• Maryam Isa-Haslett


Increasing numbers of women are engaging in the development and discussion of modest dressing; a movement matched by a growing media and popular demand for intelligent commentary about the topic. Modest fashion sets out to meet that need. As a trend, modest dressing is spreading across the world, yet it is rarely viewed as 'fashion'. Studying consumers and producers, retailers and bloggers, Modest fashion provides an up to the minute account of the art of dressing modestly - and fashionably. Leading scholars in the area, along with journalists, fashion designers, entrepreneurs and bloggers discuss the emergence of a niche market for modest fashion among and between various faith groups as well as secular dressers. Crossing creeds and cultures, analysing commentary alongside commerce, and the political as well as religious, aesthetic and economic implications of contemporary dress practices and the debates that surround them.

Modest wear has even appeared on the celebrity red carpet “With the growing presence and influence of the young Muslim demographic, who are proud to uphold faith values in clothing, I don’t think it is any coincidence that we have seen the proliferation of pashminas, scarves, maxi dresses and even Islamic geometric patterns in designer and high street collections.

Muslim fashion is undoubtedly one of the biggest trends to come, not as a replacement but as an addition to current ranges and fashion events.”

After years in the fashion wilderness, suddenly we Muslims seem almost spoilt for choice. What’s the reason for this major change?

You may be wondering why this has taken so long. Well, a major reason is the false notion that women of my faith don’t care about fashion. And of course, some don’t, just like other women. But you only need to type ‘Muslim women’ into Google images to see why the myth perpetuates: it’s like black is the new black, repeatedly. Muslim women who enjoy wearing colour and patterns don’t make the stereotypical grade. In fact, wearing black isn’t even a religious requirement, it’s more to do with the desire to avoid attention that is prevalent in certain countries.

Generally, the basics of modest dress for Muslim women are that many of us choose not to show our bodies – our legs, full arms, shoulders etc – in front of men we aren’t related to. Clothes should not be tight or transparent and some women also cover their hair with a hijab. In front of other women or male relatives, we can be more relaxed about things.

Personally, I cover almost every part of my body apart from my face and hands in mixed of various company. As long as clothes aren’t too tight, transparent or reveal parts of me I don’t want to inflict on the public, it’s all good. I search for light under tops to wear with sleeveless dresses, ensure necklines aren’t too scooped, and skirts not too clingy. I don’t wear my hijab at home all the time, or when I am sleeping at anytime or when I am in the shower (I have been asked). I would only wear it at home if we were having a party and there were men around who weren’t from my immediate family. When it’s ladies only, I can go a bit wild without one.

The variations on these basics among women of different ages, countries and backgrounds are multiple. For example, I don’t always feel the need to wear an abaya because I have found other ways to cover my body that works almost same. But for those women who do, many develop their own trends and identities to work within the conservative parameters of our faith. There are abayas trimmed with lace, decorated with beaded embroidery; some even have cuffs adorned with crystals.

“Muslim women come in a variety of religio-ethnic identities and in a range of aesthetics. That includes women who wear hijabs to women who don’t, young mums to skater girls, entrepreneurs to office workers.” But the basic demands we make of our clothing are the same, and that is how modest chic is becoming mainstream.

Muslim women are driving the market forward, pushing boundaries in innovation. We are living in the age of the ‘New Muslim Cool’; a term coined by a documentary of the same name about a rap artist who converts to Islam. We are on trend. And brands; both high end, online and high street are reaching out to us.

Influence doesn’t stop at clothes. One of the biggest trends in beauty this year is the rise in halal beauty. I will elaborate: some mainstream beauty products contain ingredients like alcohol and pig-derived collagen, which are forbidden (‘haram’ in Arabic) by the Qu’ran. I and many have stayed well away from cosmetics for fear of what they might contain, so it is no wonder that Muslim entrepreneurs are now producing their own formulations that cater for modern tastes without compromising faith values.

The spotlight is on modest wear and it is now more in touch with my and many others lifestyle. And as long as brands continue to connect authentically, the Muslim market is very much open for business and fast growing!

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