Modest, Classy and Both – A Guide to Summer Fashion

By Daniel van Voorhis


Perhaps this is the article I have never wanted to write. Modesty and beachwear is a landmine for anyone from former Power Rangers to the Duggar family. They have weighed in on the beach modesty “controversies” and I would rather gouge my eyes out with a fork than read all the “Christian modesty” blogs. There are, however, sane and common sense ways to think about clothing and warmer weather. Usually all we remember is the silly rule about only wearing white between Memorial Day and Labor Day.  But this late 19th century Victorian model is both impractical and a strange vestige from the past.

The debates about proper summer attire were fanned by the flame of a recent controversy regarding a protein supplement ad asking (presumably women) if they were “beach body” ready. I am on board with the complaints of various articles arguing against body shaming. I am absolutely befuddled by some swimsuits being marketed to eight year olds. Stay classy, Abercrombie and Fitch.

Here at the Man About Town column, I want to spend less time correcting and more time advising. Some things are just wrong (see the above mentioned bathing suits), some things are dubious (the speedo outside of European beaches), and some things are controversial (my insistence that men shouldn’t wear sandals outside of the backyard, pool, or beach).


While I will offer a few tips for sharp, inexpensive and timeless summer attire let me briefly make a plea that may come off as criticism. Christians, please stop writing about a Christian approach to modesty.  Stop using Bible verses to answer “practical questions” about swimwear. (This article offers a humorous and alarming quote: “A lack of adequate clothing is always associated with paganism, apostasy, or backsliding, and with God’s judgment. Gen. 3:7; Is. 47:2, 3; Jer. 13:26; Nahum 3:5; Rev. 3:18, etc.”) Please, help me stifle the laughter when you write things like this, from the “secret keeper girls” website:

“Stand up straight and pretend you are going for it in worship, and extend your arms in the air to God. Is this exposing a lot of belly? Bellies are very intoxicating, and we need to save that for our husband!”

I’m going to leave the “going for it in worship” alone. Let’s move on and allow for other bloggers to have “hot takes” on what is what.

Instead of looking for Christian laws to inform you as to appropriate beachwear, how about a little common sense?

Now, a few tips for men and women, alike.


I am a fan of H&M. They do not make the highest quality of clothes (and I wouldn’t buy a suit from them) but they are generally on top of modern trends and offer clothes at an affordable price (think Old Navy, but not… well, Old Navy). They have a line of swimwear for men and women that are both affordable and fit for many body shapes. Men, check out a few swim trunks that actually look like swim trunks and distance themselves from the increasingly bro’d out board short. A plain tank top with patterned trunks or something a little bolder with plain trunks.

For women, while all stores are going to offer swimsuits for the small percentage of smaller women and the same suits for larger women (stop!), there is a growing trend in offering beachwear that actually suits women as they are, not as they think they ought. I have seen a few sites referenced in fashion magazines that offer a variety of beach clothes in various styles for various sizes.

Also, ask yourself how often you actually get in the water at the beach or pool. Do you need a bathing suit? Forget the tan; the wrinkles and possible skin cancer isn’t worth it in the long run. Rather, choose colors that match your skin type. Guys, don’t worry about always taking your shirt off, but please don’t wear rash guards or t-shirts in the water to hide your body. You are actually drawing attention to yourself and you look ridiculous. If you are in the water, you can go old school, but this requires a bit of confidence to pull off successfully. If you are that self conscious, no one is pressuring you to get in the water.


Most of the time, you are looking for clothes that breathe and look summer appropriate; leave your flannel and fitted jeans in the closet. This doesn’t necessarily mean Tommy Bahamas. Rich dudes can pull this off (they tend to have a swagger and the cash to buy top of the line stuff). Hawaiian shirts can be appropriate, but stay away from the large ill fitting type that look like a gust of wind might shoot you up into the sky like an oversized kite. Try looking for the words “fitted” and try a size larger than normal.  Linen blended pants are a nice addition that will serve you into the cool evenings. Women might consider city shorts (appropriate for beachwear, and also errands about town).

A few last tips

  1. Ditch the cargo shorts, unless you are hiking and they are for utilitarian purposes.
  1. Only wear sandals in your backyard, if water is nearby, or if you have taken care of your feet and are wearing a solid pair of sandals (think Rainbow or classy Fisherman sandals).
  1. Jean shorts are back! Really! Just make sure they are fitted and take heed if they are cuffed. A nice pair of fitting, jean shorts with a fray just above the knee can work without looking like Brandon Walsh circa 1992.
  1. Be comfortable without looking slovenly. This is always important for informal events. Too often we think of comfortable as “whatever”.  Your stained oversized sweats and ripped t-shirt from college are not the same as a comfortable pair of cotton shorts or chinos and a crisp t-shirt or polo.
  1. Lastly, and as always, know the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist. (Suggested rules for women and men.)

All the Best,

The Man About Town

Article Written While listening to: Rushmore- Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by Various Artists (1999)