Here’s What Muslim Women Really Want in Modest Swimwear

Ah, the burkini. We are all very familiar with this word by now. The burkini has become a recognized symbol of modest swimwear associated with Muslim women.  Several towns in France banned them. Burkinis have become more available over the years, but we are now demanding more from our swimming attire — and rightfully so.

Why should we have to stress about what we wear to the beach, how our bodies look in them, and compromise comfort and style? Women in general deal with body image issues, and perfecting our “beach body.” Muslim women are no different.

Despite brands making burkinis in a wide range of colors and styles, there are features that should be improved upon. After asking Muslim women what they really wanted from their burkinis, they stated that there should be improvements in prints and colors, the overall design, the headgear, and the fact that the burkini is immodest when wet.

Women in general deal with body image issues, and perfecting our “beach body.” Muslim women are no different.

A few notable Muslim fashion brands lead the way in producing burkinis. They include Ahiida Veilkini, Modanisa, Madame BK, Beaute Cache, East Essence and Lyra. Of all the brands mentioned, only Beaute Cache is based in the USA, which means many American Muslim women have to pay international shipping fees. There is a huge opportunity for USA-based Muslim fashion brands to get a foot in the door and compete with international brands selling burkinis.

One unexpected complaint about burkinis is that they are actually not modest at all. When burkini-clad women enjoy their time crashing through the ocean waves and step out on to the sand, the water makes the fabric cling to the skin, ultimately negating any essence of modesty the swimsuit had when it was dry. The long shirts stick to the legs, waist, and hips, accentuating rather than hiding the shape. Surely there is a more creative way to camoflauge our curves and backsides.

Perhaps a solution could be found by asking customers what they would do to improve the design of the burkini. We are creative women — with our heads put together we can design a product that meets all of our needs. Any innovations, however, should simplify the garment rather than complicate it.

There is a huge opportunity for USA-based Muslim fashion brands to get a foot in the door and compete with international brands selling burkinis.

We shouldn’t need to pack away six different parts to our bathing suit when we are preparing for a vacation in the Bahamas. Between the removable headgear, a separate piece underneath the shirt that resembles a bra, and other detachable swimsuit features, we can barely keep up with what goes where. Some swimsuits are simply a top and bottom, but then they aren’t flattering on the body or easy on the eye. It’s like we can’t ever win. With all the fashion-forward prints that grace everyday swimwear, how is it that burkinis continue to remain solid colored or with poorly chosen prints?

We all know that the point of being modest is to not draw attention to ourselves, our body shape, and our physical beauty, but we still want to feel confident, bold, and beautiful in our burkini. There is a fine line between being flashy with a swimsuit and being stylish. At the moment it appears that many brands seem stuck in the past with their color and pattern choices.

It takes courage to step out into the world as a hijabi or as a modestly dressed Muslim woman. It takes strength to go out onto the beach, waterpark, or swimming pool fully covered amidst bikinis, one-pieces, and sarongs. It’s impossible to avoid attracting attention on the beach — we will anyway with all our skin and hair covered — we might as well look fabulous while we’re at it. It is much easier to brush off the stares when we are confident in our swimsuits. Although burkinis are meant for fully-submerged swimming, sometimes the hijab attachment makes any attempt at this impossible.

The hijab part of the burkini ranges from a swim cap to a hooded contraption. Neither option is flattering to the face, as many of us end up looking as if we have a pea-sized head or are about to catch the sea breeze in the hood and fly far away. By studying current hijab trends and talking to other Muslim women, surely we can come up with a fashion-forward swim cap that makes underwater activities like snorkeling and diving a pleasant experience. Perhaps, years ago, when the burkini first materialized, the objective was to simply have modest swimwear available that covered our skin and hair. Times, however, are changing.

We want flexibility, style, comfort, and an inexpensive price tag. It is up to us to create the perfect modest bathing suit that suits our needs. One way the burkini will change is with the combined efforts from both designer and customer. Another way is one designer coming in and revolutionizing the burkini all together. Muslim women represent a multibillion dollar consumer market. This is the perfect moment for designers to capitalize on introducing a fresh and modern burkini. We love our burkinis; we just want them to look better on us! We want a swimsuit we love to wear until the seams come undone, but that swimsuit has unfortunately yet to be a burkini.