How About If I Just Swim In My Snowsuit Instead?

swim

Well this is exactly what I want to wear to the beach when it’s 90 degrees out.

I’m with Robin: These suits are just plain ugly, and the push for “modesty” is nothing more than misogynist clap-trap.

The makers of WholesomeWear swimsuits would like women to cover up their tummies. And their backs. And their arms. And half their legs. The Oregon company, based outside Portland, sells a collection of swimwear online that consists of a wet suit topped by a dress. The spandex underpinning is not sufficient on its own because bystanders would still be able to make out the curves of the woman’s body. The nylon overdress takes care of any audacious display of an hourglass shape.

I do hate to make the obvious association, but what other infamous article of clothing does this sound like?

The company has found a following among older women who like to wear the suits for water aerobics, larger women who prefer more coverage poolside and women whose husbands like to act as fashion consultants.

“I’m very surprised at the men who call because they don’t want their wives and daughters running around in their underwear,” Ferguson says.

Aww. How sweetly paternalistic of them.

WholesomeWear is going into its fifth year and, according to Ferguson, has sold thousands of swimsuits in three styles: culotte, skirted and “slimming,” which looks like a loose-fitting housedress. There is an option with the slimming suit to extend the sleeves below the elbows and to lower the hem so it ends just above the ankles. A woman would be swimming in something akin to a choir robe. “These are designed to highlight the face and not the body,” Ferguson says. That may be true, but a woman is more than just a disembodied head. Why be fearful of the rest of her?

Because the rest of her is a temptation to sin, my friend. You see, God may have created woman with breasts and hips and an ass, but these things are nonetheless evil, and any indication of them is bad.

The company may not be preaching to a specific denomination, but it is nonetheless preaching. Ferguson describes her family as “Christian people who love the Lord.” And the swimsuits are “a ministry.”

It is hard to look at the prim swimwear — $89 retail — and not feel as though the company is cranking back the clock to the 1920s. All that fabric denies women the sense of liberation that comes with the freedom to celebrate the body. (The company offers swimsuits only for women and girls. There are no alternatives for a man who is gun-shy of surf shorts.)

This is because the male body is not synomymous with sex. And while the male body is just as capable of committing sin as the female body, it is apparently not as capable of inticing innocent members of the opposite sex to sin. And so we must encourage women and girls to swim in cumbersome, tent-like suits.

And these things don’t look like they’re easy to manuever in. I was a lifeguard through high school and college, and when I worked at an outdoor pool we used to have to practice rescues fully dressed in sweatpants and sweatshirts. The justification was that on cold days we sat outside fully covered up, and if we wanted to guard that way, we had to be able to perform rescues dressed like that. And I’ll tell you, it wasn’t easy. All of us were swim team kids who had been raised around water, and we were all excellent, strong swimmers — but make me rescue a 6’2″ 200-pound man while I’m in heavy cotton sweatpants, a sweatshirt and tennis shoes, and I’m gonna have a hell of a time. Given that we were all strong swimmers, we all made the rescues — but it was really, really difficult. Even swimming with a t-shirt over your swimsuit makes swimming harder. I can’t imagine getting a good water work-out in when you’re covered from neck to elbows to knees.

But then, I suppose that physical mobility for women and girls isn’t their greatest concern here.

One can’t help but consider these body-cloaking suits in the context of July marking the 60th anniversary of the modern bikini, named after the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific where the United States tested an atomic bomb. A thrifty person could outfit an entire sorority in bikinis from the fabric in one WholesomeWear slimming suit. To celebrate this milestone in bikini history, there have been countless how-to stories about the best way to wear these teeny-weeny swimsuits. Assouline published “The Bikini Book,” a photo history that opens with a testimonial by author Kelly Killoren Bensimon in which she shares the news that as a thirty-something mother of two daughters she feels more comfortable in a bikini than any other article of clothing. (That comment leaves one with the suspicion that she is either lying or has a financial stake in Speedo.)

When bikinis were first introduced, they were scandalous, but over time they have become less so. One-piece suits have been redesigned so that some of them, with their cut-outs and strategically placed adornments, are more risque than the average bikini. Still, the bikini is forever associated with a woman’s willingness to flaunt her body, to strut her confidence, to revel in her sex appeal. There is liberation — of far more than just the bellybutton — in a bikini.

The bikini was scandelous because it publicly revealed the female body. And, while I think we can all agree that objectification isn’t liberating, the bikini was sort of a big middle finger to the people who saw the female body as inherently sinful and needing to be covered.

Ferguson says her company isn’t on a mission to un-liberate women. “Absolutely not. If people want to buy our suits we’re thrilled, but they certainly don’t have to,” Ferguson says. A person has to have strong convictions “to wear our suits,” she says. If you have those convictions, “you’re not going to care about the liberation or if you get persecuted and made fun of.”

Have strong convictions and you won’t care about liberation! Now that’ll keep the little ladies in line. And I do love how she subtly brings in the Christian persecution thing. Smirking because you’re wearing an ugly bathing suit for a stupid reason (and inexplicably wearing it with reading glasses sitting on your head), or feeling bad for you because your control-freak husband/father doesn’t like your body they way God made it and thinks you’re a temptation to sin, is not the same thing as persecuting you.

