I have never liked the term “modest fashion.” I’ve even gone so far as to walk away from
someone the moment I hear them uttering those unpalatable words. In my opinion, combining
the words “modest” and “fashion” translate into one misleading meaning: boring.
Now, before you start trolling me for being an intolerant bigot, kindly keep in mind that I am, in
fact, a Muslim woman. I also believe in modesty. I just don’t believe that my personal style is
anything close to boring. The term that society has devised to address a broad range of
individualistic dressers is so void of personality and charisma that it feels like a sweeping stamp
I live in New York City and like all women here, Muslim women shop anywhere and
everywhere. Thrift stores, vintage boutiques, department stores, sample sales, you name it.
Muslim women shop regardless of whether or not a brand is classified as modest-friendly. I’ve
been a stylist and personal shopper for well over a decade now and what I have realized is this:
Each and every woman is an independently different individual with her own sense of style and
taste. If you honestly think about it, a woman’s personal style is as convoluted as her personality.
For example, whenever I’ve asked a Muslim woman to describe her style, the term “modest” has
never found a place in her vocabulary. Instead, I hear the same descriptions that non-Muslim
women might use: sophisticated, minimalist, bohemian, etc. Modest might be used to describe
the cuts and silhouettes of garments, but never to summarize the essence of what makes their
personal style so unique. Even specifying your taste as fairly “conservative,” cannot sum up your
sartorial preferences. It merely insinuates that you prefer more conservative cuts of
sophisticated-, minimalist-, bohemian-pieces. Like everything in fashion, details are subjective.
One might interpret conservative as explicitly long sleeves while another might envision three-
quarter length. Can conservative be used to determine a wide-leg verses skinny-leg? Does
modest declare that hair must be covered and only covered? I would love Muslim women to
express their style via personality and desires, rather than being forced to reduce their answer to
a vague word that does no justice to their fashion sensibility.
As I mentioned, I am a Muslima hijabi who covers my hair. Yet, I have been able to walk into a
store—regardless of whether or not they have a “modest” section—and find choices within the
guidelines of my beliefs. It’s really just a matter of styling. Which brings us back to that more
important question of what kind of styling. Well, that is up to you. A plethora of styling options
that the word “modest” cannot do justice to. So, if you want to ask me—a Muslim woman—how
I dress or better yet, what’s my style, I’ll tell you this. It’s feminine with a hint of audacity.