#LookoutFor | The Modesty Movement

In September this year, Indonesian designer Anneisa Hasibuan showcased her 2017 Spring/Summer Collection at the New York Fashion Week (NYFW) and made history. Not only was she the first from her country to showcase a collection here, but was also the first designer to present a collection in which every look came with a Hijab. She was received with a standing ovation, a rare sight at fashion shows.

Reading about Anneisa led me to Melanie Elturk, the founder of HauteHijab, a website that sells trendy and modern hijabs and headscarves. Here, I discovered something called the ‘Modesty Movement’, a seemingly empowering trend that’s emerging in fashion. While HauteHijab is an e-commerce website, it is also, more importantly a blog which does two things- one, putting together ‘modest’, yet fashionable looks (think boyfriend jeans with a striped shirt and cardigan or a loose, summery, full-sleeved top teamed with jeans) with clothes picked up from our everyday brands like Nordstorm, Forever 21 etc., and two, it brings into spotlight Muslim women who are working towards bringing ‘modest’ fashion to the mainstream by, for instance, talking about under-the-radar fashion weeks such as Istanbul’s Modest Fashion Week.

 Melanie Elturk (courtesy- HauteHijab website)

Melanie Elturk (courtesy- HauteHijab website)

I think we need more dialogue on this, and not just for the fashion world’s benefit.

There’s Adi Heyman for example, a converted orthodox Jew, who is a stylist and founder of Fabologie— a website that she labelled as a “Jewish style site” in an interview to Today. From Kosher food in New York, to Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year) inspired eats, Fabologie lists it all. But fashion-wise, what stands out is Adi’s curation of garments that could fit the definition of “modest”, sourced from collections displayed at various fashion weeks. She is also credited for popularizing the use of “#modspotting”, a hashtag to point out any chic, yet covered up fashion that you come across on the internet.

 Adi Heyman (courtesy- Google Images)

Adi Heyman (courtesy- Google Images)

And who doesn’t do this. Scourge the internet for fashion trends, that is. We are constantly looking for ways to look good, while still being comfortable. Wide-legged culottes, long skirts, over-sized sweaters are all very in.  A host of indie clothing labels are pushing boxy anti-fit, non-contoured clothing, featuring regularly at mainstream fashion weeks. And Hasidic Jew sisters-in-law, Mimi Hecht and Mushky Notik didn’t let a lack of education in fashion deter them from getting on this bandwagon. Through their website MimuMaxi and complementing Instagram account, they show the world that complying to religious dressing codes can indeed be beautiful, fun, and even sexy. Their collection of frocks, loose dresses, and “skirt leggings,” is effortlessly chic and scream comfort. 

 Mimi Hecht and Mushky Notik (courtesy- MimuMaxi website)

Mimi Hecht and Mushky Notik (courtesy- MimuMaxi website)

And why not? Because if we are to advocate that fashion— as many celebrities have said in interviews time and time again— is comfort, the Modesty Movement is not at odds with the need for some to feel better covered up and perhaps cozy.

If the problem with “modest” clothes comes only from a sense of discomfort brought in by “the other”, then there’s nothing else to say. But if you were to claim that there’s no creativity in covering up, then you’ve just been proved wrong by a significant number of Muslim, Jewish, and Mormon women whose religious socialization has not limited them one bit. Here are a few more modest fashion websites-

 

Thumbnail picture courtesy- HauteHijab website

Text by Anusha