WholesomeWear may appeal to certain people of faith, but it also raises many lamentable body issues with which women grapple. Most women dread buying a swimsuit. The occasion is fraught with irrational feelings of inadequacy. Women often joke that they would wear a muumuu to the beach if they could. The truth is there’s nothing to stop them from doing just that. But they know the cure for their insecurity is to let go of cultural expectations and their own skewed self-image. The answer is not to hide the body but to cheer for its ability to swim laps or just sedately float — in a bit of form-fitting, aerodynamic nylon and Lycra. That’s not immodesty; that’s confidence.

It is important to acknowledge that wearing a bathing suit in public is a very stressful experience for many women. It’s been a stressful experience for me, and I went through a phase in adolescence where I always swam with cut-offs and a t-shirt over my swim suit. I had a fantastic bikini-related self-esteem breakthrough last summer when checking out all the gorgeous Italian women of varying ages, shapes and sizes at the beach, and finally having a lightbulb moment that in real life, things like saggy breasts or stretch marks or extra fat or a tummy or thick thighs aren’t actually aesthetically displeasing — but that’s another story for another post. And I still have bathing-suit-related anxiety. and I have it often. The point is, I can relate to the desire to wear a muumuu to the beach. But I still find it highly problematic that this company is playing off of misogynist cultural ideas about the deviant female body in order to sell its product.

In the past, the woman on the beach wearing a bikini was the aberration, the spectacle. But now, a woman in a bikini is commonplace. She spans all ages. And there is something especially compelling about an older woman wearing a two-piece swimsuit, not necessarily to display her curves but to underscore her strength.

A woman swaddled in WholesomeWear’s knee-length nylon would stand out. Not just because she’s covered up but because she’s done it in such an unattractive way. Perhaps she is modest or religious or simply someone who really needs to get over the fact she doesn’t have legs like Naomi Campbell. But in looking at all that camouflaging fabric, at the layers aimed at obscuring the physique, one wonders how a swimsuit “ministry” can save anyone’s soul when such ungainly suits have so little appreciation for beauty.

Agreed. They look like the unfortunate offspring of an ill-fitting housedress and Jeff Spicoli’s wetsuit. And from what I can tell from the website, they are marketed entirely to white people. White people who also enjoy wearing stupid hats.

Now, I am taking my immodest, bikinied ass to the beach. And I might even be a real sinner by putting my glorified pectorals on display for all to see. Take that, WholesomeWear.

74 comments for “How About If I Just Swim In My Snowsuit Instead?

  1. July 14, 2006 at 8:46 am

    Why don’t we all just wear these?

    The style is already disturbingly similar, with the addition of the hot pink, of course.

  2. July 14, 2006 at 8:49 am

    Excuse me, Bryan, but I can see the curves of that man’s calves. And such curves may draw me into temptation, which is not acceptable. Please keep such pornographic images to yourself!

  3. twig
    July 14, 2006 at 8:57 am

    Somebody on another site made the point similar to the one at the end of the article – if you’re the only one at the beach in one of these when everyone else is wearing two-piece or one-piece suits, you’re going to attract a good deal of attention, which is the opposite of modesty.

    To be fair, I can understand the attraction for wetsuits and coverups for fat people. I haven’t been to the beach in a suit for five years, it’s just too damn embarrassing.

  4. Marian
    July 14, 2006 at 9:13 am

    I do hate to make the obvious association, but what other infamous article of clothing does this sound like?

    Sorry, you lost me here–I’m not seeing one particular article of clothing. Are we referring to a corset, or a house dress, or something else?

    But this is another example of “don’t maximize the female form,” but go ahead and maximize the male form.

  5. July 14, 2006 at 9:22 am

    As insane as this is, as a fat guy I say: where’s the suit for guys? I’d like to cover up as much as I can. Not because I’m tempting women to sin mind you; quite the opposite.

  6. July 14, 2006 at 9:22 am

    That reminds me of Grandma Bouvier (Marge’s mother) getting arrested for showing too much ankle.

  7. zuzu
    July 14, 2006 at 9:36 am

    Somebody on another site made the point similar to the one at the end of the article – if you’re the only one at the beach in one of these when everyone else is wearing two-piece or one-piece suits, you’re going to attract a good deal of attention, which is the opposite of modesty.

    Well, that’s the point, isn’t it? Make everyone aware of how MODESTMODESTLOOKITMEEEEI’MMODEST you are?

    FWIW, the girl in the photo may be one of the Duggars — or so the speculation is amongst the Duggar watchers on TwoP. Talk about your attention-getting modesty wear.

    Me, I don’t really wear swimsuits in public, but when I do, I throw a pareo and maybe a linen shirt over the thing and I’m both covered and not attracting undue attention for sticking out. Plus, I’m less likely to burn.

  8. Cait
    July 14, 2006 at 9:38 am

    I’ve thought about getting one of these to wear to the amusement park, so that I could go straight from the water park to the roller coaster without having to stop and change. Shame about the whole “ugly” thing.

