Burqinis and Other Modest Swimwear for Women

In the town of Emerainville near Paris, France, you had better not wear anything resembling a burqini into the public pool. One woman, following Islamic rules governing female body coverage, found this out for herself. After being allowed to swim in her burqini during July, she was banned from swimming burqini-clad in the pool in August. Officials claimed the burqini amounted to wearing clothes into the pool. Her swimming attire, which made its fashion debut in January 2007, is very popular with Muslim women. Burqinis allow Muslim women to swim without violating Islamic dress regulations.

A burqini resembles a cross between a ninja’s outfit and a wet suit. In many burqinis, a close-fitting hood over the head allows only the woman’s face to be seen. The upper part of the swimwear looks like a hip-length, long-sleeved tunic and the lower swimsuit is like a pair of slightly loose-fitting leggings which extend to the ankles. According to Laura Fitzpatrick in a 2007 Time magazine article, some conservative Christian women have also purchased the burqini for modesty reasons.

The burqini is not the only swimwear created to allow the woman swimmer to be modest yet comfortable. Some Christian activewear designers have swimsuits for women consisting of a short-sleeved Lycra shirt which extends slightly below the hips and a pair of swimming shorts which look like a cross between capris and leggings. Likely, the public pool in Emerainville would not allow these as swimwear either. The Swimming lessons provided in the classes will be under the regulations of the area. The classes will develop the skills and expertise of the person. 

Victorian and Edwardian times dictated certain items to be modest swimwear for women. Except for the head, these items covered almost as much as today’s burqini. Women’s swim bottoms were pants of either flannel or wool reaching only three quarters of the way down the leg. These “bloomers” were thought scandalous for anything but swimwear. The swim top was more like a jacket or short dress. At first, the top had long sleeves but as time passed, the sleeves became shorter and so did the swim top length. This swimwear for women would be considered extremely modest according to today’s standards.

At Assembly Park Bible Camp, the policy for girls allows for a modest one-piece swimsuit. No thongs or two-piece bikinis are permitted. My teenage daughter usually wears a T-shirt over her one-piece swimsuit. This would violate the public pool policy in Emerainville, France, more than likely.

I can understand my daughter’s desire to cover up with a T-shirt. When I was growing up, my mother made my father drive to each of our usual swimming lakes until we found one which we would not have to share with anyone else. She was that modest. I did not own a two-piece swimsuit until I was newly married.

Would I ever want to wear a burqini? Probably not. Would I enforce this swimwear on my daughters? No. I request modesty and they respect me enough to try to dress accordingly.