Modeling modesty at the beach

I have a passion for promoting modesty—so much so that I wrote a book on the topic. That may not sound strange, except that my career choice seems like an oxymoron in light of my passion. I am an international professional model, and have been in the fashion industry for 20 years. I must admit, I am a proverbial clotheshorse, but I don’t let today’s styles dictate my convictions. 1 Timothy 2:9-10 states, “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety (a regard for spiritual things) …appropriate for women who profess to worship God.”

So how can a Christian fashionista balance the two? As I set out on that journey while writing my book, Fashioned by Faith-A professional model uncovers the truth about modesty and style (Thomas Nelson); I broached the undeniable question of swimwear. Through prayer and research, these were my findings:

Modesty is an issue of the heart, not the hemline, and its primary purpose is to distinguish women who profess to worship God (1 Timothy 2:9-10). Secondly, it should never be a stumbling block for men. After establishing the heart issue, it is important to examine that the purpose of clothing is to cover “the parts of the body that should be treated with special modesty” (1 Corinthians 12:23).

One-piece suits obviously cover more, but we should note, a one-piece doesn’t guarantee modesty. If it has a plunging, revealing neckline or Rio-cut back, it can actually be racier than a two-piece suit. But is it possible to wear a modest two-piece bathing suit? I believe that it is—but it’s tricky. If the swimsuit is at least three finger-widths thick on the hips and covers your bottom and cleavage entirely, I would suggest it is modest. Because of my long frame, a tankini works perfectly for me. I am able to swim, play volleyball and football, or jog on the beach comfortably while still maintaining modesty.

Fit plays an important role in swimsuits and after some wear; swimsuit straps can get stretched out and can constantly fall off your shoulder. They can be taken up or the suit can be retired altogether. Also, if the suit has lost its elasticity, it’s time to shop for a new one.

Additionally we should make sure the suit is thick enough to cover us on top and bottom. A well-lined suit is a must, especially if it’s white. If there is any question about it, test it in the shower first.

One final thought on swimsuits: We should be careful to wear our suits only at the pool or beach. Many times on vacation I’ll notice girls running up the stairs to their hotel room or hanging out in the lobby in their bathing suits. An easy fix is to put on a cute cover-up, sarong, wrap, or even a pair of coordinating shorts before leaving the swimming area. It’s both tasteful and fashionable.

In my search of finding fashionable, modest swimwear, I came across the fantastic designer, Tara Grinna. I own many of her suits and get compliments all day long. They’re well constructed, beautifully designed, and I can wear them with out anyone questioning my intentions or integrity.

Ultimately, we must set our standards of what a woman who professes God should look like in her wardrobe choices before we head to the mall. And remember, integrity is always in style!

Rachel Lee Carter is an international professional model of more than 20 years and has worked for clients such as CoverGirl, Tommy Hilfiger, Reebok, Jones New York, Perry Ellis, Nicole Miller, DKNY and many others. She is represented by top tier agencies worldwide. Visit her website here.

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