  9. Norah
    July 14, 2006 at 9:52 am

    What if somebody drowned in one of those ass-ugly suits…would the manufacturers be legally liable? It seems like a real hazard.

    I went through the awkward teenage phase of swimming in a long shirt, but those days are OVER! I *heart* my bikini, and anyone who doesn’t like it can kiss my ass.

  10. July 14, 2006 at 10:09 am

    Does anyone else find it exceptionally creepy how obsessive grown-up conservative men are about their pre-teen daughters’ (or any daughters’) bodies?

  11. July 14, 2006 at 10:09 am

    I like to cover up too-I wear a tankini top and boy short bottoms but really, there are ways to be modest without attracting as much attention as those suits do. One piece and boy shorts anyone?

  12. July 14, 2006 at 10:16 am

    How on earth is it misogynist? It’s a product that women can choose to purchase or choose not to.

    I know how you guys feel about body-images, but some people don’t like to exhibit their flaws or the deleterious effects of aging.

    I say, let them swim at the beach.

  13. jayunderscorezero
    July 14, 2006 at 10:18 am

    Like Jeff, I have to say that one of my first thoughts was “Where’s the one for me?” Then I remembered, when I want to go to the beach covered up I just go wearing a tee-shirt and jeans. I would not be caught dead in the male-equivalent of that travesty. I wouldn’t want to attract that much attention.

    Well, that’s the point, isn’t it? Make everyone aware of how MODESTMODESTLOOKITMEEEEI’MMODEST you are?

    Exactly. Most people who might choose to cover themselves up are generally sensible enough to know how to do so (most of us cover our bodies every day, of course), and it does not have to include shelling out the best part of $100 just to make a spectacle of yourself.

  14. Marian
    July 14, 2006 at 10:27 am

    FWIW, the girl in the photo may be one of the Duggars — or so the speculation is amongst the Duggar watchers on TwoP. Talk about your attention-getting modesty wear.

    Hilarious: My company web filter:

    Your access to “http://www.duggarfamily.com/index.htm” was denied because of its content categorization: “Religion and Ideology”

  15. July 14, 2006 at 10:29 am

    Welcome to the Republican babes gone wild edition of Feministe.

  16. July 14, 2006 at 10:33 am

    They’re going to have to find a way to make the fabric totally impervious to water, otherwise when these modest ladies get out of the water their flappy housedresses will be soaked, and fetchingly clingy. And, that’s just immodest.

  17. July 14, 2006 at 10:37 am

    Actually, I can see a market for these for Orthodox Jews. My Orthodox assistant told me that he wasn’t allowed to go to the beach because he would be seeing immodestly dressed women. Presumably Orthodox women don’t swim at all.

    An Orthodox resort with women wearing something like this (the sleeves would have to be longer) is a beter alternative than not swimming at all I think.

    Not that it isn’t a product of a patriarchal worldview in which the only important part is the male gaze. But some women aren’t making a choice between patriarchy and feminism; they’re making a choice between patriarchy in which they get to leave the house, and patriarchy in which they do get to leave the house.

    I’m guessing the reason this thing is so hideously ugly is because the fabric has to retain its shapeless shape when wet. A nicer fabric with a better drape would probably cling when wet.

  18. becky
    July 14, 2006 at 10:38 am

    I hope this isn’t too off topic, but this post just struck me because yesterday I was at a local lake, and I saw a large group of men and women in old fashioned dress (women: long dresses and bonnets, men all covered and with suspenders). I’m not sure what denomination they were, I was speculating Mennonite old order? But I just found the experience troubling, as only some of the younger boys were able to really get in the water. The women just waded a little, still completely covered in their to-the-ground skirts. It brought back some of my old teenager anxieties about wearing a bathing suit in public, especially in front of a group that obviously associates the body with sin.

    Luckily, I got over it and went swimming in my bikini, as planned.

    But as to this bathing suit company… I can’t imagine why people buy from them. I’ve seen many more modest style suits and cover ups (a plethora of cover ups these days) in catalogues and stores, and they’re ALL much more appealing than these nylon sacks. And they don’t try to sell their products by equating hating and hiding one’s body with being a good Christian.

  19. July 14, 2006 at 10:39 am

    Um, that was do get to leave the house and don’t get to leave the house. Proving that a preview window is wasted on me.

  20. July 14, 2006 at 10:41 am

    Unless the wearer is an amazingly strong swimmer, those things are a drowning hazard.

    Few people can swim for any length of time in “street clothes”, and the extra layers of fabric in those things will create water traps all over the place that will play havoc with buoyancy – not a good thing for someone who gets caught in a current for example.

    (But then again, someone strong enough to swim with the extra layers probably long ago lost any inhibitions about being seen in a swim suit)

  21. July 14, 2006 at 10:44 am

    Conservative Muslim women love bathing suits like that. Then again, their alternative is swimming in a burkha.

  22. zuzu
    July 14, 2006 at 10:48 am

    Presumably Orthodox women don’t swim at all.

    They do rollerblade and run, however. I always find it a little startling when I see them in the park in long skirts, helmets and elbow pads.

