Modest fashion, long relegated to the communities that follow modesty guidelines, is going mainstream. Brands, websites, and marketing campaigns are targeting people looking to dress modestly, and discovering that the demand has been there all along. According to an examination of the industry by Racked this week, the market for modest fashion is projected to grow to 484 billion by 2019. As a result, the fashion industry is realizing there is a large customer base they have long been neglecting. London even hosted its first modest fashion week.
For some places, this is nothing new. Kleinfeld’s, the luxury bridal gown retailer of Say Yes to the Dress fame even has an Orthodox bridal consultant, who works with designers to alter dresses to meet modest dress specifications. She’s worked at the store for over 15 years. There are also a slew of modest fashion bloggers who have taken the internet by storm, showing off their modest fashions. Clothing that is so stylish, anyone — modest or not — could covet the looks.
The industry has largely focused on Muslim women, but Liz Roy, founder of Downtown Demure, told Racked, “I want people to know that there are many other types of women who practice modest fashion as fervently.” Roy is a Black, Christian woman who posts photos of herself on social media to bring representation to people like her in the modest fashion world. “…the rise of social media and modest fashion has shown that the modest dressing woman comes from all types of backgrounds and faiths.” The Modist, the first luxury online retailer to cater only to modest fashion only launched earlier this year.
Sisters Chaya Chanin and Simi Polonsky, who are Orthodox Jews, started a New York-based clothing line called the Frock, which sells the clothing they had difficulty finding for themselves when they were growing up. Chanin and Polonsky say they sought out vintage items they could customize to fit their needs. “Over time, we became really good at it,” Polonsky told Racked. “We gained a reputation for having a great sense of style, even as modest dressers.”
Mayim Bialik, star of the television show “The Big Bang Theory“ is known for being a high-profile celebrity who embraces modern dress in line with her Orthodox faith. She has documented the struggles of finding dresses for red carpet events, saying, “I… have such low expectations of the world of fashion and me intersecting that I often am just neutral or not negative about outfits.” In an interview with the Mode-sty blog last year, she explained why she talks about modest fashion so much. “I write about it a lot, I talk about it a lot, and I try to really remove religion or cultural identification from the conversation, because there’s something appealing about it for certain kinds of people, no matter what your background,” she said.
As Racked notes, “fashion… is inherently political.” Roy feels that women having the freedom to choose how they dress their body, whether that is in line with a faith practice or not, is something she’s glad to see gaining more traction. “I love that women are opening up to the idea that a conservative dress code can also being empowering,” she said. Bialik feels similarly about her modest dress, telling Mode-sty, “For me, I find a tremendous amount of freedom in not having to worry about what my body looks like.”