“Modest fashion is booming. It’s not for one race, ethnicity, or religion. It’s a global thing.”- Halima Aden ( Somali American Model, Fashion Entrepreneur, and Activist).

The embrace of modest fashion in recent times is not a development to overlook. The trend first emerged in 2011, when a number of Muslim bloggers and influencers, countered stereotypes of Muslim women as being oppressed and showed that modest dressing can also be very fashionable. The profile of this catchy trend was most evident on runways at major shows at the boom of the fashion season this year, where the increasing number of modest fashion influencers, designers and models showed how significantly the market has grown and how it is re-shaping  mainstream ideas  Major brands have honed in on the new rave, adding a whole new glam to the idea of modest fashion; Max Mara, Calvin Klein, Oscar de la Renta, Balenciaga, Harper’s Bazaar, and Vogue to mention a few. Doubling as a trend in activism, modest fashion has been used as another creative medium to express the power of womanhood and the irony in trying to push feminist ideas into obscurity. The fact remains, modest fashion is a worthy trend.

Halima Aden for ELLE, December 2018. 


The controversy in this idea stems from the fact that modest fashion is deemed a cultural or religious fashion practice. While some Muslim women may have found a fashionable way to withstand strict religious doctrines, modest fashion simply projects the elegance and beauty in showing less skin. Simple… We find that more and more, style is an expression of self and thus, a conservative style should not necessarily warrant stereotypes or labels, no matter what they are. It is no longer news that modest fashion is big business. A  $1.9 trillion market, fashion brands have been attracted since the first upsurge and probably won’t let up until the entire market is catered to. However, some bloggers and influencers are wary of the mainstream’s unwitting embrace of modest fashion. Instead, they want to reclaim a’ movement’ they fear is being infiltrated by fashion brands as a way of bolstering a socially accurate status and dominating the Muslim market by turning huge profits.

The main issue for most of these bloggers and influencers is that modest fashion began as a quest for proper representation and to properly pivot the conflicting projections of cultural appropriation. For them it is a medium, it is activism, it is a ‘’movement”. On one side are those who see it as exploitation in a commercial context; as inherently disrespectful to the cultural and religious ideas that are being sampled, but are rarely credited and almost never compensated or acknowledged. On the other side, are those who take the liberty to fluidly sample from other cultures of the world and in fact, view it as vital to creative expression and innovation, as long as it contributes to the enrichment of human experiences. Unsurprisingly, this perception still stands in certain circles and remains an ongoing conversation. But the point remains, the trend of modest fashion is clearly and broadly defined as “ a fashion trend of wearing less skin-revealing clothes.” By definition, it can be interpreted in a myriad of creatively fashionable ways.  A group of creatively astute women may have called our attention to it( a fact that should be duly and properly recognized) but can anyone really lay claim to it? Modest fashion is an avenue of self-expression. It is more than a trend or a ‘movement’; it is a lifestyle.

This year’s events have managed to create a bridge by turning the focus on designers emerging from the Middle Eastern parts. Bringing various ethnic flavors to a wide range of amazing collections, modest fashion has clearly come to stay. Hopefully, the right perceptions will take root as well.



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