    The Orthodox and the Hasidim are pretty interesting in terms of modest clothing. Both sexes have to dress modestly, but for most of the sects, the women look more normal, because they’re not supposed to stand out. So you’ll have a man with a beard, sidecurls and a long black coat and hat looking like he stepped out of the 19th Century, and a woman with a conservative but stylish suit and wig, or one of those beret-like things, who looks decidedly more modern.

  23. mral
    July 14, 2006 at 10:52 am

    It is hard to look at the prim swimwear — $89 retail — and not feel as though the company is cranking back the clock to the 1920s.

    Oh, but stuff from the 1920s was so much more attractive than this trashola. Also, do you think the glasses the model is donning are supposed to make her look more modest, or do they simply prevent any speculation that she might actually get wet?

  24. Mikey S
    July 14, 2006 at 10:53 am

    For what it’s worth, in Orthodoxy, marital sex is a sacrament. Unlike the Christian sense that even marital sex is bad, unless it’s strictly for procreation, there is an obligation towards mutual pleasure.

    It’s just very, very private.

  25. zuzu
    July 14, 2006 at 10:58 am

    Oh, I kinda like that 1920s suit. Especially with the parasol.

  26. July 14, 2006 at 11:00 am

    Ahhh the ol’ hide the body trick! When I was 13 I went to the only private–and also Southern Baptist–school in my town, and the girls had to wear skirts below the knee. No sleeveless shirts, NO PANTS, nothing tight fitting, no knees showing, or you were sent home.

    Even the cheerleading squad had below the knee, long skirts. It was ridiculous. Guys of course could wear whatever they wanted, (including shorts) and sleeveless shirts if they were playing sports.

    Other evils were dancing, music with drums and going to the movies (seriously if a teacher was caught at the movies, they’d be fired).

    The pastor’s wife reportedly NEVER wore pants. I always wondered what she went swimming in. Now I know.

  27. July 14, 2006 at 11:02 am

    I am that unusual fat woman who doesnt mind wearing a regular bathing suit at the beach. However, I have to admit that when I saw that suit, there is a part of me that wants to buy it. Why? Not because I want to be more modest. Screw that. But because lately sunscreen has been making me itch so I have taken to swimming with a t-shirt on so I can avoid having to put sunscreen on. I wonder if those are easier to swim in than a t-shirt?

    It does bother me that these are being marketed from a modesty point of view. I mean I already overhear comments at the beach along the lines of “OH Look. How gross. A fat woman in a bathing suit who dares to be seen in public in a bathing suit. ICK. There should be a law about that so I dont have to look at something so hideous.” I can only imagine how much worse such attitudes would be if more people realized that there were swim suit options such as the one pictured there.

  28. hp
    July 14, 2006 at 11:02 am

    Hm. I actually would wear something like that–if I was planning on not swimming. For boating maybe, or a stroll along the beach followed by dinner at a casual restaurant. Maybe for a water amusement park that was mostly slides. What I find nice about it is that it covers the parts of my body that are determined to burn with about five minutes exposure to the sun–the shoulders, the skin at the top of the chest, and the backs of my upper legs. And since the fabric is “supposed” to get wet, I’m going to presume that it drys well and quickly, so it would be good for spray.

    But, I can buy (and already own) beach coverups that do the same thing. And they’re maybe $20. I also, like many others here, find the way that the suits are being marketed to be objectable. Wholesome wear? Whatever.

  29. July 14, 2006 at 11:02 am

    I sent the Wholesome Wear link to a friend of mine and he came back with this, “If I ever see someone with that on, I’m gonna holla at
    ’em on full mack daddy mode. I love irony.”

  30. July 14, 2006 at 11:04 am

    I am that unusual fat woman who doesnt mind wearing a regular bathing suit at the beach.

    I’m with you Lynne. If someone has a problem with my body, then it’s THEIR problem. Look away if it scorches your retinas so! I’m trying to enjoy the beach here.

  31. exangelena
    July 14, 2006 at 11:20 am

    Yes, the swimsuit is ugly, but I don’t think that all women who don’t want to run around in string bikinis think their bodies are “sinful”. I’m a feminist and I dress fairly modestly, because I don’t think that skimpy clothing looks attractive on me and I get less uncouth attention on the street if I cover up.
    We have fought for the right of women to be sexual beings, but how about the right of a woman to opt out and not be seen as a sexual object?
    Plus, if I had a young daughter I wouldn’t force her to wear one of these, but I wouldn’t put her in uber-sexualized skin baring outfits when she’s prepubescent. And the upside to a suit like this is not only less time putting on sunscreen, but you don’t have to worry about waxing (which I have found awful since I gave myself a 2nd degree burn with an at-home kit, but I still have to do it because of the way bathing suits are cut these days).

  32. July 14, 2006 at 11:23 am

    I had a fantastic bikini-related self-esteem breakthrough last summer when checking out all the gorgeous Italian women of varying ages, shapes and sizes at the beach, and finally having a lightbulb moment that in real life, things like saggy breasts or stretch marks or extra fat or a tummy or thick thighs aren’t actually aesthetically displeasing — but that’s another story for another post.

