The itsy-bitsy yellow polka dot swimsuit just got revised. The yearly swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated must have gotten a mussar speech on modesty before publication this year. For the first time in its history, the famous swimwear issue has been “covered up.”
The Washington Post reported the fashion twist with this announcement: “It will be the first to feature a model dressed conservatively in a hijab and a burkini, the full-coverage swimsuit worn by some Muslim women that leaves only the hands, feet and face exposed. Halima Aden, a Somali American model who was born in a refugee camp in Kenya, “has proved that there is a place for modest Muslim women in the fashion industry,” the magazine announced Monday, declaring that the 21-year-old would be “making history.”
In truth, the gorgeous runway model has been true to her modest beliefs and practices while walking the runways of Paris and Milan. Her beauty resonates from her upholding of modesty laws. In fact, she outshines the other models in the magazine issue that are supposedly more appropriately dressed for the sand, surf, and sun.
I applaud her for taking this uncompromising fashion statement to the pages of Sports Illustrated. Yet I also respect Sports Illustrated (probably for the first time in my life) for featuring modest attire in such a stunning layout.
“I’m thrilled that this movement is going on because I feel like it’s going to change things for the better,” Sports Illustrated swimsuit editor MJ Day told Vanity Fair magazine about the new direction of swim clothes.
This “so-called movement” is nothing new or fresh. Perhaps the editor needs to book a room at The St. Regis in Bal Harbour during winter months to see the assortment of gorgeous chasidish women in their swim attire with matching head gear.
HydroChic was started 13 years ago by a duo of Orthodox Jewish women. “Before HydroChic, women were often seen pool-side or at the beach wearing oversized T-shirts on top of their swimsuits,” claims co-founder Sara Wolf. “Today, nobody wants to look frumpy. Women more commonly seek to look trendy in every situation, even while swimming and doing sports.”
Arutz 7 reported in 2015 about the phenomenal new trend of modest swimwear with the opening of two successful companies in Israel.
Shereen Sabet, a religious Muslim swimsuit designer, created Splashgear. Two French-born religious Jews followed suit by creating the Israeli-based Sea Secret. The company consulted with a rabbi before designing swim wear that meets religious Jewish requirements.
During that same time, the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times and Associated Press all featured articles about this growing trend.
Aqua Modesta suggests that they are the original creators of modest swimwear for ladies and girls. The line was founded by Regine Tessone, who used her original training from Fashion Institute of Technology to create her unique line.
Tzniut, or modesty, means knowing and communicating to others that your identity equals your innermost self. The way to project this message is to transform the outside layers of yourself into an expression of your inside. That’s a deep message to convey when it comes to swim attire.
Yet, Hashem expects us to navigate ourselves lounging poolside or building sand castles, leaving us with no vacation from His message of self.
The laws of tzniut for Jewish women teach how to reveal your body, your abilities, your speech, and outer message as not to hide but to shine in all circumstances and environments.
Perhaps it took all this time for Sports Illustrated to finally figure out the standard of beauty that every Jewish woman has known as taught by the Torah and G-d Himself.
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Tobi Rubinstein is a retired fashion and marketing executive of 35 years who currently produces runway and lifestyle events for NYFW, specializing in Israel’s leading artists and designers. She is the founder of The House of Faith N Fashion, fusing culture and Torah. Tobi was a fashion collaboration and guest expert for ABC, Geraldo Rivera, Huffington Post, Lifetime, NBC, Bravo, and Arise. She hosted her own radio and reality TV series. Tobi is a mother, wife, dog owner, and shoe lover.