Swimwear not too long ago
In light of Pilgrim’s post on the quote from Jeremy Sonnier about swimwear I feel it a good time to add a post on this subject as it is something very near and dear to my heart. It also is timely as a few weeks back I completed reading a booklet on Christian Modesty and swimwear. I was hoping to do a formal study on this subject, but right now I have too many irons in the fire. And so I will share some thoughts and then present the reader with this wonderful albeit challenging booklet. Something I pray you will study on your own, prayerfully consider and then share far and wide with the Christian community who are in desperate need of such a teaching. A teaching that few men who call themselves shepherds of God’s flock will touch with a ten foot pole.
Don't touch me, I'm sacred!
As I write, please know that in no way am I judging any individuals as I write to teach and not to condemn as my sincere desire is the glory of Christ and the building up of his church. Something that is easy when you preach on subjects that always result in a resounding amen, but rather difficult when dealing with a subject like the one before us today. A subject one might rightfully classify as a sacred cow that is rarely touched by the church where there are even those who hold to the Reformed faith that remain woefully silent. This is a travesty where men of God who claim to be shepherds of Christ’s flock need well to examine themselves to ascertain why they will preach on the evils of decadent society outside their four walls, but will quickly become mute in addressing it within their congregation. Are we not told to get the plank out of our own eye first so that we might then clearly see to remove the speck from our brother’s eye? Does not judgment begin first with the house of God?
I also recognize in writing this article and posting the booklet by Jeff Pollard that there will be some who will not take the time to study this matter out as good Bereans, but will instead rail against it as being legalistic bondage that seeks to place fetters on our liberty in Christ. As if liberty in Christ means that we can do anything the world does, slap a Christian liberty label on it, and go our merry way as if we’ve done nothing wrong. This sadly is the mantra heard in many a church and from many a Christian where all manner of immodest dress have become as citadels that will be defended tooth and nail. So much so that in only a few generations we have gone from a secular society that use to promote and defend modesty (due to Christian values undergirding it), to one that mocks modesty and promotes nakedness. And tragically backing up the purveyors of indecency we have ourselves, the church to thank. Thank either due to our silence and apathy, or thank due to our approval and defense.
One last item of introduction is vitally important that I ask the reader, and especially the ladies, to keep in the forefront of your mind. For if you miss this, you will miss the true meaning of Biblical modesty and what we can learn from studying it. Both quotes come from two messages given by Jeff Pollard which sum up beautifully the issue of modesty as it relates to our dear Christian sisters. We read,
Modesty is not first an issue of clothing. It is primarily an issue of the heart [1a] … that expresses itself in outward behavior. … [For there are] “women who can cover themselves from the neck down to the floor and be sensual, and there are Christians who have a heart towards the things of the living God that being taught nothing in our culture regarding these things often display sensuality that they do not intend.[1b]
I would build upon this and add that donning modest apparel does not in and of itself mean that a woman is righteous any more than wearing a bikini means a woman is wicked. No, most assuredly not for we as Christians know that our righteousness that allows us to stand holy and pure before our God is not a matter of dress. Rather, it is based on the imputed righteousness of another, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. But, this reality does not negate the call in Scripture for us to be holy (cf. I Pet 1:16), nor does it nullify the command given unto woman to adorn themselves in modest apparel (cf. I Tim 2:9). But one of the huge impediments to this it is that we live in an extremely immodest world where many of the ladies in the church have not been taught these things. Thus, a large part of the blame lies at the feet of the men in the church (fathers, husbands, elders) who are supposed to be teaching on these matters and are not.
Likewise, many of the women, just as is true for the men, are wearing the fashions they have been taught to wear by their parents, society and even the church. And just as the fish gaily swimming about in the sea is ignorant that he is wet, so too we who swim about in the waters of an immodest world, are often oblivious to our immodesty. Today, I hope that some of this will change even in a small way. With this said, let us move forward in looking at swimwear.