    Pretty please!

    Oh, and from upthread:

    Actually, I can see a market for these for Orthodox Jews. My Orthodox assistant told me that he wasn’t allowed to go to the beach because he would be seeing immodestly dressed women. Presumably Orthodox women don’t swim at all.

    An Orthodox resort with women wearing something like this (the sleeves would have to be longer) is a beter alternative than not swimming at all I think.

    Alternatively, the sexes could be segregated, so you would have a women’s only beach where they can wear whatever they want. I’ve heard of similar things, like Muslim all-female proms. Obviously all these situations have some element of shame, but I think that getting to hang out with men but having to wear an awful costume like that (while they’re in trunks or whatever!) would instil a lot more shame than flaunting your body when the guys aren’t around.

    Urgh. I don’t like wearing revealing clothes, especially bathing suits, but just seeing that picture makes me want to buy a bikini and lounge on the beach, to compensate.

  33. KnifeGhost
    July 14, 2006 at 12:28 pm

    Somebody on another site made the point similar to the one at the end of the article – if you’re the only one at the beach in one of these when everyone else is wearing two-piece or one-piece suits, you’re going to attract a good deal of attention, which is the opposite of modesty.

    There are two kinds of modesty. The opposite-of-arrogance kind, and the cover-the-body kind. Neither one really has to do with not attracting attention to oneself. I don’t see the contradiction here.

  34. frumious b
    July 14, 2006 at 12:31 pm

    hah. when I take my pale, pasty body to the beach I cover up in a long sleeved white shirt, hat, and towel over my legs. let ’em stare, I say. We’ll see who’s laughing in a few years when they have wrinkles and skin cancer and I don’t.

  35. July 14, 2006 at 12:33 pm

    Sigh. Newsflash, Wholesome Ones: though it’s true that liberation doesn’t lie solely in the right to display the flesh, it sure as hell doesn’t lie in covering it up, either. As the Aunt says in the Handmaid’s Tale, “there are two kinds of freedom: freedom to and freedom from.” In Gilead — and at Wholesome — the value is placed solely on the “Freedom from” being gazed at. But feminism says that to ask women to choose is to set up a false dichotomy. Dignity is not contingent on concealment.

  36. Kat
    July 14, 2006 at 12:34 pm

    Let’s just hope the girls stay away from the edge of the pool, I suspect that thing would pull you down like a spinnaker.

  37. piny
    July 14, 2006 at 12:34 pm

    Oh, I kinda like that 1920s suit. Especially with the parasol.

    It’s vintage high femme. I’ve got friends who would rock that suit.

    Besides, it’s not what you’d call terribly modest, is it?

  38. Nobody
    July 14, 2006 at 12:54 pm

    I thought I had a trump card, that I might finally win an argument, here. But it turns out that Lauren wrote this, not Jill. Still. You didn’t condemn. . . nah, never mind.

  39. Marian
    July 14, 2006 at 1:05 pm

    Yes, the swimsuit is ugly, but I don’t think that all women who don’t want to run around in string bikinis think their bodies are “sinful”. I’m a feminist and I dress fairly modestly, because I don’t think that skimpy clothing looks attractive on me and I get less uncouth attention on the street if I cover up.
    We have fought for the right of women to be sexual beings, but how about the right of a woman to opt out and not be seen as a sexual object?

    I actually wear a one-piece suit, but only because I like beer a lot and feel that I have a bit too much “belly” for a bikini. ;-) Tried one on and didn’t feel “flat” enough to look good. Christian Modesty? Not really, but societal beauty standard? Of course!!

    I think European women get away with not being so “flat” in the belly, but I’m not sure.

  40. Sara
    July 14, 2006 at 1:15 pm

    Somebody, somewhere, has just discovered a new fetish in those ridiculous outfits.

    I wish I could say it was me, but alas. I find them hideous.

  41. Julie
    July 14, 2006 at 1:16 pm

    Oh geeze. I am fairly self conscious, even more so since I know have lovely stretchmarks that extend from my breasts to my thighs and I manage to find bathing suits and cover-ups that I can wear to the beach without an 89 dollar price tag. Nor do they make me look like I am wearing a glorified sack cloth. For instance, the one I have now is plain black, has one of those little skirt things on it and a scoop neck that ends right above my breasts (which actually I have no problem showing a little cleavage, but I couldn’t find one that was tastefully done and covered the areas I wanted covered). My dad is ultra conservative and he never had any issues with us dressing in normal bathing suits. A couple of my sisters have actually done bikinis, I just never felt comfortable with them. These people scare me, those look like a major drowning hazard.

  42. July 14, 2006 at 1:24 pm

    And while the male body is just as capable of committing sin as the female body, it is apparently not as capable of inticing innocent members of the opposite sex to sin.

    I don’t know how it is with other men but personally I have found that my body is, apparently, incapable of inticing innocent members of the opposite sex to sin. :)

  43. raging red
    July 14, 2006 at 2:23 pm

    My mother doesn’t know how to swim and is sort of afraid of water because her mother, who is a staunch Church of Christ-er, would not allow it. To be seen in public in a bathing suit was unacceptable. My mom’s brother, on the other hand, could swim all he wanted. I wonder whether grandma would’ve allowed my mom to swim if she had come across swimsuits like these.

