After my first son was born, I started studying Jewishly (with what’s called a chevrusa) through Partners in Torah. PIT sets you up (for free!) with a study partner matched to your interest and experience and together, you and your chevrusa decide what you want to study.
My chevrusa (Jewinthecity.com is her online personality; celebrity chevrusa, right!?) and I decided to systematically tackle every misconception I had about Orthodoxy. Meaning: she asked me what I disliked, felt weird about, or just plain didn’t understand or thought was crazy/primitive/wacky about Orthodoxy and then we studied the basis for the thing, uncovering what was halakha (Jewish law) and what was custom, what was fact and what was myth.
The second thing we studied (the first being, “What’s up with all those rules on Shabbat?”) was modesty or tzniut as it’s called in Hebrew. We studied ancient texts on modesty in dress and demeanor for men and women, we studied some modern rulings and legal decisions about modesty, and we also read a really nice little book called Outside, Inside which has real-life examples and reflections on what it means to limit certain parts of you the public sees. I decided to take on certain aspects of tzniut sometime after this, not wearing pants outside of the home, for example (it’s been about five years), and starting to limit other aspects of clothing. It also led to a really deep understanding of outsides versus insides conceptually, and it’s been a really powerful and positive shift for me both personally and professionally.
HOWEVER. What was I going to do about bathing suits? I mean, if I wasn’t going to wear pants or sleeveless shirts in public, how could I ever feel comfortable in the equivalent of underwear at a beach or pool–especially with thong bathing suits being all the rage in LA!? Even a one-piece suit was a lot more revealing than I felt comfortable doing. And even tankinis didn’t feel comfortable. And wearing board shorts and a t-shirt also felt weird because if I don’t wear pants, why wear shorts!?
For a few years, I wore bathing suits with a skirt (I bought them a size up so they fell closer to my knee) and a t-shirt over the bathing suit top. I felt bulky and silly. I tried a “modest bathing suit” when I was pregnant with my second son, and my husband said I looked like I was part of some futuristic cult (it was a shirt and skirt with neon green spandex pants and shirt underneath. It was absurd, I admit it now). I lost a ton of weight after being done with both pregnancies, and the futuristic cult suit now looked like a futuristic flotation device. I needed something new. But I really had given up.
Then I spoke at the Hebrew Institue in Riverdale and the woman who organized the event heard me griping and whining and kvetching at the reception about my lack of bathing suit (hey, I had a captive frum audience, I had to work it!). She told me there is a modest bathing suit that would change my life. Yeah, right, I thought. I expected basically more futuristic cult flotation devices. Well, I am here to tell you people that I am now the proud owner of a bathing suit that has changed my life.
The company is HydroChic, and the suit I chose (they have a bunch) literally has made me feel part of an active water life again with absolutely no self-consciousness about revealing too much. I am a very active person, and I never thought I would swim so comfortably in a modest bathing suit, much less KAYAK (yes, kayak) or SNORKEL (yes, snorkel) or just LOUNGE COMFORTABLY (yes, lounge comfortably)! I have the long sport skirt and the “baseball style” top to match, but they have a ton of choices, including a shorter frilly skirt and even short-sleeved tops. The material is all sun-proof2 and if you care for your HydroChic suit, it seems they last a long time.
I got my mom a suit exactly like mine for her birthday. She loves it not because she is a tzniut-conscious bubbe, but because let’s face it: there are very few bodies that look good in very few bathing suits. This suit looks enough like casual wear that my mom loves that she can go to a cafe in it after the beach, it dries super quick, and it’s cute too. I guess HydroChic is bubbie-approved!
They are pricier than your average suit, but I literally felt like I was paying for a specialty bathing suit that really made me part of my kids’ life again. It’s not easy making the decision (especially in my industry) to dress with a degree of modesty. To feel my personal/mama life was suffering because of those choices was really making me bummed out. I don’t mean to sound like a commercial, but this suit (and others like it!) really can have such a positive impact on one’s confidence and life!
Whatever bathing suit you wear this summer, or ever, I hope you find one that makes you feel as comfortable, appropriately tzniut, appropriately hip, and not worried about your mama belly as I am now that I am rocking a HydroChic suit!