Spring is just around the corner and I am already day dreaming extensively about what I might be able to create this year by way of swim wear. I have more ideas on fashion as well as function, to tease me with all my other requirements, its hard to make any attempt to make these ideas more than design dreams. But dreaming has been so fun!
Something I love about my religion, is I think it is Liberal, extremely Liberal, when you get down to the very nuts and bolts and you truly study the doctrine! Its just not liberal in a predictable sense of way. For example, lately in my church, women have wanted to be treated the same as men… but when you study the doctrine down deep, you find the worth of men and or women is loaded with more worth than we can wrap our brains around, its just that our equally breathtaking worth, is not synonymous with the word same. Equality in a true sense of the word does not sum to sameness. I guess we’ve all been looking at this whole situation mathematically and thinking 4=4. When with the Lord comparing apples and oranges doesn’t use an equal sign though both fruits contain equal not estimatable value. (And believe me, His ways are further than my ways than I can ever imagine, He is foreign to me…because I mostly use a very earthly system in everything I do…but I do try for something beautiful, something Liberal, something unearthily Loving…)
Just think what the world must have thought when Eliza R. Snow and Brigham Young put their heads together in the 1800′s to create this outfit:
To see what it may have looked like under the coat, see photo at ebook Pantaloons and Power.
Brother Brigham’s design says to me that he knew all women were capable of, and wanted them to functionally achieve it, but also wanted them to maintain their femininity, chastity, and domestic role differences…now that was a Liberal Move Brother Brigham, but in the end, it didn’t catch on, it wasn’t quite pretty enough to our kind, we need to drip with a little more lace in order to be happy. But it did help the ladies across the plains that practical Brigham’s design, in case you’ve ever stayed up nights wondering how those women tripped across the plains in their skirts:
“The design they [Brigham/Eliza R. Snow] came up with, the deseret dress, consisted of bloomers [see Pantaloons and Power for a description of the term bloomers...they were under-dress spacey trousers] without hoops, trimmings or trains. Apparently the outfit was worn by Brighamite women primarily on their travels to Utah and in the early settlement period. The unattractive, ‘hideous’ (daughter’s description) dress, did not appeal to many of the women and within a few years they returned to ‘beautiful colours and pretty clothes.’ Spencer and Harmer, 1940, p. 85-86.
Practical Brigham also sought to encourage women to come up with a ‘stabalised dress.’ (Gates, 1930) What with all those daughters and fashions changing way too quickly!
Further explored, from an interesting historic stand point, in reading Pantaloons and Power, it wasn’t the intent of these early dress reformers (far more than just Mormons) to meld the sexes in their differences to a same mold with men; but instead to help women to farm and live in such a way as to be and feel far more than mere decorations, which is such a Liberalizing view that even today we as women have a hard time pulling away from. (see pages 4-5). These women still wore a token feminine article of clothing, a skirt or tunic style long shirt, knee length being easier to work in a functional manner, that symbolized the important gender differences. They wore this skirt modestly by wearing a loose pant under which wasn’t tight so when it showed it didn’t expose sacred shapliness in anyway. It was a modernizing and demoting thing for women to eventually move from wearing trouser capacity spacey pantaloon, covered with a tunic or skirt over sacred shapely parts, into tight fitting pants and shorter shirts, or to short skirts worn with nothing underneath, which in the end, returns women back to a decorative creature. I myself struggle with the ongoing tug to realize my worth comes from much more than being an attractive being. The world doesn’t help with that temptation.
From another historic stand point, this entertaining quote by non-Mormon Mrs Benjamin, shows that Mormon women were Liberal, wearing work clothes and not scads of decorative fabric in the skirt. I imagine this Mormon lady had on an A-line design, I sure wish I coulda seen a picture of her though, Mrs. Benjamin, why didn’t you snap a photo while you were giving her the once over?
“I readily recognized her old yellow marten fur cape–her wide cap-border flapping in the wind, under a comical looking hood, and her dress, some of her own handiwork in spinning and weaving, just wide enough and none to spare, around her gaunt frame. This notable dress is bloomer enough to display a servicable pair of brogans. [Heavy work shoes]” Mrs. Benjamin Ferris, (Ferris, 1856 pg. 156)
The ironic thing is, in a worldly sense, you’d think our world could cough up some ‘fairness’ but when you look really closely, they can’t. Treating women like men who enter the army the same when women aren’t as strong as men…isn’t fair. Or, let me give you an example from a common experience, swimming.