  44. lou
    July 14, 2006 at 2:48 pm

    Shannon, I’m like you. I wear a tankini suit with a cute pair of boy shorts. no constantly tugging at bikini bottoms any more. and I don’t have to wax if I don’t want to.
    on the subject at hand:
    I can’t imagine wearing those outfits. you certainly couldn’t swim in them. ugh. but I had an Iranian friend in college back in the 80s who probably would have welcomed something like that so she could go swimming with me.

  45. July 14, 2006 at 2:48 pm

    Of course, here in Massachusetts, a long-sleeved two-layered bathing suit might be useful for a reason other than modesty: even in mid-July the ocean is frigging cold.

  46. Barbara P
    July 14, 2006 at 3:47 pm

    I think this embroidery from echidne nicely sums up the theme of this post: :o)

    Bikini/Burka

    I also wanted to add that I *have* seen “swim” burquas (long-sleeved, down to ankle, black, including a headpiece). Some women were wearing them at Sesame Place in PA. As weird as it was to see, I felt kind-of glad that at least those women had a chance to go on the water slides.

  47. K
    July 14, 2006 at 4:01 pm

    Knowing how to swim is a safety issue. It’s appalling that your grandma let “modesty” trump the safety of your mother.

    I have taken to wearing bike shorts in the last few months simply because I am way preggers and can no longer shave/wax my bikini line (my waxer even said they weren’t allowed to wax preggies there because of some weird notion that it could cause premature labor).

    I also experimented with teenie bikinis when younger and discovered that there is a point at which you’re so busy trying to make sure the thing doesn’t slip off or disintegrate it’s hard to have a normal good time in the water.

  48. Alby
    July 14, 2006 at 4:30 pm

    I wonder how you would swim laps in that thing? No water polo or swim team for you!

  49. raging red
    July 14, 2006 at 4:55 pm

    Knowing how to swim is a safety issue. It’s appalling that your grandma let “modesty” trump the safety of your mother.

    Definitely. My mom put me and my two siblings in swim lessons at a young age. Oh, and raised us as godless heathens. :) Meanwhile, grandma has lightened up a little. Just a little.

  50. s.hearn
    July 14, 2006 at 5:54 pm

    God made us in the image that he had in mind, and I trust that God has the power and love to make us beautiful. And assuming that there is a God, which I’m sure there is, I would think that he wouldn’t mind a woman showing off the beautiful body that He so kindly gave her, so long as she is not showing it off for the purpose of sexual promiscuity. If the guys looking can’t control their hormones, it’s not the woman’s problem.

    Whether or not somebody decides to show off that beautiful body is their choice. I know that I am not comfortable walking around without a shirt on.

    The Bible promotes sex inside of marriage. Whether somebody keeps to those rules is their choice. Just as it is their choice as to whether they keep to any other set of rules.

  51. kate
    July 14, 2006 at 6:43 pm

    On the website:

    The suit snaps between the legs for in water use and unsnaps for a modest out of water look.

    So there’s nothing foolish looking or immodest about spreading your legs akimbo at the beach and fumbling around at your crotch to snap the stupid skirt together? Or does it snap together at your knees? And how on earth does that make swimming that much easier. You still have two layers of cloth all over you.

    Besides the fact that they are ugly what really disturbs me are these peices of the whole disgusting thing:

    1) That there are so many women who have a man running every detail of their lives and telling them they are evil.
    2) That the pics show little girls, so I suppose they must learn early on that their bodies are the source of evil and sexual impulsiveness in men.

    Liberation is freedom. When women can wear whatever they want whenever, without everyone chiming in, taking issue or making laws, then we’ve acheived some progress.

    I’m sure WaPo boosted their sales quite a bit, hopefully they’ll die a slow and quiet death once forgotten.

  52. gw
    July 14, 2006 at 7:06 pm

    I just started swimming again about 3 weeks ago – after some 40-odd years of not really knowing how to swim, I decided to take an adult beginners’ class, and, boy is it great!!!

    I wear a one-piece racer-back suit. I love the feeling of my body gliding through the water. I even wear a damn-fool bathing cap, because it keeps my hair out of my face and keeps me streamlined.

    I cannot imagine swimming in these things!!! How could you kick properly with all that fabric flapping around? How could you do a flip turn? How could you do a butterfly with all that fabric pulling on your arms and shoulders??

    I can see the point of the undergarment shown; it’s kind of like a short wetsuit, and if its cold a cute, brightly colored wetsuit would be kinda nice. But the idea that you have to have some loose floppy fabric down to your damn knees to avoid showing your SHAPE is pretty weird.

  53. R
    July 14, 2006 at 8:04 pm

    Veering slightly off-topic, here, but I see a lot of people commenting and saying that they like the idea of a suit that covers more skin, to prevent sunburning. I usually wear a one-piece and board shorts when I’m swimming in an indoor or shaded outdoor pool, but when I’m in the ocean or floating down a river, nothing beats a SCUBA-style dive skin for comfort and sun protection. And you can get them in patterns that are just as much fun as any bikini (check out divegoddess.com for some awesome color choices).