The study of swimwear and how it evolved from the conservative style you see at the top of the article, to the licentious bikini found towards the bottom is quite a fascinating study. In conducting such a study, or simply reading a booklet like the one by Mr. Pollard, one thing you will find is that our fashions for modern swimwear did not pop up out of thin air. No, most assuredly not. Instead, they were created by haters of Christianity and designed for a purpose and that purpose had nothing in view regarding holiness, modesty or Christian values. Rather, they were created and designed then even as they are today, whether implicitly or explicitly, to break the shackles of Christian restraint and to “free” men and women to bare their bodies in expressions of so-called sexual freedom with women as the primary target.
These facts stated above, and they are facts, are not glossed over nor denied by the swimwear designers. No, actually the exact opposite is true as the swimwear fashion moguls are unashamed to declare both the intent of these fashions, as well as the end result on society. Many quotes, quotes from their own mouths, bare this out. A few I will share below where you will find many more in Mr. Pollard’s booklet, and even more if you do your own research. I only wish the same honest handling of the facts would be true for those Christians who earnestly seek to deny these realities and gloss them over in a Pollyanna-like manner.
The twentieth century defined a new era for swim wear. The revolution was instigated by two things: a greater interest in recreational sports and the influence of daringly cut French swimsuits. The torturous corset was finally dispensed with and the task of eroticizing the body was taken over by exposing the skin itself since there was nothing to equalize or camouflage the shape of the body. What occurred during the evolution of the bathing suit during the 20th century was a merciless exposure of the flesh due to the rapidly shrinking suit.  (bold added)
…the swimsuit has traveled through several different styles and designs, meant to both conceal and display, to excite and mollify. … [T]hroughout history, the swimsuit has always maintained a somewhat exciting presence in its combined purposes of revealing and concealing. In many ways, the swimsuit is so titillating a piece of clothing because it is—and always has been—the most revealing, socially appropriate clothing worn by either men or women. 
Socially appropriate is key. If society says a given style of swimwear is acceptable such as a bikini, people wear it (including many in the church). If society frowns on it, then people do not. An interesting point to note is that the determiner of what is right or wrong is not God and his word, but rather the lost world. Something to think about for the Christian who blindly accepts the fashions of this world. And it is for this very reason that this “standard” based on the shifting sands of unregenerate man’s views is always
trending in a downward direction. A downward direction that results in the removal of more and more fabric, and the revealing of more and more flesh. We see this very thing with swimwear. And we see also that what was to one generation a moral outrage, becomes a celebrated right to the next. This transpiring as “[t]he public’s concern with nudity eroded as time passed.” 
Everything's okay here!
Do we not see a continuation of this downward spiral today as even the bikini is becoming passé? Certainly we do where this declension can be likened unto the proverbial frog being slowly boiled in a pot of water as he is totally oblivious of his being moved from life unto death. In like fashion the same is happening with our world as we are being slowly boiled in a pot of wickedness as we too are moved from life unto death as we quickly slide towards Gomorrah. But most are totally unaware of this “boiling” as our hearts have largely grown cold due to the increase of wickedness in our generation. In part due to growing up and partaking of the sinful things of the world before Christ and not having them completely purged (as none of us do); in part due to our partaking of the same after Christ, whether intentionally or unintentionally, and in part due to our not being taught these things from the word of God.
Returning to our societal slide into Gomorrah, we find this has happened with swimwear in large part based on a few “trend setters” in the fashion industry who, in a quest to make a name for themselves, push the envelope on what is socially acceptable (the same happens with entertainment, music, etc.). Again, the history of the swimsuit bares this out where the iconic bikini, a symbol today of a woman’s “freedom”, was only 60 years ago viewed as “scandalous”  by most (unsaved!) woman where it was either banned by law, or heavily discouraged . Even the Parisian models for the inventor of the modern bikini, Louis Réard, would not initially wear this suit as it was too shocking to them. The same was true with consumers as woman gasped at the idea of wearing such a provocative garment  where I’m sure most in the church of Jesus Christ fully believed it would never be widely adopted by secular women, let alone those professing the name of Jesus Christ. Boy were they wrong.
