Monday, June 21, 2010

What Do Nuns Wear To the Beach?

I have a seven year old daughter who eagerly desires to become a future Spouse of Christ. Having a potential nun in the house has really changed my viewpoint as a mother.

This past year, I suddenly became uncomfortable about my standard for dressing my daughters modestly at the beach and the pool. Initially, I dressed my girls in the same one piece bathing suits that I wore to the beach. I thought modestly simply meant skipping over the two piece bikinis that are all over the toddler racks.

Here's Hannah in a one-piece bathing suit at age 4. This was my old standard of modest dressing for the beach.
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Once Hannah started hanging out with Nuns who confirmed her future vocation to me, I started to feel uncomfortable about my bathing suit choices for my daughter.

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(Hannah with one of her best friends, Sister Peace.)

What do Nuns wear to the beach?

I couldn't imagine Sister Peace or Sister Revelation leaving their beautiful habits for a "modest" one piece.

I can't really describe it, but a small voice in my head said that if something was inappropriate for Sister Peace, it also wasn't great for Hannah. Hannah's not in a habit yet, of course. But she does wear conservative sweet dresses. I didn't want Hannah to ever look back on smiling photos of herself as a child at the beach and feel embarrassed by her immodesty.

Moreover, because Hannah is tall, this year we suddenly had to deal with unwanted male attention at the swimming pool. I didn't want some strange boy drooling over my pretty daughter in her tankini at age 7. A boy drooling over any girl at the beach is bad. A boy drooling over a girl who is pre-engaged to Jesus Christ, the chaste Savior of the World, seems so much worse!

I prayed a lot for God's help to choose a new swimsuit for Hannah. Here's the modesty solution we've come up with for this year. My girls and I have long-sleeve rash guard shirts and matching swim skirt bottoms from Lands' End. My girls love their new swimsuits. I love that the Lands' Ends suits make me appear like a Mother who is terrified of sunburn and not a crazy Catholic mother who prays 2 hours a day!

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(New Standard of Modesty: Long Sleeve Butterfly Rash Guard with Swimming Skirt from Lands' End, Hannah age 7).

Modesty became a family affair as I bought my husband and my son rash guard shirts, so that their top halves are completely covered this year.
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(Benjamins at the Pool, Summer of 2010)

When I looked at Hannah happily playing at our apartment pool for the first time this summer, I felt such relief. Hannah looked like a sweet young girl. I was shocked to see how the modesty issue played out among her young friends. Every single girl who had a divorced father wore a revealing two piece bikini. Every girl who had a Dad who still lived at home, wore a one piece. (Then there were my girls with their long-sleeve one pieces!) All of Hannah's friends at the apartment pool were under age 8! The link between a missing father and a young girl's need for male attention plays itself out so early.

However, my biggest surprise I had came from my husbands change in swim wear. In the past, my husband has Jon worn long swimming "shorts" and a kept this abdomen bare. This year, my husband added a white rash guard shirt.

Every time I saw my husband across the pool wearing his new swim shirt, I felt this rush of love. I knew how cute my husband's chest was under that modest shirt, but no one else could see him. By dressing extra modestly at the pool my husband sent me a little valentine that said "my body is for you alone."

What are your thoughts about modest dressing?
Have they changed as your daughters grew from babyhood into young adulthood?


  1. I whole heartedly agree. Thank heaven for Lands End swimwear. It's funny how being sun savy is PC so your girl is actually "cool" in an "overprotective mom" kind of way. My girls (One is 14) have modest swimwear too and we all LOVE it. They can just have fun playing, which, is what they're supposed to be doing anyway - enjoying their little, wonderful, childhoods!

  2. What a great post. Originally I thought you were really honestly asking the question about what nuns wear to the beach and I was going to answer but you did a beautiful job. My community has a retreat house on the beach and we used to have swimsuits made... it has proven too expensive and impractical so now sisters buy a modest and simple bathing suit to wear. I have actually found that they do sell "tankinis" that have longer skirt bottoms and t-shirt tops. That is what I am currently wearing. BTW, my community does wear a habit... down the shore though we are allowed to dress appropriately for shore activities... like swimming in the ocean! I didn't realize lands end sold those tops, but maybe if they come on sale I'll get one for my next suit... thanks a bunch! You helped a sister with this information, God bless!

  3. Sister Marie,

    It's so lovely to hear from you! I did wonder what real nuns wore to the beach. Thanks for answering my question.

    What Order are you from? My family will pray for you!

  4. Wow. I googled what nuns wear to swim because I was curious, but having your 7 year old daughter wear a wetsuit for her 'future engagement with Jesus'? She's 7, she'll most likely change what she wants to be, and 1 pieces are very modest. About the divorce comment, I have a whole and happy family and I've always worn bikinis unless it was at a camp where it wasn't allowed. It doesn't show a 'need for attention' you have a right to show off your stomach before you get fat, as long as other parts of you aren't hanging out you're pretty modest IMO. But thank you for helping me learn what nuns wear to swim. I always though they'd just wear a black one piece but I guess that isn't modest enough