In my recent review of the Alsharifa suit, I mentioned my current suit from Splashgear, which generated a fair amount of questions! Since this is the suit I’ve actually been using, though I’m now looking for another one, I decided it might be helpful to do a review of Splashgear’s suit options, pros and cons. I bought this suit several years ago and there have been some improvements since then, so I will mention these as they come up. Feel free to ask me any other questions about my experience as I have test driven the suit many times 🙂
Splashgear occupies a niche in the full coverage swimsuit world which I consider rather unique amongst the muslim-friendly options! They differ from almost every other full coverage swimsuit site I’ve seen on several levels (though there are more full coverage options online now than when I originally bought my suit, I think this still holds true).
- They offer a wide variety of colors and prints (I can’t bring to mind at the moment any other full coverage suit options that have prints at all, let alone the fact that a large number of them are almost all black).
- They allow you to mix and match all the pants, tops, and head coverings. This offers a lot of variety in choosing the look you want.
- There are several different styles of tops, pants, and head coverings, with many different sizes and looks. Lots of options. More combinations possible than anywhere else I’ve seen, really. On some sites for instance I’ll like one top, but the pants that come with it will be too snug for my taste. Not a problem here because you can mix and match everything.
- You can size the tops and pants separately. I don’t know about anybody else but I’ve changed sizes and shapes quite a bit in the course of life, pregnancy, etc and sometimes the conventional top/bottom sizes just don’t quite match up… then you end up with an outfit that fits on top but not on bottom or vice versa. Again, I haven’t seen this offered elsewhere in the islamic swimsuit world.
- The Splashgear outfits look like they belong at the pool. This is not completely unique in the islamic swimwear world, but they do a better job of it than many companies. Now, as a hijab-wearing muslim in a largely non-muslim community, I am used to standing out, and that doesn’t bother me. But some islamic swimsuits simply don’t look or feel like they belong anywhere near a pool. I’ve seen some that are made out of jersey type material that would lose its shape in the water, not to mention being thick/hot, others that go the more water-repellent raincoat route. I suppose they deserve a little credit for trying to make something that works but I can’t imagine actually swimming in some of those. Also, if we’re talking about a public pool, there is some comfort in walking in wearing something that looks like pool wear vs. street clothes. I have never had anyone (fellow swimmer or lifeguard) comment negatively about my swimsuit, but I know this does happen to some people, and I also know that a few people do wear street clothes while swimming in an attempt to fulfill hijab requirements. At the public pools where I’ve swum, wearing street clothes is usually prohibited. You can speculate on the reasons for this, but having also gotten into water recreationally (and also accidentally!) wearing regular clothes, they do create a lot more drag in the water that can pull you down, they inhibit movement and add weight should you find yourself in a position where you are struggling, and from a modesty perspective they usually also cling to you and turn transparent. So I don’t recommend it, and I don’t really think that pools are wrong to restrict this. However, swimming garments can be full coverage and still be safe and comfortable in the water. We have only to go back a century to find these in common usage amongst non-muslims as well (I suspect the modern-day offerings are a lot more comfy than those were, based on pictures).
As I ordered quite a while ago, I can’t remember exact turnaround times, but I do remember that I contacted customer service a few times with questions and they were very helpful. Shipping was relatively fast. To me in the US, it was also advantage that they ship their products within the US (from California, they’re also made in the US), and allow returns. Some full coverage swimsuit places either a) do not offer returns/exchanges on swimwear or b) the shipping is so much that it’s not really worth it, when ordering from certain overseas locations. For instance, this is a reason why I don’t often order from Indonesia or Malaysia, though I frequently find products that I quite like in this area… the shipping tends to be prohibitive compared to the price, and returns are pretty much out of the question for that reason even with a good policy.
