Let’s face the facts: Fashion has problems. Between diversity, accessibility and ethical supply chain management, there’s a lot that retailers can do to make fashion more inclusive. Fortunately, one of fashion’s issues is finally seeing some solvency. Modest fashion is one of many trends that’s been seeing a recent surge in popularity, as clothes from the back of our closets gradually make it to the front again- but unlike most fads, it seems to be here to stay.
The modest fashion market is booming. “According to the “State of the Global Islamic Economy Report” produced by Reuters in collaboration with DinarStandard, Muslim consumers spent an estimated $243 billion on clothing in 2015. Modest fashion purchases by Muslim women were estimated at $44 billion that year, which was approximately 18% of the total,” said Deborah Weinswig in an article for Forbes.
If you need more proof that modest fashion isn’t going away anytime soon, just look to runways and stores. Statement sleeves and wide-legged pants are a staple in most runway looks and you’d be hard pressed to find a brand that doesn’t want to cater to a more modest market. Nike recently introduced a hijab for activewear, while brands like DKNY, Tommy Hilfiger, Oscar de la Renta, Zara and Mango have produced critically acclaimed special collections for the Ramadan holiday.
But the modest fashion market is hardly limited by geographic location and faith. According to Who What Wear, Lyst, a data-crunching fashion search engine, has seen an increase in terms such as “high neck” or “long sleeve” by 40% and 52% respectively over the past six months. The engine also notes that more specific categories, such as “modest bikinis,” are winning out over skimpier styles.
Part of modest fashion’s appeal is, strangely enough, its lack of a clear definition. As Hana Tajima, a British-Japanese fashion designer who recently collaborated with Uniqlo on a range of modest fashion tells Who What Wear, “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.”
“Interestingly, there are a lot of non-Muslim women who are drawn to this aesthetic,” Tajima adds. “It helps that the clothes are inherently comfortable… I think a lot of women aren’t necessarily aware that the clothes could be seen as ‘modest fashion.’ It’s just a style that resonates with them.”
The biggest misconception people have about dressing modestly? That it’s confining. “The idea is far from restrictive,” agrees Lisa Bridgett of modest fashion e-commerce The Modist in an interview with Who What Wear. Social media has clearly taken a shine to covering up, with Instagram stars like Firaa Asaghaf (@firrrr_), Dina Tokio (@dinatokio) and Anam Bashir (@desertmannequin) racking up thousands of followers due to their commitment to modest fashion.
Clearly, modest fashion has proven that diversity in clothing is a mainstay, not a gimmick. The next step? Removing the label ‘modest’ from our fashion lexicon, and integrating long sleeves and longer skirts into fashion completely.