Growing up, I attended a full-time Islamic School that had a strict dress code and enforced uniforms. Even though I left Islamic School at a young age, being in the public educational system, did not alter the religious rules of my fashion style. Today, I’m still most comfortable dressing the way I was raised too.
When I was younger, I struggled to find outfits that I felt expressed my style that were “halal” enough for my parents to approve of. Countless trips to the mall would result in me spending hours shopping, just to end up with a shirt that had sleeves.
I developed a habit of wearing layers, like cardigans, undershirts and leggings instead of pants.
I felt confident when I dressed in layers, until my first year of undergrad when I started to feel insecure in the way I dressed.
Strangers constantly questioned why I wore cardigans during the summer instead of wearing shorts. My roommate used to comment on how my outfits would look good if I ditched the cardigan or tights. Others teased me, saying that I dressed like a grandma or nun. I often got told by people that dressing conservative or modest would leave me behind in trends.
With the rise of Instagram and digital media, these new insecurities began to fade. Through social media, I was exposed to modest fashion bloggers who made me realize I didn’t have to feel underrepresented in the fashion world.
For the last few years, modest fashion has been revolutionizing the fashion industry. Bloggers and fashion influencers have risen to prove that Western fashion can fit a modest lifestyle. Gone is the thought that fashion cannot be “halal.”
Many Muslims in the fashion world has come to show us that modest fashion goes with, above, and beyond trends. They are showing us that you don’t have to give up your sense of style to stick to a modest way of dressing. But it doesn’t just end there, they have created a revolution that isn’t just embraced by Muslim women.
They’ve taken fashion into their own hands by creating content on social media and creating their own brands and fashion boutiques.
Modest fashion has created an uproar with many mainstream brands now incorporating modest designs into their lines and products. In 2014, when brands like DKNY marketed Ramadan collections, there was a lot of criticism.
In 2015 H&M selected Mariah Idrissi , for a video, making her the first hijabi model to be featured in such a campaign.
According to Who What Wear, searches for “modest fashion” on Pinterest UK are up 500% since the beginning of 2018. “The global modest fashion market is already reportedly worth hundreds of billions and is set to scale up by gargantuan proportions over the next five years.”
The rise of modest fashion has created a representation for not only Muslim women but anyone who wishes to dress showing less skin. It has allowed women like me to feel less conscious or insecure with the way we dress. I am reminded that I shouldn’t care what others think and that I can be modest and fashionable.
Modest fashion can be defined as wearing trendy clothes that cover own’s skin. Or by altering a style or trend to make it more “modest” to fit your own comfort level. Modest fashion has broken the fashion industry’s glass ceiling that once failed to include a population in its trends. The industry has made it loud and clear that trends can be modest. And dressing “conservatively” does not translate to dressing poorly.
In an interview with Vogue, blogger and Fashion Week regular Marwa “Meme” Biltagi, stated that modest fashion is often only associated with Muslim or Middle Eastern women, but that’s not the case:
“But looking at the runways, especially at gender-fluid pieces like oversize shirts, boxy blazers, and head scarves—like at Marc Jacobs [Spring 2018]—these are all very modest options. It’s not just a religious dress or for religious people,” she said. “I learned modest dressing from my mother, who is Irish and became Muslim later in life. Her modest dressing was a style choice growing up in Dublin in the ’60s and ’70s. Modest fashion is for everyone. I gravitate towards pieces with structure, like a tailored pantsuit, or pieces with different textures like sequins, silks, feathers, patent leathers, or even fur, to add dimension.”
Modest fashion has not only given representation to women worldwide but creates confidence. With the rise of modest fashion, I personally no longer feel isolated when people question why I chose to layer a particular outfit. I may not be the most trendy, but its influencers have encouraged me to give new trends a try. Best of all, I no longer feel insecure in dressing modestly or in the way that I want. Modest fashion reminds us that we don’t need to dress “less” to dress well. We can make or alter any fashion into our own style.