Modesty For Everybody
The website doesn’t heavily advertise itself as muslim/Islamic swimsuits (though you can find the details about this if you dig a little into the site, it is creation of a muslim woman designing hijab friendly options). In fact, the suits are quite versatile for non-muslims as well, especially because you can order separate items. For instance, I have known a lot of people who wear shorts/pareos with their suits because they don’t really want to expose their entire legs (and part of their hips, plus not-very-well-covered behind with most suits). Of course I don’t blame them but regular shorts in the water aren’t very comfy and is it really handy to keep covering and uncovering with a wrap when you emerge from the water? I don’t know how many times I’ve asked a friend to join me at the pool and they decline because they say they are feeling uncomfortable about putting on a suit right then due to how they are feeling about their body (after too much holiday snacking or whatever… the point is nobody should have to be made that uncomfortable in order to get some nice relaxation and yes, exercise in the pool)! Anybody could easily buy separate Splashgear pants to match their existing swimsuit and throw it on for a much more comfortable and relaxing experience, without feeling particularly out-of-place.
Same with tops for that matter, I notice that compared to when I originally bought my Splashgear suit, “rash guards” (basically long or short-sleeved swimming shirts) are becoming increasingly popular. Not only are there many more options available, but I’ve also seen them commonly off the rack at multiple stores that stock swimwear. They’re also stocked with almost every child’s swim outfit I’ve seen in stores lately. With kids this is especially helpful because the top keeps them warmer and helps prevent sunburn. This also is an advantage for adults of course, plus the extra coverage.
Splashgear offers several different top and bottom options. The top options are a waist-length top similar to a rash guard, and a longer tunic top with a drawcord waist. I compare the Splashgear tops to standard rash guards in this review further down.
The bottoms include a variety of different pants styles in prints (Hawaiian) or plain (sport stripe) swim fabric. They also now have a third option for both printed and striped which has a built-in skirt around the waist to cover your bottom (presumably in combination with the shorter top, as an alternative to the tunic but with more coverage than just the short top and pants. The pants also come in two cuts: the “resort” style is closer to straight leg, while the “sport” style has tapered legs. All in all, lots of different pants variations! (All detailed on their site with both diagrams and photos showing the differences).
There are also two head coverage options, a hood that includes neck coverage and a swimcap which has room in it for hair (sort of along the lines of a shower cap, with no neck coverage).
In addition to the general suit options, they also have plus sizes in some styles.
What I ordered
I chose the Hawaiian collection “resort pants” with the print (I really liked the way these looked compared to any other offerings I’d seen anywhere really), the “resort shirt” longer tunic top, and the swim hood.
The pants are my favorite part of the Splashgear swim suit. However, they’re also one of the reasons I’m now looking at other swimsuit options. I haven’t tried all the styles of pants on the site, so this is only regarding the Hawaiian pants in the “resort pants” style. First of all I loved the print options. They really looked like they were beach/pool wear. The pants themselves are of non-stretchy material which is yet water-permeable. I have not felt this fabric on anything else I wear so I would venture to say the nearest comparison would be to some men’s swimming trunks (not the clingy kind). They have a soft-brushed feel and are of relatively thick, durable material, not at all see through. The waist is drawstring, and has instructions provided on the site about how to tie it so you can easily untie it again (which worked fine for me in action). In the water, the pants did have a little drag, it was obviously more than wearing no pants at all. However, they were definitely modest, and I could swim in them without difficulty. When getting out of the water they dripped off easily and quickly and were dry enough to wear out walking around after swimming without being at all clingy or soggy (on one occasion, I took off my swim top and threw on an abaya over my standard one-piece swimming suit and the swim pants, since I didn’t feel like stripping at the public shower, and followed up with lunch at a restaurant with very little residual dampness).
Another nice little feature on the pants is they have a small zippered pocket into which you can put things like your locker key, car/hotel key, or locker combination. Very handy.
So, what’s the bad part? Well, the Hawaiian pants are one of those type of clothing that as the sizes get smaller, the length gets shorter. When I originally ordered the pants, I was quite a bit bigger. I knew (hoped!) I was eventually going to lose the baby weight again that I had packed on in excessive quantities 😛 but, I didn’t want to wait to go swimming either, and these have to be the most modest swim pants out there if you are carrying a few extra pounds! So, at the time I ordered I did so based on the length of the pants, and they fit okay. This is described on the site thusly:
“The drawstring waist opens very widely to accommodate different sizes and shapes and the swim bottoms are generous in the waist and thighs; but because the inseam is graded for the Hawai’ian Collection swim bottoms, the inseam should be used as the first measurement to decide your size.”
