Is there such a thing as modest swimwear?

What is modest swimwear for a Catholic woman? How would you classify wearing a bikini in public? Sinful, an occasion to sin, or according to the wearer’s intentions?

Whenever questions like this arrive, I always wonder why people limit the modesty issue to women’s clothing. Why does no one seem to wonder if men can be dressed immodestly – or if modesty includes more than covering a sufficient amount of skin?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

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 one’s choice of clothing. It keeps silence or reserve where there is evident risk of unhealthy curiosity. It is discreet (CCC 2522).

Yes, it is possible for both women and men to dress immodestly; but, yes, it is also possible for them to find modest swimwear. Using the Catechism’s definition of modesty, swimwear should not show more skin than is necessary to enable the wearer to participate in the activity of swimming. Bikinis and thongs are a fashion statement, meant to flaunt one’s body, and thus are usually immodest.

For women, one-piece swimsuits can be both attractive and allow freedom of movement in the water. For men, shorts that fully cover their backside and fit loosely in the front fill the same needs. Both men and women can keep an old shirt or blouse handy for wearing when out of the water. Women could add a pretty sarong if they want more “coverage.” And everyone scandalized over itty-bitty bikinis but not paying much attention to men’s modesty issues should start teaching both their daughters and their sons the virtue of modesty.

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