Modest swimwear may sound like an oxymoron, but it’s not– it’s actually a growing trend.
Swimwear, for many, is intimidating– and it’s not just a weight issue. Women are under constant pressure to look one way, feel another way, and then suddenly just bare themselves to the entire world as soon as the mercury hits something beach-worthy. There’s a growing portion of the population that’s more interested in modest swimwear than bikinis, though, and it has little to do with religion (although that’s still a factor for many).
“Modest swimwear lets you fit into the ‘dress code’ of swim-type environments without feeling like all your parts are hanging out. As we start to get older (and less comfortable with our bodies) I think EVERYONE wants that, religious or not,” shares Aly Walansky, a travel and lifestyles writer. “Modest swimwear, by sheer virtue of covering more, offers increased sun protection — and who doesn’t want that?”
Added sun protection is just one of the many benefits of covering up often elements-abused areas like the chest and shoulders, which is a major reason that modest swimwear companies like HydroChic are seeing major growth in the modest-chic segments of the swim and leisurewear industries.
“This trend is for women across the board who just do not want to expose so much skin,” Daniella Teutsch, one of the HydroChic co-founders shares emphatically as she sends me endless jpgs of women looking and feeling confident in their covered swim looks. “We find women of all ages who are looking for a little or a lot more coverage than the traditional swimsuit. Some are looking for sun protection, and many want to feel comfortable on the beach without feeling exposed.”
The global swimwear industry rings in over $13 billion in sales each year– and with 70% of sales attributed to women’s bathing suits, you can do the math of just how big the potential for modesty is from a business standpoint, too. American retailers have been in a sort of sales slump because stores just aren’t offering styles that people really want to wear, but if you look at social media, the trend for modesty is certainly a growing one. Just a few months ago Vogue named the Orthodox Jewish fashion trend one of the biggest to head our way in a long time– and that means sleeves, skirts, and closer attention to flattering-but-elegant details. It’s a trend that both already-confident and could-be-more-confident girls are clinging to with ease.
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Valis Vincenty, a well known beauty blogger, says, “I started wearing modest swimwear because as I gained weight, but I found less of a variety of styles to choose from. Honestly it was Cynthia Nixon’s old Hollywood-style swimsuit from the first Sex and the City movie that really caught my eye. It kept the areas I was self-conscious about covered while offering an alluring look. I loved the nostalgia and the fact I wouldn’t look like everyone else on the beach or by the pool. I started snapping up similar pieces, and when more modern pieces were available in my size– I just added to my collection. I think they’re just another way to be sexy and shake up your style.”
The modest swimwear styles that are available in 2016 are hardly the ones your mom wore to the pool club back in the day– they’re ripe with modern plays on fabric technology, piping, cinching, and all the details you’d want in an expensive skirt/top combo you’re actually able to wear to the beach without looking crazy. There is a major emphasis on creating flattering silhouettes while maintaining coverage in all the right places– and that kind of mainstream appeal has roped in even the most modern, tattooed, and heavy metal-music loving cool girls like beauty editor Meirav Devash.
“They actually deliver on what a great bathing suit should offer,” she says of the modest suits she owns. “…a flattering outfit you can wear while splashing around that will contain your body parts. Find me a string bikini that can do the same for DDs!”
There is, of course, the added feeling of ‘agelessness’ that happens when you’re wearing a form-fitting but still covered suit. Suddenly spider veins, cellulite, and scars from decades of life experience are able to be neatly tucked beneath comfortable, chic fabric, because not every life achievement needs to be displayed for the world. Just like adding a carefully planned and selected layer of makeup to the face can hide signs of aging and imperfections, a layer of just-as-thoughtfully picked swimsuit material can do wonders for the appearance of one’s body.
“I think the true trend is that women and designers are embracing the real beauty of bodies,” says Brooke Genn, of Nomadic Newlyweds, of the ability to show your body off in a stylish way without getting lost in a sea of baggy tshirts or oversized men’s clothes. “With so many styles available, women are able to choose a fit that flatters. Confidence is sexy, and we’re all noticing that choosing suits that are made for our shape makes us feel great.”