Colored underwear - the new standard
The next step after the upper limits are pushed is to settle a little lower and make a few compromises to quell discontent and to ensure acceptance of the new standard. The key to note is that this new standard has moved past what the prior generation accepted (i.e. the moral standard has been lowered) where it now becomes the new foundation. A foundation that the next generation of designers will build upon as their starting point as they seek to lower the standard even further. This done as they follow in the footsteps of their forefathers and seek to push the envelope in their generation. And so it has happened with swimwear; something easily proved by reading a basic history coupled with a timeline that illustrates how what was unacceptable to one generation became acceptable to the next. All as society went in a few generations from being totally covered and modesty dressed at the beach to being almost totally naked and dressed more erotically than a prostitute on a street corner.
Again, this is all by design and it is the intent of modern swimwear where designers see how far can they can go in not only stripping society down to bare minimums, but also in cleverly covering the body in innovative ways with modern stretch fabrics so as to craft an erotic package than can excite and arouse more than complete nakedness. The one-piece being especially adept at this where women who may not have the much coveted flat abs, or sculpted backside deemed essential for the bikini, can magically make their so-called imperfections disappear by donning the modern one-piece. These suits, along with the bikini and other styles are designed to ostensibly cover but not really clothe as their intent is to reveal and not to conceal. We read,
Bathing suits are very important in the history of fashion because they are a garment in which one is dressed but not really clothed. One is wearing enough clothing to be seen in public but not something that would be socially acceptable in any other context but on the beach. So it really shows us the limits of what society is willing to tolerate in terms of exposure of the body. Cynthia Cooper – McCord Museum (bold added)
We must pause here and ask some honest questions of ourselves if we profess to be Christians. The first being, is the direction of the fashion industry moving in a more Christ-centric direction, or in a more pagan-centric direction? That is, are the designs of swimwear in particular helping women to adorn themselves in modest apparel (cf. I Tim 2:9), or are they leading women to walk naked where the world sees their shame? (cf. Rev 3:17, 16:15) Two, are Christians, generally speaking, salt and light unto this generation regarding beach/pool attire, or are they simply adopting the exact same titillating swimwear as worn by the unregenerate? Three, what work of God would one say transpires in the heart of an individual when they step foot on a beach, or go to a pool or lake and strip down to what amounts to their underwear? What Biblical principle are they walking in that causes them to pop out their hidden body parts neatly and fashionably arrayed in a most alluring and sensual packaged that scream out look and lust? And how is it that this can be done without blushing or feeling even a modicum of shame? Finally, why is this disrobing viewed as acceptable at Christian beach parties and other like events, but would be deemed wicked if done at a Bible study or at a Sunday morning gathering of the church?
Underwear or swimwear?
I need to add that although woman’s fashion is by nature more sensual due to their bodies, men are not immune from these trends. The Speedo is a perfect example of such an invention. Nothing more than dyed underwear it has become perfectly acceptable in society due to the fact that it is approved swimwear for competitive swimming, water polo and other like sports. Most men, Christian and otherwise, do not don these suits (unless they are competitive swimmers) as they prefer board shorts, but even so, they still bare mention as to how a perceived need (i.e. less drag in swimming to get a fast score), outweighs Biblical modesty. The end result is clothing that would never be worn to work, school or with the body of Christ, now becomes socially acceptable by a verdict from our lost culture. A verdict that most Christians give a hearty amen to.
The same holds true for men baring their naked upper bodies where history reveals, regardless of what your view is, that not too long ago this was totally unacceptable both by social mores and existing laws. Laws again that were based on Christian values. But sadly much of the church today is not only ignorant of history, but largely unconcerned with what it teaches as we are the “me” generation where all that matters is what we believe and how we feel.
Regarding male fashion, we read,
Modesty was an issue well into the 1920’s. Under the “Bathing Suit Regulations” published in May 17, 1917, men’s suits had to be worn with a skirt or have at least a skirt effect. The skirt had to be worn outside of the trunks. The other alternative was to wear a flannel knee pants with a vest and a fly front. During this time, the knitting mills were rapidly churning out many styles of suits, including the “speed suit,” an one piece suit with deeply slashed armholes and closed leg trunks. 