    The thing about wearing a skin, though, is that it’s still form-fitting, and extremely lightweight – I don’t have any fear of getting tangled up in extra fabric, which seems like it could be a serious drowning risk.

  54. Technocracygirl
    July 14, 2006 at 8:09 pm

    I took a windsurfing camp one year, and my aunt lent me her Nomex(?) wetsuit, since I was going to be in and out of the water of Puget Sound, which is very cold, even in July. The suit worked like a dream, and I had absolutely no difficulty swimming in it. So I don’t think the undersuit would be a problem.

    However, my wet suit was skintight, lacking the overskirt. I don’t know how much it will interfere with swimming, but I’m certain it must.

  55. Niles
    July 14, 2006 at 8:49 pm

    For those who mentioned the suit being a fallback to the 1920s, you didn’t regress far enough. That’s the modern equivalent of the *Victorian* swimsuit. Possibly Edwardian.

    http://www.fashion-era.com/early_swimwear.htm

    Queen Victoria and her daughters would climb into a beach carriage from a changing tent on shore, and the entire carriage would be wheeled down the beach into the water so they might emerge straight from the carriage into the drink without exposing their forms to anyone around. When done, back in they’d climb and preserve their modesty as they were hauled back to the tent. I’m sure their behaviour was a role model for all women of good family.

    I believe once wet, those wool outfits could weigh around 20-30 lbs. They weren’t for swimming so much as just being allowed to soak in cool water. So, the modern “Victoriana’s Secret” model is getting off easy.

    To put it in perspective, the re-enactment show “The 1900 House” (as shown on PBS) had a telling observation from the ‘wife/mother’, who put one on and got doused with buckets of water in the back yard. She said after wearing the typical woman’s daily fashions, the swim outfit was a vast free feeling relief.

    Not sure what women of the lower classes and say, fishers culture wore. One suspects anyone around a maritime community learned to swim without benefit of anchoring modesty. But then, they also had *tans*, a sure sign of low stature.

    Given the fashion strictures on a lot of the fundamentalist sects in the country, this is just par for the course. At least the girls are being allowed out in mainstream public at all. If their male siblings are allowed to get away with typical swim shorts, I can only hope the girls will start connecting the dots and rebelling against an unfair system.

  56. July 14, 2006 at 8:54 pm

    The worst thing about these wholesomewear things is that even though they’re supposed to not draw attention to your body, they still manage to have a “slimming” line.

    They manage to both make you feel shame at your body, and yet still make the chubby girls feel inadequate.

  57. Spotted and Herbaceous Backson
    July 14, 2006 at 8:56 pm

    The waist is too high, and probably the rise too long; I’d need a tailored one or something…As for actually swimming, I don’t know if it’d work,I haven’t been in the water in so long. I don’t consider it shapeless; everything visible has some sort of shape.
    I think I will wait till someone comes up with something that makes you invisible. Then I’d dive in and foks would be so surprised at the splash….

  58. little cabbage
    July 15, 2006 at 7:40 am

    I’m mostly just reading and learning and agreeing, but I wanted to jump in here:

    “Actually, I can see a market for these for Orthodox Jews. My Orthodox assistant told me that he wasn’t allowed to go to the beach because he would be seeing immodestly dressed women. Presumably Orthodox women don’t swim at all.”

    I live in a veeeeery heavily Orthodox neighbourhood, and the gym that I go to has segregated swimming hours and water aerobics classes just for women, as well as a whole separate women’s workout room. There are also men-only hours at the pool and in the co-ed workout room. Everyone loves it, because it’s good not only for Orthodox women (who can therefore swim in normal swimsuits and wear normal workout clothes) but also for women and men who are uncomfortable with their bodies and who therefore have a safe space.

  59. Kitty
    July 15, 2006 at 9:36 am

    I live in Texas, where it’s 105 outside for three months. This suit is going to cause the wearer heat stroke, what with the tight undergarment and the useless black (heat retaining) smock-thingy. Fainting from the heat, and therefore burdening the lifeguards, EMS, and hospital staff unnecessarily, is anything but modest.

    I don’t like to show much skin at the pool either. I’m 43 and have two kids, and, well, I never was a big fan of the bikini, either and at my stage of life, I’m WAAAAAY past the need for the world to see my stomach. If you want a modest but fashionable and practical swimsuit, Land’s End and Chadwick’s both carry swim separates with long tops and skirts or things that look like running shorts. (You can choose bare-tummy options, too. No thongs, though.) I have somthing like six of those. The tankini has the wonderful side-effect of allowing you to go to the bathroom in the suit without completely undressing, too. Some versions even look just like short sets, so that you don’t have to change to go eat after a day at the beach. I highly recommend.

  60. July 15, 2006 at 11:59 am

    The picture above is actually intended for the “active” swimmer, according to the Wholesomewear site! The other option is basically a dress rather than culottes.

