathing suit issues.  The vast, vast majority of swimsuits fit me in one of two ways; they either offer no chest support, or I am spilling out all over the place.  This is because a suit with “cups” large enough to handle my girls is too big around the rib cage  to fit well or offer any support, while a suit that is snug enough to keep things together will usually have “cups” far too small to be considered tasteful on my physique.

Faith.  Really, this section should be called “Modesty”, but I am just a sucker for alliteration.  Up until very recently, I was of the understanding that bikinis wear against the rules of the church and that bikini wearers were openly and shamelessly lacking in faith and obedience.  Well, I let someone else do the legwork for me, and it seems that wherever my anti-bikini attitude had come from, it wasn’t from any place official.

Now, I think that modesty is a principle that one who is striving to be like Christ should always embody- in dress, in action, and in attitude.  But who gets to decide what is modest and what isn’t?  I mean, in normal, endowed life, modesty standards are fairly clear.  But if we really think that it’s God’s law that are shorts go to our knees and our shoulders are covered, why aren’t we making sure to wear these to the pool?  Or how about, less offensively, something more like this?  We obviously allow for serious deviation from typical standards of modesty in dress when it comes swimwear.

At the intersection of fashion, function, and faith, I am wedged between these issues:

  • I want to be modest, but I am not willing to search the entire earth for a suit that keeps my chest from calling attention to itself.
  • One-piece suits and tankinis typically have very little chest support.
  • I generally dislike the look of most one-pieces and tankinis.  They are either too young, too old, or just trying too hard to not be too old.

Now I think I have a solution to my problem: A bra sized bikini top with a high-waisted “bikini” bottom.  Something along these lines, if you can look past the boring retro styling.

I can hardly believe that I am posting this, seeing as that is a bikini and I swore in my wrath that I would never wear such a thing.  But if I were to wear a tankini that revealed two inches of lower abdomen, nobody would be calling me immodest.  So, if I wear a swimsuit that reveals a few inches of upper-abdomen, shouldn’t that be okay, too?

But I am still going around in circles- I feel like I’m not at all grounded in what it means to be modest while also wearing a swimsuit.  I don’t want to be immodest, but I also don’t want to wear something that is ugly and ill-fitting.

And then there is the “don’t give men bad thoughts” issue- the idea that women and girls in “immodest” swimwear are a stumbling block to our fellow brothers who can’t focus on their priesthood duties because they have become too consumed with lust over their scantily clad bodies!

My sarcasm isn’t meant to imply that men don’t become distracted over immodest women or that women shouldn’t be concerned about how they are being viewed by those around them.  But I don’t feel compelled to take responsibility for the thoughts and/or actions of another person.  If God himself came down and said, “Girlfriend, this bathing suit turns the boys on, don’t wear it.  This one, on the other hand, gives them no such feelings”, then, and you had better believe, that I would wear the one that wasn’t giving anybody any kind of feelings. But God hasn’t said that, and so i feel like I will just drive myself insane if I try to rid myself of any shadow of sex appeal.

I am struggling here, and my struggle is scattered and sort of undefined.  I just want to wear a bathing suit that I like and that is functional and is modest, but it isn’t so easy.  What are your thoughts?  How do you decide what is appropriate and what is not?  I want to hear what people have to say on the issue.

Or we could just say to hell with the swimsuits and go skinny dipping.

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4 thoughts on “Fashion, Function, and Faith: My Cyclical Journey Towards Buying a Swimsuit

  1. Katherine says:

    Rock that retro style, pretty panda.

    Here’s my thing with the “you’re tempting the boys!” argument –

    Ask a whole bunch of men which part of a woman’s body is most sexually stimulating, and overwhelmingly, they’ll either be a “boobs guy” or a “butt guy” (actual terms I’ve heard lots of men use). There will be slight deviation, but generally majority will fall into one of those. So, okay, every swimsuit is going to cover a good portion of those unless we start getting brazilian or european.

    Ask a bunch of women what the most sexually stimulating part of a man’s body is, and you get a bit more variety, but last time I did this the 4 most common answers were arms, chest, abs and that V thing that the pelvic bone does (this usually elicits an “omg yesssss” from the other females in the group).

