The Bible was written as a guide to all peoples in all societies for all time. As such, it does not focus a lot on specific styles of clothing, which can vary widely from one culture to the next.
The Bible does, however, reveal that God cares how we dress—as we explained in the October-December 2002 issue of Youth United. We are happy to see you have some concern about pleasing God in what you wear. If you havent read that issue, you can access it through our online archives.
When it comes to dress, the overriding principle is modesty. In 1 Peter 3:3-4 were told that a Christian woman should be known for her beautiful heart and helpful attitude as opposed to fancy clothes.
This passage says, "Your beauty must not be the outer beauty of fancy hairdos, wearing gold jewelry, or expensive clothes. Instead, it should be the hidden personality of the heart with a gentle and quiet spirit that lasts and lasts. This is very valuable before God" (Simple English translation).
While this verse does not directly address clothing styles, it shows where the emphasis should be. Instead of focusing on the latest provocative clothing styles to draw attention to oneself, a Christian woman should focus on the "inner beauty."
God was more specific when He inspired Paul to write, "In the same way, I want the women to dress modestly" (1 Timothy 2:9, Simple English translation). To be modest means "having or showing regard for the decencies of behavior, speech, dress, etc.; decent; [such as] ‘a modest neckline on a dress" (The Random House Unabridged Dictionary).
The article "What Your Appearance Says About You," from the Youth United issue mentioned above, says: "Modesty refers primarily to a genuine personal concern about the response your dress and behavior produce in the heart and mind of another person. A godly womans clothing should properly cover her body (Genesis 3:21) in such a way (fashion) as to cause no problems in the thoughts of the men around her. Tight-fitting, revealing or suggestive clothing on a woman can advertise loose morals, poor taste or immaturity and send the wrong message to the opposite sex."
These principles should be the foundation for any choice in clothing—whether speaking of a dress, slacks, skirt, blouse, shorts or a bathing suit.
To specifically answer the question, we believe Christians can wear shorts and bathing suits provided these types of clothing are modest and in keeping with the cultural standards of the area in which the person lives.