Shvimkleids: Swimwear, Not Just For The “Frum”


I never heard of a shvimkleid until I saw this YouTube video a few years ago.

Back in 2007, my family made aliyah from Toronto. In Israel, there are nine wonderful months of beach weather. (Actually twelve months, as one could go down to Eilat for warm weather during the winter.) It’s nothing like Toronto, where – if you’re lucky – there’s five week of summer without rain.

Suddenly I was water bound more often than I’d ever been before, and I had nothing to wear to cover up at the beach. I choose to wear more than the average bathing suit, not only for religious reasons, but because I have no interest in exposing my aging body. And what I used to wear to the summer cottage back in Toronto – a cotton nightgown or long T-shirt – felt too heavy when wet to wear regularly for nine months.

I tried on some of the newly founded modest swimwear styles that were available at the time, but nothing suited my body. By the time it fit me on the hips, the shoulders were huge, and the bright blue cloth highlighted every line and bump. My husband suggested that if I could not find something suitable I should design my own swimwear that we would manufacture.

And so that’s exactly what we did. With the help of MATI we found a manufacturer, a pattern maker, and wholesale fabric locations. My friend, an artist, helped me draw our first designs and compose a logo. I learned how to network, set up a website, and manage finances of a small company. By January 2010 we were up and running.

Our initial designs were just basic aline swim dresses, like the long T-shirts I used to wear to the cottage. But fast forward seven and a half years later, and B”H we are in our 8th season with over 30 styles of modest, sun-safe swimwear.

As I listened to my female customers over the years, I began understanding their unique needs and I expanded our designs to offer a variety of necklines, sleeve treatments, and hem lengths, as well as swim bras, bandanas, girls’ swimwear, surfing suits, and traditional swimwear. We also expanded our sizes to cater to many different body types.

I’ve learned that modest clothing is not always about religious beliefs. I have customers who say things like “I want to feel comfortable with my secular family when I go to visit them,” “I want to have UV protection,” or “I have a scar from a mastectomy that I don’t want to expose to the sun.” Everyone deserves to wear clothing that makes them feel comfortable, confident, and safe, no matter what the circumstances are. Unfortunately, the modern day swimwear industry does not accomplish this need for many, many women.

Last summer there was an outrage in France about Muslim women not being allowed to wear their Burkinis on the beach. I was interviewed by over five news outlets where I expressed that women should be able to cover up however they feel comfortable on the beach or at a pool. It is not necessarily about religious beliefs, as shown by my customer’s comments. Even my secular sister wears our mini skirt with capris pants. Women all over like to cover for many reasons!

When I started my research in 2009, there were maybe two or three modest swimwear companies. Now there are over ten Jewish companies, with many more catering to Muslim and Christian markets as well. So if anyone thinks that shvimkleids are a passing fad, think again – we are here to stay!

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