Why Modest Fashion is Having a Moment

Words by Nicole Thomsen
June 20th, 2019

While we may often associate summer as a time for baring all in mini dresses and extra short shorts, this season has proved otherwise as midi dresses and midi skirts reign supreme. These classic styles, along with high necklines and long-sleeves, are key silhouettes for spring/summer despite the season’s usual preference for hiked up hemlines, low-cut necklines and itty bitty bikinis. In 2019, modest fashion is having a moment, but why?

Though you could pass it off as just another passing trend, modest fashion is much more than that. In fact, it’s a multi-billion-dollar industry. Used to describe clothing that covers up rather than reveals, modest fashion is not a new concept but in the Western world, it is not something that the majority of the female population strictly adheres to. But in the Middle East, for example, modest fashion is a way of life. So why is it now making waves across Europe, even reaching as far as the US?

 

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For a woman, her decision to dress modestly can be due to a couple of different reasons; for millions of Muslims, Orthodox Jews and devout Christians, it’s part of their religious beliefs and cultural values; for some, it’s more appropriate for their line of work; for others, it’s simply their personal taste. Age can also play a part but whatever the wearer’s reason, modest fashion is now, more than ever before, en vogue.

The trend, which started on the runway, is thanks in part to designers such as Phoebe Philo, Margaret Howell and Stella McCartney who all favour looser silhouettes and play with excess fabric rather than cutting away at it. Their designs, while never intentionally ‘modest’, appeal to this large demographic of women who want to look stylish but covered at the same time; which is why you’ll find these designers and more selling on The Modist, a nondenominational luxury e-commerce site that caters specifically to modest dressers, regardless of faith, age or style.

 

 

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Of course, for the fashion industry, it’s a lucrative market to tap into; according to the Global Islamic Economy Report 2018/19 estimates, Muslims spent $270 billion on fashion in 2017 while this figure is predicted to reach $361 billion by 2023. As the industry strives to be more inclusive, of religion as well as size, age, and race, modest dressers — a large percentage of which are young Muslim women — cannot be ignored.

Not just a luxury game, the high street also has a large part to play in the proliferation of modest fashion in recent years. In 2018, H&M launched a new collection titled H&M LTD which aimed to cater to this growing consumer fanbase while, earlier this year, Zara curated an edit of ‘modestwear’ and featured it on the site’s homepage. Meanwhile, every season, Mango releases modest-friendly collections of tunics, kaftans and maxi dresses. It is brands like COS and Arket, however, who stand out in this market as their overall aesthetic is most in line with modest fashion.

 

 

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In the age of #MeToo, modest fashion is also a statement; a statement that sticks the middle finger up at the notion of dressing for the ‘male gaze’ — women might dress for the occasion but more importantly, we dress for ourselves and no one else. And according to data collated by Edited, the demand for modest fashion in the US market has grown 15% since 2017, which coincides with the launch of the #MeToo movement in October that year.

Modest fashion is, like the people who choose to wear it, multifaceted. It’s more than a trend; more than a religious trait; more than just a number — but is it here to stay? Edited also found that when analysing the latest autumn/winter catwalk shows which took place during Fashion Month in February, high necklines were among the key shapes for tops, alongside blouses featuring long sleeves and midi and maxi length skirts so it seems modest fashion will be on our radar for a while longer and time will only tell if this is just a passing trend or a new way of dressing.