At the time, this worked fine. However, years later and closer to my regular size, the pants are very, very bunchy. I can still wear them due to the drawstring waist, but there is a lot of extra fabric. This also translates into extra drag/bulk in the water which isn’t that fun. If you have ever worn those ‘one size fits all’ type karate pants with the endless drawcord, it’s a similar experience, but worse in the water :P. I might have re-ordered the pants in a smaller size, except the way the inseams go, I would have essentially been in capris (note: the pants aren’t supposed to go more than ankle length to avoid tangling your foot in the water, so the inseam isn’t going to be the same inseam as your regular pants, but you still want to take it into account when ordering, with the size chart on your screen and a measuring tape in hand).
Another option I considered was to order the “sport stripe” which is the other main style (they have more size options, and three choices of lengths). This would most likely have fit even though I wasn’t as keen on the style (I really like the Hawaiian prints as swim pants), and I probably would have gone with it if I didn’t also want to change the top. Normally I wouldn’t be averse to some at-home modification to resize them a bit slimmer, but the style of the pants is a bit too complicated for me to want to attempt this. On the plus side, they have tided me through many more sizes than my regular clothing has! Through many closet overhauls my swimsuit has remained the same, and that’s saying something (I have sized down my one-piece that goes underneath several times, in comparison!).
The top is my least favorite part of the suit :P. I ordered the resort shirt, which is the tunic-length top, because I definitely wanted a longer top with more coverage. My first quibble with the top was the enormous logo plastered over the chest, which has since been resized in their current design into a small logo on one side (see photo below). This was a commendable improvement to the shirt design. The giant logo looked and felt rather silly to wear.
The tunic top has a drawstring waist with a stretchy pull cord and toggle button like you find on rain coats and such to tighten cuffs/hood. This allows you to tighten the waist of the top in the water (so it does not float up) and to loosen it upon leaving the water so it’s less defined. There is a small hole to put the end of the cord into when it’s cinched up, but this was very difficult to fumble with and most of the time I did not end up getting it in there, which meant a lot of extra cord hanging out. Maybe less cord or a bigger “tucking hole” would improve this feature.
The top is lighter/thinner fabric of the typical swimsuit material and is less bulky in the water than the pants. However, the fabric the shirt is made of does not dry off as quickly or completely as the pants do out of the water… it was definitely damp and clammy after exiting (though the cut made it not figure-fitting, and it was easy to pull away from the body as in the instructions so it did not cling). It probably would dry off faster on a hot day, and also I suspect this is influenced by the kind of one-piece suit you wear underneath and the fact that there are two layers of wet fabric at play between the underneath suit and the tunic… three when it comes to where the pants overlap.
My least favorite part of the shirt is the way the waist works. If you cinch it, it looks weird and poofy on either side and defines the waist. Although I can still wear the pants, the shirt is way too big now, but even when it fit properly, it wasn’t very flattering. Also, the skirt part of the shirt tries to ride up in the water. There are instructions on the site of how to combat this issue by holding it down as you enter, and how to pull it away upon exiting the water so it doesn’t cling. However, even after pushing down the skirt part, there is an extreme tendency for it to float around in the water especially the more you move (which became more so as I shrank and it got less snug). The shirt does not float up any higher than where the waist cord is cinched, but that ends up several inches above the top of the pants on me. This would probably be the case for anyone, as I don’t think you could or would want to cinch it tight enough that it overlapped and clung to the pants, even with a short enough torso to accomplish it. This means (as recommended on the site) that if you want to keep your midriff covered you have to wear a regular one-piece swimming suit underneath it.
Now, I think some type of support garment like a bikini top would be advisable regardless. The material, unlike the pants, is made of a stretchy regular swimsuit material, so it would not be modest without some type of swim bra on most figures, and it doesn’t have any internal bust support. However, the whole additional extra layer of a one-piece suit underneath is something that I would like to find a way around. You can definitely feel the added layers in the water. It’s wetter and clammier when you get out of the water. It’s annoying when you go to the bathroom. It’s another (not cheap) part of the total suit that you have to buy in order to go swimming (also, since it does show when the skirt part floats up or around in the water, you may want to semi-color-coordinate it, if you care about such things).
A partial solution for this issue that has come out is the skirted bottom paired with the shorter rash-guard style top. This provides more lower-body coverage without the issue of the drawcord waist and its accompanying problems.
