Everywhere from Vogue to your daily paper - last week, my face was humbly splashed across the front of The Weekend Argus’ Life section for a piece on the rise of modest fashion - discourse around dressing modestly has saturated the media landscape.
But what is modest fashion exactly? Is it the headscarf or hijab that Muslim women use to cover their hair? Is it loose, comfortable clothing that covers the entire body?
Well, yes. But it’s also so much more.
When the term "modest fashion" is used, it’s usually interpreted as boring, dull garments without any shape.
Swoop in Western designers with Ramadaan collections (think DKNY in 2014 closely followed by Burberry, Zara, Tommy Hilfiger, Mango and Dolce &Gabbana in 2016 and 2017) that, while laudable, fail to reflect the needs and values of the majority of Muslims and other women who choose to dress modestly.
Not only are these collections targeted at a very small segment of the population - namely Middle Eastern women with large disposable incomes - but they are also only available at certain times of the year as though Muslims are exempt from dressing modestly outside the confines of the holy month of Ramadaan.
Contrary to US-based lifestyle website Refinery29’s belief, most Muslim women are not only in search of formal or semi-formal items to wear to the various events taking place in Ramadaan as well as on Eid.
Most Muslim women as well as women from other religious and cultural denominations are simply in need of casual pieces that can easily be worn with other items in their wardrobes.
Also, pieces that work in all types of weather (all hail the innovative Veil Hijab, who produce climate-adaptive scarves and gym apparel.
Unfortunately these are sold in US dollars. And the current exchange rate makes it difficult for those in poorer countries to gain access.
Closer to home, last year’s #RespekTheDoek took centre stage when journalist Nontobeko Sibisi’s segment for an eNCA Africa Day broadcast was cut because she was wearing a headscarf.
In a country such as South Africa, which boasts 11 languages and a multitude of cultures and religions that associate the headscarf, doek, turban or hijab with many different values - ranging from respect, modesty and honour to history and preservation - this almost seems laughable, especially at a time when the hijab is slowly being relinquished from the controversial Westernised notion that it is a symbol of oppression.
So much so, that London Fashion Week 2016 saw two London College of Fashion graduates, Nelly Rose and Odette Steele, team up with Indonesian designer Dian Pelangi to redesign the hijab into 24 fashion-forward designs that appeal to non-religious women too.
With the wide appeal of modest fashion beyond the Islamic populace, dressing modestly is not simply a seasonal trend.
Designers and retailers should take heed of this and include garments that appeal to this demographic in their forthcoming collections, if even subtly at first.
The inclusion of modest-wear on a global scale and the acceptance of the hijab beyond spiritual, religious and cultural reasons are once again putting a spotlight on Islamophobia. But, more importantly, it is giving women who dress modestly a chance to be recognised as part of the global economy of fashion, a part that not only has a lot of buying power but a strong sense of commitment to brands that uphold their beliefs.
Adapted from davidandradcliffe.com.
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