    So why is it perfectly fine for all of the men to run around with their board shorts barely hanging on to their asses, with all of the sexually stimulating parts of their body on display, and yet we’re obsessed with covering up a woman’s stomach? Of all the times I asked guy friends to identify sexually stimulating parts of a woman’s body, stomach never hit top 10. (this leads into a whole different tangent on the church’s opinion of women being sexual beings that hopefully you’ll blog about and I can rant then :P)

    On your last statement, go with what’s in your heart. Personally, there are times where my *intention* with a swim suit is to be able to jump in the waves or go wake boarding and not have anything pop out. And yes, other times, the intention may be to look sexy. You are always going to have boobs and a figure that draw attention to themselves. But if you can look at what you’re wearing and honestly state “I am wearing this for my purposes and not to attract stares from horny men,” then I say you are good to go.

  2. Kevin Carpenter says:

    First, clearly the issue of swimsuits is just too complicated. I’m all for skinny dipping. =)

    Second, please stop worrying about whether or not you are tempting men (or boys) to sin. That is their problem, not yours. Even if you were walking around completely naked, it is the responsibility of the man to look away if he does not want to lust. I am not saying that that is easy for a man to do, but that it is simply not your problem. Getting arrested for indecent exposure would be your problem, not the thoughts of some random man.

    Third, those “wholesome” swimsuits are a riot. But I really like the “retro” style you seem to be leaning toward. I think it is both modest and appealing. I don’t think that I would think “Oh wow Juliet is so immodest” if I were to see you wearing something like that. Go for it!

  3. The idea that modesty is something that we do for the benefit of other people is one that I’d really like to see fade away. While modesty CAN be a good influence, it is not for their benefit. Other people are already supposed to be mastering themselves, and honestly, cultural norms vary so much that attraction itself is very immaterial. In my mission country I saw more bare breasts than I can recall to count, but it was never in a way that was thought of as “sexy” or “alluring”. People generally covered up for politeness, but if they knew you well, or if they were just rude, it wasn’t thought of as a big deal. (a big shock for a lot of young missionaries, to be sure.)

    Modesty is something we do for ourselves. It is for our own individual growth, and for self-respect, and for reverence of God’s creation. Modesty is a manner of thought, which carries over in our actions and presentation. Many extreme manners of dress and extreme hairstyles are also considered immodest, even if they cover everything up. Modesty is a mindset important for both men and women, but for themselves rather than those who may be attracted to them.

    Modesty is also the reason men are discouraged from growing excessive facial hair in the LDS church. I am fairly certain that that has nothing to do with sexual arousal at all (well, for some people.), but it is still connected to modesty. Modesty is also the reason why male missionaries in the LDS church are discouraged from having overly flashy ties. Who was ever aroused by a flashy tie?

    This “modesty is stupid because boys need to control themselves” idea is a myth. One that really needs to end. As is the “modesty is so boys dont accidentally sin all the time because boys are soooo weak!”

    How we present ourselves to the world – tangled with how the world will perceive our expressions of self – is important. It is important regardless of gender, value, sexual orientation, political affiliation, or whatever. In the LDS church we happen to believe that a modest presentation is the best way, but that is hard to define.

    The reason why it is so hard to define is because it plays off of cultural norms and conservatism (not the political kind, the personal conduct kind.) and that is something that is constantly shifting and changing about. It is an issue that certainly requires thought, but I don’t think requires a lot of stress so long as you’re trying to maintain it.

    I find it interesting, one of the common words in my mission country for handsom or beautiful is also synonymous with Humble, Modest, Respectful, Well-mannered, and all sorts of words like that. I think that is the main idea tied in to modesty.

    Beauty before sexuality.

    Anyways, I wrote a rant. Sorry about that. Enjoy!

  4. gracegurl says:

    I totally agree with everything that has been said here, including comments. For me, the whole swimsuit thing is totally separate from any laws in the Bible because there really are no definitive laws about swimsuits. I personally feel that it is up to the person wearing the swimsuit to define if what they’re wearing is immoral or not. Let that person draw their own line because there is no universal one in place yet.
    For me personally, I don’t like bikinis. I hate bikinis. I hate wearing bikini bottoms the most. Half of this is because I’m insecure, half is because I feel way too exposed to be morally correct. If I wear a bikini that’s smaller than my underwear, then why wear a bikini? Right? I’d be fine with a full coverage bikini top and some swim shorts but other than that I wear tankinis that I also hate because they’re uncomfortable. Still searching for a cute one-piece.

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