Modest Swimwear, Religiosity and Aging: Apparel and Physical Activity for Women Throughout the Life Course




Swimwear, Modesty, Aging, Religion, Morality, Social Media


Swim-related activity is one of the most recommended forms of physical activity for older adults, increasing the importance of access to swimming and water sports throughout the life course. This study examined eight online forums addressing topics related to religious-based modesty and moral judgements about different types of swimwear, such as the bikini or the burqini. Online discussion forums dedicated to modest dress for women with religious or faith-based modesty preferences are often called “modesty blogs.” These blogs have grown in popularity and influence on social media, and one of the most controversial topics discussed is the notion of a woman’s choice in swimwear as a moral indicator. This article analyzes the ways in which these blogs serve as informal sites of knowledge production and sites of religious interpretation. These forums reveal insights about physical activity and the sense of belonging regarding modesty within a moralized domain. The review of these modesty blogs resulted in examples of (1) modest swimwear as empowering for religious women throughout the life course, (2) conflicting modesty narratives, and (3) modesty as a way to avoid shame and uphold middle-class values. Apparel-related barriers to physical activity, including swimwear and water sport, have the potential to negatively impact the health and well-being of religious women and their families throughout the life course. 


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