Recently, there has been a distinct increase in the number of major fashion brands stocking ‘modest’ clothing. It might get passed off as an innocent marketing attempt to drive sales and bat off competitors, but questioning the underlying motive can’t be helped, especially within the current political context.
The introduction of modest fashion collections doesn’t stop at full length sleeves and mid length dresses anymore, like they once did. In 2018, brands such as H&M bought in entire collections consisting of long, flowing maxi dresses reminiscent of religious clothing such as abayas, ordinarily worn by Muslim women. Of course, modest clothing isn’t just worn by Muslim women, the tendency for women to dress demurely is not limited to religious or cultural reasons; there are non-religious women who simply don’t want to expose their bodies. It’s refreshing to see modest fashion at such heights at a time society is ever concerned with women’s bodies and freedom of self; after all, the freedom to express yourself is a right we all have.
If the intention to introduce modest fashion has stemmed from a genuine attempt to embrace the diversity of women and their choices, then kudos to designers for taking that step. However, there are questions raised about the intentions behind modest fashion collections, especially when high end designers like D&G and Nike have famously released hijab and abaya collections. Are these authentic efforts to be more diverse, or attempts to attract the up and coming groups of Muslim women who find themselves as consumers of these brands? The issue has been brushed under the carpet for the most part, but it’s one to be sceptical about.
Ever since the trend of islamophobia has been introduced into the West, Muslim women around the globe have been branded as extreme and terrorist for nothing more than their modest dress, called out for being too modest and going against Western values of showing your body as much as possible. Keeping this in mind, the sudden surge witnessed in fashion lines to incorporate ‘Muslim woman friendly’ attire into their mainstream collections is questionable. Muslim women and non Muslim women alike will welcome modesty as the new holy grail of fashion, but it seems a try at appeasing Muslim women and glamourizing their struggle simultaneously. An attempt to make Muslim women feel accepted and comfortable in their religious attire by sewing their label on to clothing, to say ‘we’ve made it glamorous for you, you’re relevant now’. This trend certainly won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, as the young Muslim demographic increases, so will profits for these brands; expected to stream in several hundred billion dollars in the coming years according to Reuters. It’s heart-warming to see Muslims being considered in the fashion world, just not when modesty has been associated with terrorism and women described as looking like ‘letter boxes’ in their dress. Regardless of how we view this new penchant, it’s here to stay.