Pinterest UK tells me that searches for "modest fashion" are up 500% since the beginning of this year. 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. A specialist online store called The Modist has just launched—full of suitably modest pieces from an incredible roll call of brand names, and every kind of girl is shopping from the site, whether they identify as "modest" or not.
When you step outside of this specific realm, it's plain to see that runways, cool brands, and street style stars alike are also noticeably embracing big shapes, covered-up silhouettes, and creative layering. Modest fashion is everywhere. But what exactly is it? As a whole, this movement has been picking up the pace for nigh on a decade, but there's still a fogginess about what it means to be a modest dresser, what it looks like, and how it's affecting style-conscious girls right now. Keep reading to discover more.
"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.
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 bikinis," are winning out over skimpier styles.
Does Bashir's process sound familiar to you? It's one that I share, yet I've never purposefully sought out or aimed to participate in the modest fashion movement. The idea is far from restrictive, agrees Lisa Bridgett of The Modist, a newly launched e-commerce platform specializing in a luxury gathering of the most modest-friendly pieces.
"Modest dressing is about choice, about beautifully styled pieces that resonate with the wearer and provide an exceptionally fashion-forward approach to being in-season. At The Modist, we are loving the positive and enlightened responses to our fashion proposition that we have had from über-fashionistas, women across faiths who wear clothes to marry with their values. … In many ways, modest dressing provides more opportunities for women to dress stylishly."
The knack to looking unique while adhering to pious style parameters appears to be in seeking out both trend-driven and classic items and wearing them together (often in a layered ensemble). However, should that seem too draining on your time, e-tailers like The Modist step in to provide a perfectly edited solution. "We often find relevant pieces in every brand we consider," says Sasha Sarokin, The Modist's fashion and buying director. "The brands that make the list, however, naturally represent modesty in a chic and fabulous way. Some of the must-have pieces this season are from Ellery, Adam Lippes, and Christopher Kane."