As Mishna B'rura 2:1 notes, one can bathe in a river or go to a bathhouse dressed in whatever clothes are normal for doing so, even if that means no clothes at all, so long as one is clothed until he gets near the water (as near as feasible) — this, despite the general idea (Shulchan Aruch 2:2 there) that one should be dressed even when alone.

Besides 2:2, the only halacha-based reason for a woman to avoid exposure of any part of her body (besides oso makom) that I've heard of is so that men not see it. (But I'm far from being an expert.)

A girl I know went recently to a women-and-girls-only swim (where even the lifeguards were guaranteed to be women). She reports that a number of religious Jewish women and girls swam in garments that covered large portions of their bodies not normally covered by swimmers: specifically, most of each leg and most of each arm. Does anyone know why they might have done so? In particular, is there any halachic basis for doing so? Any musar-type basis?

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    Maybe those were the only swim-clothes they owned. Aug 28, 2013 at 13:12
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    tznius for women only applies when men are around?
    – Daniel
    Aug 28, 2013 at 13:46
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    There's the famous story on Yoma 47a of Kimchit, who credited having 7 sons grow up to be Kohen Gadol to her taking care never to uncover her hair even in private. This is by no means a perfect precedent, since hair and everything else may have different reasons and rules, and since the Gemara there seems ambivalent about whether this was indeed the source of merit she claimed.
    – Isaac Moses
    Aug 28, 2013 at 14:13
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    I lack a source but I have heard from my sister, a post seminary kollel wife, and i have over heard people talking who mentioned this in a context of some sort, that tsnius for women is like Talmud Torah for men, the idea being that it is always important for a woman to focus on her external appearance being secondary to her inner beauty, just as it is important for men to keep our minds productive and occupied at all times- if not with work or school then with Torah- to prevent idleness which can lead readily to bad decisions. I'll try to find the source.
    – user3114
    Aug 28, 2013 at 19:35
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    @Justaguy I'm afraid I don't see the parallel, other than their both being Mitzvot without fixed times, and hence can be done constantly. If anything I would think Tzitzit parallels Tzeniut more.
    – Double AA
    Aug 28, 2013 at 22:58

1 Answer 1


I suggest what @daniel meant with his comment and @menachem with his quote (O Ch 2 (2)) is that our use of clothing is related to proper respect for HKB”H whose glory fills the whole world. This is the reason we cover ourselves (sometimes in clothing which is not designed for optimum comfort of the body).

It is additionally important not to clothe ourselves in a way that excites desire.

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    According to this one would expect the males who go swimming even at all male events to also always wear more expansive clothing.
    – Double AA
    Aug 28, 2013 at 22:56
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    Excite desire in others or in ourselves?
    – Double AA
    Aug 28, 2013 at 23:04
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    About @Double AA’s first comment: see O.Ch. MB 301 (16) [62] at the end where he quotes O Ch 2 (2) that even on a weekday, midas tzenius means that one should not go barefoot. Aug 29, 2013 at 20:58

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