Also, based on the pictures and the different fabric the skirt is made from (it looks like it’s made from the same fabric as the pants) I suspect it would stay down in the water a lot more. However, you would still have to wear a one-piece underneath because of the gap that would be created by the rash-guard style top when swimming, and although I appreciate the solution, I’m not much a fan of this look either.
Also the skirted bottoms are only available in the tapered leg option (I really don’t like to wear tapered legs pants. I think the last time I did so was a forced dress code event half a lifetime ago!). The resort style pants that I have although they look straight cut in the picture are actually slightly tapered, but to a very small extent.
I did end up recently buying a rash guard off the rack to tide me over until I get a new suit, since while the Splashgear pants were wearable (though very bunchy), the top no longer fit at all. Looking over the rash guard options, I think even if you wanted to get the shorter style top, you’d be better off buying from Splashgear than a conventional rash guard for a modest fit. I did so because I was there at the sporting goods store and I only needed one thing and they happened to have one that worked :P. The prices buying a rash guard on its own are about comparable to or more expensive than Splashgear. There were very limited options in long sleeves, and the sizing on regular rash guards is different, in that you have to go up several sizes to get a modest fit over a swimming suit. Also, the Splashgear tops have a relatively small neck hole with a sort of “mock turtle” edge on it. The rash guards I saw available either had no mock turtle or the neck hole was quite a bit larger, the effect being that it would be harder to tuck the hood in and have it stay.
What I would really like to see from Splashgear is a top that is as long as their skirted tunic, but has no drawstring waist, and has buckles to fasten it to the pants so it does not float up past the edge of the pants waist. I have seen similar features advertised on other suits (including Alsharifa, though in my review I speculated that it would not work as desired). This would solve the bunchy waist problem with a much cleaner line, the unattractive look of the tunic top with drawcord (whether cinched or not), and the necessity of wearing a one-piece swimming suit underneath it all. I wouldn’t be averse to an inner lined shelf-bra section too, to do away with the need for a bikini type top, but I’m not sure how practical that would be to add… it would have to be fixed to the tunic at the shoulders and sort of designed like a sports bra with lined cups, and would likely be harder to size. However, the long-no-waist-with-buckles-tunic seems doable to me, and would be more attractive, modest, and comfortable in the water than the current option.
The style of hood I got is slightly different from what is currently available on the Splashgear site. The one I have (the older style) has a single seam down the centerline of the head as shown in some of the older model photos on the site, while the new one has 3 panels with 2 seams on top of the head. The single seam certainly does result in a rather funny look because the seam puckers up along the middle of the head 🙂 and it also forms a “widows peak” in the middle of the forehead where the two sides come together on me. It wasn’t funny enough to deter me though. Also, on my hood, the face opening was either large or stretchy enough that it easily slipped back over my hairline, exposing my hair at the hairline by several inches. At the other end of the head, it says in the instructions on their site that you should wear your hair down under the hood. This is completely impractical for me (even before I wore hijab, I would braid my hair when swimming, otherwise it’s like fighting a cloud of seaweed). I also didn’t particularly want to braid my hair and leave the braid hanging down my back inside the suit (aside from the weird “braided backbone” effect, it would be scratchy and uncomfortable). Luckily, the hood I got had ample room to add a swim cap underneath and also stuff my hair up in it.
I don’t like regular swimming caps that are like a tiny latex balloon that somehow you have to cram your head and all of your hair inside, and then it pulls your hair and compresses your head. Also I doubted that I could actually cram my hair inside such a cap. So the kind of cap I purchased to go with this suit was a ‘bubble’ stye swim cap, similar to this one at SwimOutlet. I see they have more color options now, which is great! There were very, very few options of this cap at the time I purchased and I’d never had one before but I was pleased to find out that it worked excellently for what I needed. This type of swim cap is sort of stretchy, but not in a balloon sort of way that pulls your hair. It also covered all of my hair and my hairline and stayed very snugly in place, and I was able to fold up my braid and tuck it under in the back without too much problem. In fact, this type of cap covered my entire head and ears completely, so if you were not concerned about neck coverage this might be the way to go. It’s not waterproof like some swim caps but not that much water got in. With this under my hood, the hood showed a good portion of the top of the swim cap at my hairline, but it pretty much stuck to the swim cap and did not move around at all, and my hair was contained.