Last summer, I saw this beautiful cluster of siblings, two boys and a girl. They all three had on rashgaurds and board shorts, the girl’s was just as long as the boys in her shorts, but darling with purple and pinks. It made me happy to see this pretty girl equally covered in modesty and sun protection.
See Lands End Magazine for photo.
I noticed at a swimming pool last year, that boys swim tops were all the rage! 95% of the boys looked like the picture above and almost all the girls were in little bikinis. I guess girls have an extra protection to the sun In their skin that I wasn’t aware of.
But lets face it, it is a little bit awkward for us to see a girl covered this much. Sometimes I wonder why it is completely not awkward for us to see a boy covered this much. A girl can get away with covering more and still not look awkward, if she has say long shorts, and pairs it with less on top, or vice versa, a long sleeved rash gaurd but normal swim suit on bottom, or a flirty but ‘modest’ short skirt. Even though the skirt may be longer than a normal swim suit, if you really think on it, its really short when you realize it could never pass as an every day skirt and be modest.
In all truth, I am super pro modesty and wear ridiculously modest swim wear, and when I see a girl dressed with a lot on top, and on bottom, it rubs my awkward chord…why is that???
Its because Cultural rules, as my brother put it, are stronger than the laws of the land. You will often break a speed limit but when it comes to breaking a social rule, now that is hard to do. I don’t know why that is; I guess I am just glad its not in our culture to do this. I am sure to themselves they look so beautiful, and to us, we say…that does not flatter, that looks so painful, that looks in every way ridiculous, and wrong!
But getting into my Latter Day Saint doctrine with a magnifying glass, you find quotes like these to help you realize, the Lord’s culture is just plain beautiful and while it doesn’t treat men and women the same, it instead treats women like princesses.
Said old Brigham Young back in pioneer days: “I call upon my sisters to…create your own fashions, and make your clothing to please yourselves independent of outside influences.” Eliza R. Snow reported that he encouraged sisters to establish “fashions that would be becoming—such as would be worthy the patronage of sensible, refined and intelligent women who stand, as we in reality do, at the head of the world.” (Daughters in my Kingdom, pg 52)
I admit it, what we have come up with might be slightly socially awkward to some. Maybe it looks like we are swimming in our clothes. But, for now atleast, we’ve decided to cover girls more than what is comfortable in our culture’s norms for swimming. We hope that others feel mostly comfortable around them as we’ve chosen pretty, feminine and ‘flattering’ as Brother Brigham gave us permission to do. And that comfortableness especially applies to the wearer.
I feel my religion teaches me not to attempt to establish sameness between the sexes; I am not trying to create boxy girls in boy styles, I am trying to dress my girls pretty and feminine like princesses, but equally modest, equally un-sexualized, and equally covered by the sun. Equal but not the same.
And can I say, we have SOOOOOO much fun! I LOVE the challenge of coming up with my girl’s swim wear. I guess perhaps the Lord gives me energy under my wings, I find good deals here, a great swim shirt at a thrift store there…super excitement to try sewing to be able to hurdle that impossible leap of not having time or energy for such a thing…its marvelous! So, take a look at what we come up with, I hope you find us pretty!
We love swimming in the lakes of Minnesota!
Hoppity demonstrates here the swim shirt I made last year (yes, the swim shirt is extra long to accommodate wiggly girls and a year of growth. With a heavy lining (another layer of swim fabric) sewn to front and back, the shirt stays down almost exclusively.
The skirt I copied from a Land’s End but obviously gave it length. The flounce at the bottom is made from a circle cut out, and I asked my seamstress sister(See MadMim.com ) to figure that out. The sides should be sewn with elastic sewn pulled tight in the side seams, (you have to cut the item about 7 inches longer than planned length.) But Hoppity’s skirt is gathered swim suit material for my first crap shoot.
I pulled an over nighter to sew myself a swim top and support system. The over nighter was exhilarating till I hit a wall, but it was performed partly because I was having so much fun and partly because I had a trip dead-line. It was an exciting venture. I got the design idea for the side neck tabby from Olivia from Fresh Modesty. I bought her ebook for modest but pretty swimwear, to help me learn how to sew it, and how to sew a support system, as well as used helpful lycra sewing techniques from Creative Chicks (link provided in a second.) One side drapes longer and I also got that design idea from a shirt sewn at Creative Chicks. (This site is AWESOME for learning to sew pretty and very modest t-shirts, and how to’s on swim wear!)
Here it is, without children about it,
And here is Mama with baby; dry.
Mama wet. Suit isn’t quite as cute as when dry…but we can’t have everything. Board shorts I have had for years.
