What is Modest Fashion? Why is everyone talking about it ?

What is Modest Fashion? Why is everyone talking about it ?

The term modest fashion can be interpreted in a number of different ways. However, it is typically used to describe clothing that conceals rather than accentuates the shape of the body, especially in a way that satisfies their spiritual and stylistic requirements for reasons of faith, religion or personal preference. The exact interpretation of 'modest' varies across cultures and countries. Beyond the various interpretations, all agree on the idea that modest fashion means loose clothing, comfortable dressing and covering of the body according to a person's own comfort.

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The clothing can include hijabs and burqas, as well as tops, trousers, jackets and dresses that feature a modest cut. While the decision to wear this type of clothing can be due to religious or cultural reasons, it can also be worn to attain a more modest aesthetic.

The rise of modest fashion, specifically in the case of young religious women, was born through the need for more fashionable clothing options.

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Modest fashion as a term, as a market term, came to prevalence in the mid-2000s, and this was partly because a number of the brands that first started up came from designers and creative entrepreneurs who were themselves religiously motivated," says Reina Lewis, professor of cultural studies at London College of Fashion, UAL. She explained to me that the internet made it possible for savvy, underserved religio-ethnic individuals and groups to start providing both the products and content that they were missing.

As Hana Tajima —the British-Japanese Muslim fashion designer who recently collaborated with Uniqlo on a range of modest-friendly fashion—tells me, "The reality is that everyone has their own idea of what modest fashion means to them. And that runs alongside peoples' personal preferences of color and style. It's such a broad idea that gets very narrow inside those two words."

So, in brief, modest fashion can describe varying degrees of covering up on purpose. The decision can be due to religio-ethnic fulfillment or to attain a certain aesthetic and level of ease because it is not just a trend that's tied to spirituality.

Why is the mainstream fashion industry talking about it now?

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First up, let's look at the primary stat that gets referenced time and again. According to the Global Islamic Economy Report, Muslim fashion spends alone in the UK is estimated to reach $467 billion by 2020. This is, in part, due to an increasing number of millennial Muslim women—or Generation M—who have larger amounts of disposable income, thanks to their new positions in the workplace rather than the home.

Outside of facts and figures, take a second to think about where fashion is headed right now: Social media has prompted diversity to become a mainstay—not a gimmick—within the industry. It's also shone a light on the (obvious) facts that women of different shapes, faiths, colors, sizes, and backgrounds can be just as stylish and can be equally valuable customers.

The global response every time the modest fashion market is addressed highlights just how much this faction wants to be spoken and catered to. When DKNY marketed a Ramadan collection of existing pieces that were suitable for modest dressers in 2014, the press coverage was phenomenal. The same goes for when H&M selected Mariah Idrissi to feature in a video in 2015. She became the first hijab-wearing model to feature in one of the megalith's campaigns. She tells me her life "changed overnight. I was scouted in a shopping center soon after graduating university and [had been] planning on working for myself in a creative field, but I never expected to be a model."

"That went viral within minutes," Lewis says of the high-street campaign. "I think the brands involved haven't realized the appetite for this… how much it would get taken up. I think Mariah got more traction and coverage than the other people involved in it, but the video was innovative in a number of ways in terms of how it presented social diversity for fashion."

Women interpret modest dress requirements in many different ways, and the way they interpret them can change over their life.

Is it a coincidence that the oversized silhouettes—like the super-wide trousers or statement sleeves—we're into are so prevalent on the runways and in stores right now? Fashion is often a reflection of the cultural conversation, and today there are more options than ever for dressing modestly. Lyst, the data-crunching fashion search engine, has seen an increase in related terms such as "high neck" or "long sleeve" increasing by 40% and 52%, respectively, over the past six months. Meanwhile, the brand notes that even more specific categories, such as "modest burkinis," are winning out over skimpier styles.

What's the biggest misconception about modest fashion?

“There’s a general misconception that modest clothing is inherently oppressive,” said Michelle Honig, an Orthodox Jewish fashion journalist, and the keynote speaker during fashion month at New york University for the Meeting Through Modesty fashion symposium. “But if women in so-called ‘liberated countries’ still choose to cover their bodies, then they have made a choice."

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