Now, the new type of hood (the 3 section one) is apparently tighter and made of a different type of fabric, according to the description on the Splashgear site and the comments on the Alsharifa review, so it might not require a swimming cap underneath (but also it might not be possible to stuff my braid into, which would definitely bother me to leave hanging down).
However, I haven’t tried the new hood so maybe someone who has worn it with long hair can clarify on that point! One thing I am evaluating in the new suits I look over is if the hoods require a separate swim cap (I already have one now, but still that’s one more purchase to tack on and one more component required every time I go swimming) and how they manage hair containment. One good point about the hood, despite the funny single-seam look and need to combine it with a swim cap, was it did not pull out of the neck hole of the shirt at all. I was concerned that it would since it doesn’t actually attach to the shirt in any way, it’s just longish so the neck of the top overlaps, but it was not an issue at all.
Navigating the site
With so many options, the website could be a little easier to navigate/more professional looking. It hasn’t changed much since when I ordered and the web developer part of me finds the layout clunky and inconsistent, with various display problems. I can’t help evaluating this because to me it does influence my view of how professional and reliable a company is likely to be, so when I see an old or confusing layout it gives me pause to order. In this case, it wasn’t justified, but you still might need help picking the options because there is a lot to take in on the site! I would strongly recommend contacting customer service if you do have any question about which choice would be best for you, because they’re very responsive.
On the positive side, there is a lot of info on there! I am a big fan of more info rather than less so you can make an informed decision (as practiced in my reviews :)). There is much more detail about the suits than on most sites, including lots of sizing information (including how the different types of pants are sized differently). Also what I especially like is that there are a LOT of photos of the suits in action, both on the suit models (who look like ordinary people) and many, many customer photos of folks who have purchased the suits and are wearing them. This is great because it shows you what the suits look like in and out of the water and on a variety of different people and body shapes. It can be very hard to evaluate clothing when only pictured on a statuesque skinny model, many times more so when it’s swimwear, because it’s hard to imagine how it’s really going to look on you. So all the pictures on the site really help, combined with all the detailed information about the suits themselves (I encourage you to browse them). They also include helpful tips for wearing the suits in the water, there’s nothing left out on this site. You really know what you are getting with Splashgear suits because everything is out in the open and demonstrated, so that gave me a lot of confidence about ordering as well.
Incidentally, some Splashgear products are also available at SwimOutlet.com and 78swim.com (Canada), but the Splashgear site itself has more options (I suppose you could also check the Splashgear offerings on the other sites if you were looking for a color or size that was out of stock, though, or if you wanted to combine the purchase of additional accessories, kid’s clothes, etc).
Price options for a complete suit (pants, top, and hood) are about average in the modest swimsuit world… the whole suit that I purchased came out around $100 (there’s some variety depending on the styles you choose). The additional swim cap and one-piece suit to go underneath were extra of course, purchased separately. Right now, Splashgear is having a sale on bottoms, with 20% off the “Hawai’ian collection” pants like the ones I have. If you are considering them, also sign up for their email list to get more sale notifications (there was also a sale going on when I bought mine, they have a section specifically for sale items which varies). Also, they offer a 10% discount if you make a donation of at least $10 to certain well-known charities (listed on the site), including Islamic Relief, one of my go-to charities. It’s quite easy to incorporate because you can donate to the charity as part of your purchase through the Splashgear site. I’m not aware of a Facebook page for Splashgear, but they would do well to add one!
I really like Splashgear’s suits. They work well in the water when properly sized (I will note that with a toddler in tow most of the time, I have not done intensive lap swimming in this suit, just so you know. But I have worn it and swum in it many times with good results). The fabric and stitching have held up very well and presented no problems over time. Splashgear was the best option at the time I ordered and MAY still be the best option out there! But as I am in need of a different size anyway now, a combination of the Hawaiian pants sizing issue for tall people, and what is problematic for me in the operation and design of the tunic, make me start the search again for comparable options. I hope I find one (also I hope Splashgear continues improving their tunic design/size options :)). Throughout my search, though, this is going to be the suit that really sets the bar for the other ones I look at!
Update: An excerpt of my review has been requested to be featured on the Splashgear website 🙂 You can check it out here. They have some other reviews on their site too.