Got some board short material and made my daughters 2 years ago, this is their second season on the shorts. (I like sewing to fit more than one season from a time and cost standpoint.) Top is a swim top from Land’s End, end of season 5 dollar bargain! The shirt isn’t extra long so she is wearing a Thrift Store one piece underneath.
(Did some research and found out Board short material is Polyester Microfiber, and this site was the only one I could find with cute options, and in-fact, right now there is a beautiful bird print and some pretty florals….Rocky Woods Fabrics)
Here is Hoppity’s 5 dollar Land’s End swim shirt.
This board shirt was from a Thrift Store, and its best to buy a couple sizes large and take in the side seams for a great amount of shirt length. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but Target and such tend to have short wide board shirts.
My Land’s End end of season shirt, with nursing pad and fitness support system, the bloomers actually are cute petal pushers that go a few inches below the knee when standing.
I hope what we have come up with is what I hoped we could achieve, modest but pretty and fashionable in an un-worldy design sense. I will attest that as a mama, I do love being so comfortable especially with all my tuggers…aka children.
I did take a few pictures of some of the processes in making the swim wear you see here, and I can give some general sewing instructions with them if you are are interested; and I will be happy to answer any questions! It isn’t as hard as it may seem and its really satisfying and very fun too!
My intent is not for any sort of guilt from any viewers…you are doing your best at your modest swim wear, and you are doing GREAT!!!!! And as such the Lord is very pleased! You can stay right where you are and I know you will be a shining example to the world around you right where you are at. You are brave, you are different, you are classy, and you are respected by the world for taking firm stands for modesty.
My post is every bit as much a social commentary on equality as it is for opening the door for possibilities in the world of swimwear for girls and women.
I will post my favorite lycra swim sewing tips (found at Creative Chicks) as well as some modest options my sister has come up with for pretty, modest and contemporary ideas. You will likely love what she has come up with! But if you are curious now, see MadMim and search swimsuits.~
Do I think it is needful to come a step further to please the Lord? Well usually that is the case in our progression, there is usually some baby step we can take, however I don’t really know if we came a few steps too far and past the mark….all’s I do know is once I was picturing the Savior loved me, and I was surprised my imagination put me in my swim suit! I was so happy to know my subconscious mind could envision Him watching me swim and be completely pleased to His standards and not just the world’s. I can say that I love love love being so comfortable, to go to a friend’s house and not be checked out in anyway by the husband is simply awesome. Or that I can traipse around in my swim suit all day and never feel a need to put on a shirt, or longer shorts for modesty’s sake, thats really great! And in my silly daydreams I have sometimes imagined how hot I’d look in a modest according the world sorta rhetro style adorable swim suit, so I can say that the world’s modest swimwear, might still be sexualized even when ‘modest’ in reference to our culture, unfortunately. I hope I don’t offend when I say that.
I can’t say that where we are…we are respected anymore…perhaps we are questioned as the odd and ridiculous bunch of religious freaks and that if that is so, than we perhaps aren’t pleasing tools for the Lord. But how do you feel when you see a Muslim woman walk by. If you are like me, you think, that is not me, but I sure respect her for doing it.
I wrote this post some months ago with winter snow on the ground, I thought it fitting to wait until spring…so I can already show you what I came up with for my daughter’s birthday and it was so lovely to fanagle and come up with something that flatters her little body so fittingly, so get excited for more cute and modest swim wear coming hence forth… and from my perspective I can say…don’t hesitate to be as Liberal as the Lord…you won’t regret it….Or playfully put, come on in, the water’s fine!
Disclaimer: This website does not represent what normal “Mormons” swim like. And while I respect Muslims in a very reverent sense of the words, I am also happy I can dress pretty and happy and feminine, yipppppeeeee! And that each family can interpret modesty as what they feel is best to do, in my liberal Mormon faith, and the Lord is pleased for them doing their best, and I really do think He considers culture into the equation! Who can interpret the Lord…only the Holy Spirit can communicate Him, and I am not an expert follower, just an aspiring fool who seeks to do so! I’m fumbling about it just like everybody else!
And P.S. to be fair to my daughters, I ask them whether they want straps, or sleeves, and I ask, are you sure??? Maybe I say this…because I myself am not sure. But also, in Godly fashion I wouldn’t want to manipulate or force.
And P.P.S. my non-Mormon on-line Christian friends have been pillars of brave, integritous beacons of light and strength along this my path in swim wear. We share our desire to please Christ, and I share with them the godly Liberal principles that back their conservative ways in this true principled and true doctrine religion I belong to, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.