But, men were not satisfied as they too wanted disrobe like their female counterparts. And all too ready to help these men out, the fashion industry gladly responded with a helping hand.
Though men were getting the opportunity to look better, there was still the little matter of baring the chest. Quite simply, it was frowned upon. However, men continued to fight for their right to expose their chest and by the early 1933, the result was a convertible-style suit that allowed the top to be removed. The introduction of the “Men’s Topper” introduced a new thrill in men’s swim wear. This unprecedented belted, two-tone wool suit gave the wearer the option to go bare (or not to go bare…). 
I ask where will this end? What limits are being pushed today and what will be acceptable in tomorrow’s generation and defended by the church as Christian liberty? Personally, I shudder to think as one need not conduct an extensive study (and I do NOT recommend it) to see that there is no shortage of rotten fruit pouring forth from the wicked imaginations of the fashion industry’s elite. Thongs, tangas and other forms of “extreme” swimwear are widely gaining acceptance and popularity at a beach near you. Wickedness that takes the bikini as its foundation and shaves off as much fabric as possible so that only the smallest patches and treads remain. All of it being nothing more than pornography.
Another trend I need to mention is the taking of swimwear and like clothing from the beach out into the public square. Red Carter, a famous swimwear designer, hopes to take the swimwear business into new categories such as sportswear and resort wear . And no surprise as this is already happening where most Christians hardly blink an eye as it is being accomplished so surreptitiously and easily passes under the radar of the slumbering church. For just one example, consider the mini, mini skirts that female tennis pros wear, coupled with the skin tight and low cut tops. Now we are privy to viewing both their underwear and heaving breasts without having to set foot on the beach. Anna Kournikova and Ana Ivanovic, two example out of many that could be cited, are poster girls for this immodesty. Is it any wonder men love woman’s tennis?
I must close here but before I do, I want to reiterate that I write in love and not condemnation. For if I were to condemn you, I would have to first condemn myself. This as the one who pens this article is not some monk living high in the Himalayas who has gained mastery of his flesh and looks down with disdain on the mere mortals who struggle with these issues. No, most assuredly not as I am a man not unlike any other. Here, I have wrestled much with these areas and have been rebuked by the Spirit for the pride in my heart that has tempted me to disrobe so as to gain an approving look from any passing females. And it need not be said, but say it I will, that I have struggled with lust due to the bombardment of so much nakedness before my eyes.
Bombardment an appropriate word as I from infancy have spent countless hours at the beach as my family owns a house that is only a few hundred feet or so from the surf. As such, I grew up surrounded by copious amounts of nakedness and young nubile vixens who had no shame in strutting their wares up and down my street and in strategically planting themselves on the beach so as be front and center for all to admire.
But I have come to see things much differently than I did growing up, and even as I did for many years as a Christian. Being part of a beach community, surfing, and attending churches that saw nothing wrong with these things made matters that much more difficult. It was not until I moved a few thousand miles away from the beach that I began to hear that still small voice speaking to me on this subject. At first I kicked hard against the pricks, but in time I saw clearly I was wrong as my heart and the issue at hand were laid bare before me.
My prayer for the reader is the same where I welcome you write to me if you want to discuss this matter further. My plea is that you do not reject these things outright in knee-jerk fashion just because it is novel or because you don’t hear your pastor or favorite Christian personality speaking on these subjects. Or, you reject it simply because it goes against what you “feel” in your heart. Instead, please take the time to read Mr. Pollard’s book and especially listen to the multi-part audio presentation, study the Scriptures, pray for wisdom and even study history. Be willing to go against the flow of society and even modern Christianity regardless if it means that you are labeled a legalist, fundamentalist, or all other manner of ignominious titles. For such is the calling for all those who seek to truly follow Christ Jesus and to mortify (i.e. crucify) the deeds of the flesh.
To read the booklet by Jeff Pollard titled, Christian Modesty – The Public Undressing of America, please click here.
For a highly recommended audio presentation from Jeff Pollard, which is a follow-up to the booklet noted above, please listen here.