Traditionally, women were encouraged to “dress modestly” to avert the male gaze. Luckily, “modest” style has evolved within the fashion world to become a means for reclaiming one’s own power and sexuality. For some, modest dress is the norm because they are devoutly religious. For others, it just means wanting to wear a long skirt for the sake of it. The point is: It’s entirely liberating to cover up.
If you’re skeptical that dressing modestly is actually a trend, consider this: Vanessa Friedman, fashion director at the New York Times, considers it to be the defining trend of the 2010s, and the proof is on the runway.
There’s the Row, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s luxury label beloved by fashion insiders that marries minimalism and romanticism, referred to once as “subdued bohemianism.” There’s Céline, the French label under Phoebe Philo’s creative direction (for the time being), whose ’80s-inspired workwear-like trousers and trenches inspire knock-offs the world over. And then there’s Victoria Beckham, whose recent spring 2018 ready-to-wear show was decidedly delicate and demure (what, did you expect something else from a former Spice Girl?).
Meanwhile, shoppers are looking for “modest” fashion in their own online odysseys. According to the social media shopping site Polyvore, searches for the term “modest” are up 55 percent in the last month, as consumers from El Paso and Sao Paulo to Jakarta and Denver uncover results for “hijab fashion,” “abaya,” and “pashmina” in internet queries. Perhaps most surprising, the majority of Polyvore searches for “hijab” in the past month came from ages 18 to 24.
Luckily for those people, there are a handful of e-commerce sites devoted solely to modest shopping. ModLi, a site on which you can filter your clothing searches by neckline, skirt length, sleeve length, and head covering, claims it “promotes the nuanced ideal that modesty doesn’t mean hiding but rather showcasing natural beauty in a classy way. The Modist is perfect for the luxury shopper whose tastes may be reserved but whose wallet certainly isn’t.”
The extent to which you take the modest look is entirely up to you. If you’re a practicing Orthodox Jew, covering your arms to your elbows and your legs to your knees can be stylish without being constricting. Or maybe you’re just sick of the sequined holiday party minidress.
Either way, here are five modest, chic outfit ideas for any holiday outing, celebrating both the season and your body, however you choose to.
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