When Deborah Nixon heads to her local pool in her swimsuit—a pair of long black leggings and a matching short-sleeved top like surfers wear—she gets compliments and admiring glances, at least from other women.
“It is the New Sexy,” says Ms. Nixon. The 58-year-old, who has abandoned her conventional one-piece bathing suit in favor of the more elaborate get-up, is convinced she looks and feels better with less of her showing.
A whole lot less.
Ms. Nixon, a former nurse and retired captain in the U.S. Public Health Service, is a fan of so-called modest swimsuits. This increasingly popular style of beachwear is a far cry—and for some women a welcome relief—from the skimpy bikinis and bare-all Brazilian bottoms that have dominated beach fashions.
“When you get older, you don’t want that much exposed,” says Ms. Nixon, who says she also likes the sun protection her swim outfit provides.
She purchased her suit from HydroChic, one of several online purveyors of modest swimwear that have sprung up in recent years in a competitive cottage industry. Like several others in the business, HydroChic, based in New Rochelle, N.Y., was started by Orthodox Jewish women looking for suitable beachwear in a community where women follow strict dress codes.
Orthodox women typically cover their arms and legs, presenting a conundrum for a trip to the beach. Sara Wolf, HydroChic’s co-founder, said she got the idea for the swim line at the Jersey Shore, where she spotted Orthodox women walking in the sand in ankle-length jean skirts. She found herself thinking about how her own friends wore oversize T-shirts and baggy men’s shorts to the beach.
“There really wasn’t much out there,” Ms. Wolf says.
With no formal fashion training, she and a friend decided to create a line of modest swimwear with a sportier look, akin to what joggers, surfers and divers wear. “You want to look normal, not like you fell out of the sky,” she says.