  61. zuzu
    July 15, 2006 at 12:38 pm

    The tankini has the wonderful side-effect of allowing you to go to the bathroom in the suit without completely undressing, too.

    Yes, yes, yes. That’s one thing I love about the tankini. That, plus I’m long-waisted and normal one-pieces often give me a wedgie. Unfortunately, tankinis tend not to be entirely supportive on top.

  62. oudemia
    July 15, 2006 at 1:02 pm

    Yeah, these sorta wouldn’t fly in the orthodox community. There are sex-segregated beaches and pool resorts where the women sport more standard swimwear. That suit above isn’t really modest enough for public consumption chasidically.

  63. Kitty
    July 15, 2006 at 1:12 pm

    zuzu, I have the long waist issue as well, and the tankini was a real happy discovery because of it. As for the top support, which, being a 38C post kids, I need as well, I’m pretty sure Land’s End makes an underwire top, and I’ve found that their racerback tops are at least decent in that regard. Also, both companies have a really good range of sizes.

  64. July 15, 2006 at 3:01 pm

    Sez Happy Feminist:

    The picture above is actually intended for the “active” swimmer

    Most “active” swimmers have long ago lost any sense of “modesty” about being in a swimsuit – the reality is that we come in all shapes and sizes.

    I’ve swam for exercise for years, and I seldom so much as notice what shape other swimmers are – you get used to seeing all sorts of things – and then you wind up “not seeing” them at all.

  65. Kat
    July 15, 2006 at 3:36 pm

    I am a tankini fan myself and find that Lands End has ones that are supportive up top thanks to solid construction and a variety of bra types available. You can order them online (good return policy if they don’t fit) or they sell them off the rack at Sears if you prefer to try them on first.

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  67. Claudia
    July 15, 2006 at 11:30 pm

    I don’t like swimsuits that show a lot of skin. I’m very shy. I can’t argue with those who say the “wholesome” suits are ugly — I think they are too…I don’t know if those who buy them have different ideas of beauty, or if they just think other values are more important than beauty. I disagree that they would be hard to swim in. Thick cotton like they use in sweatshirts absorbs a lot of water, weighs a person down in the water, and feels horrible on getting out of the water (clammy and clinging against the skin, taking forever to dry.) But light nylon cloth is much more comfortable and convenient even when loose-fitting, because it absorbs so little water and dries so fast. That’s what they use for boys’ swim trunks, or for my swimsuit-that-doesn’t-look-like-a-swimsuit (it looks like something for playing volleyball, not something for going to a square dance).

  68. Josh Jasper
    July 16, 2006 at 3:25 am

    *blink blink*

    You people wear *clothes* while swimming in the ocean. That’s disgusting!

  69. July 16, 2006 at 9:08 am

    They’re ugly, and the reasons for “modest swimwear” are ugly here, too. However, I remember when I came across that site when I was, indeed, looking for more “modest” swimwear — not because I’m ashamed of my body and don’t want other people to see it less I spontaneously combust into Hellfire, but I just don’t feel like wandering around swathed in thin, skimpy spandex like a piece of fucking woman-meat for all the assholes to leer at on the beach, when all I WANT to do is just get my swim on.

    Why give a shit about the misogynistic reasonings for these swimsuits, Washington Post, and not, say, bikinis? Oh, but there’s nothing misogynist about those things, right? And more to the point, bikinis are attractive and these, like, like, are not!

    Remember girls, if you don’t look hot, we can analyze your clothing choices “politically.” If you DO look hot, you are beyond reproach.

  70. July 16, 2006 at 9:49 am

    Well, in my ideal world, every store would have a nice selection of two piece suits cut so that no one would think of – ouch! – waxing. Other than that, I don’t have any particular reason to look for a more modest suit (and certainly this one is overkill from the not wanting a bikini wax angle).

    You people wear *clothes* while swimming in the ocean. That’s disgusting!

    Tell me what warm ocean you’re swimming in, Josh! I’d use a wetsuit for ocean swimming, if I had one.

  71. Cassandra
    July 16, 2006 at 3:36 pm

    I used to be very body unconfident and would only wear one-pieces. However one summer at camp my swimsuit was dirty and my friend offered to lend me one of hers, but she only had bikinis. After a while I realized that no one really cared what I was wearing, and if they did, I didn’t care about them. Since then I have only worn bikinis because I have a big butt which would always hang out, both uncomfortably (wedgie) and unattractively (because it was like, divided into two, as some fellow camper once pointed out to me, making me want to bury myself in the sand and die). With bikinis, my butt stays comfortably in place.

    Interestingly, it was at this same summer camp that I first discovered, at the behest of a fellow Latina who was our bunk’s counselor, the utility of a thong for us pear-shaped girls. Thongs get a bad rap, I think, as uncomfortable things for the objectification of women, but they’re more comfortable for me than most underwear because there’s less of them to ride up (and with me, almost all underwear rides up anyway).

  72. Linnaeus
    July 16, 2006 at 3:56 pm

    *blink blink*

    You people wear *clothes* while swimming in the ocean. That’s disgusting!

    Not as disgusting as the post-mortem bloating after I’ve succumed to hypothermia.

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