The most literal idea of a modest swimsuit is associated with its most conservative silhouette: the burkini. It became a global conversation in 2016, when Halima Aden wore it during the swimsuit portion of her history-making pageant appearance and when France briefly banned it. But the category—and its demographic—is much broader and nuanced. Orthodox Jewish or Christian women might seek covered-up styles, too, as can plenty of other shoppers, regardless of relgious or cultural background, who might want the sun protection or aren’t comfortable subscribing to the idea that wearing a swimsuit means regardless of their religious or cultural background.
“There’s a total demand,” says modest fashion blogger Sobi Masood. “It’s not the most glamorous thing to wear more clothes on the beach—when you’re wet, the last thing you want to do is be fixing around all the material that you’re wearing. It’s really tricky. And there are not that many brands out there.”
The options are so lackluster, Maria Alia, a modest fashion influencer, model, and creative multihyphenate of Palestinian and Puerto Rican descent, says she’d rather not wear traditional modest swimsuits at all: “My first choice would be to go to a beach where I don’t have to wear modest swimwear, where I can literally wear actual [non-modest] swimwear, but if you’re in a public place where there’s other people around and you choose to dress modestly, that’s not an option. It’s not the most comfortable—that’s the reality of it.”
In recent years, a handful of brands have finally begun catering to customers like Alia, spurred by frustrations and untapped opportunities in the modest swim space. Ikram Zein’s LYRA is one of the most beloved—maybe because it was born out of that very frustration Masood and Alia describe.
“Before LYRA, my not-so-practical solution for creating DIY modest swimwear get-ups, consisted of wearing running leggings and a T-shirt, simply because I was unable to find something I would feel comfortable and confident in,” Zein says. She spent roughly a year compiling ideas, test-driving designs, and gathering candid insights from potential customers—”women of all backgrounds about what they would love to have in a modest swimsuit and the difficulties they faced in finding suitable modest swim options.”
LYRA’s suits come in elegant neutrals, with the occasional inset print. (No all-over loud patterns or flashy neons here.) Its signatures are piped detailing and clever design details that subtly offer coverage, like sleek turtlenecks and detachable skirts. “It’s the only brand I’ve found that I actually think is stylish enough to wear on the beach,” says Masood. “It’s so well fitted, and aesthetically pleasing. You look good and feel good, in the right type of fabric that’s actually meant for water.”
Aside from LYRA, there’s Trepezzi, launched in 2018, which moto-esque set alongside feminine, ruffle-laden numbers. (Zein’s a fan of its “use of detailing and bold colors, with frills and lovely color contrasts.”) There’s also Munamer, created by Italian designer Chiara Taffarello in 2016, inspired by work trips to Pakistan.
Zein explains that “a significant number of our customers probably seek modest swimsuits for faith reasons,” yes, but there’s still a contingent that’s appreciate the “personal comfort, sun protection, and body consciousness” that’s afforded from this type of swimwear.
When former investment banker Lisa Moore entered motherhood, she found herself chasing her toddler son around outside constantly—in scorching Texas rays, no less. She felt frustrated with the limited sun-protective swimwear options for adults, so she launched Cover, which makes suits from a fabric with UFP50+ protection, in 2008.