Modest fashion is finally having its moment after gaining mainstream traction and popularity over the past couple of years, and as a Muslim woman, it feels like it’s been a long time coming. This recent inclusion means a lot to me because when I was growing up, I never had the same options that every other girl did when it came to clothing. In fact, I always felt left out.

In the past, when I went clothes shopping my first priority would be to find something I considered to be modest. If a piece just so happened to be trendy, I was in luck. But there were barely any clothes that fit the bill . It seemed like every shirt with long sleeves was drab, or if I finally found the perfect item I’d pick it up and turn it around, only to find that it was backless.

This pushed me to be creative in how I put together my outfits and made me think outside the box, which helped me develop an individual sense of style. I would pile on the layers even in the hottest weather. I’d customize an item to add an extra lining — I went through it all. At the end of the day though, it just made me feel like nothing in the mainstream fashion industry would ever be geared toward me. That whole cool fashion world I wanted to be a part of wasn’t for girls like me.

Courtesy Maha Syeda

So I gave up on the hope of seeing brands cater to Muslim women. But when something of a modest fashion movement began to bubble up in 2016, that slowly started to change. The rise of feminism and social activism everywhere began to affect even the biggest brands and those companies began to realize that women were expecting more from them in terms of inclusion and diversity. I remember being surprised (and confused) when I saw that Dolce & Gabbana would be would be launching a hijab and abaya collection as part of its spring 2017 offerings.

It’s important to be included and for the needs of Muslim women to be
recognized, especially as the fashion industry is becoming more
representative and diverse, even though it wasn’t (and in some cases,
still isn’t) always this accepting.

It felt surreal for such a major brand to recognize that there was an untapped market of Muslim women looking to buy clothes specifically created for them. I was starting to see more brands recognize the potential in modest fashion and join in. Soon enough, retailers like American Eagle, DKNY, Nike, and Uniqlo were launching collections to appeal to that customer base, and some of them even featured Muslim women in their ad campaigns. And before I knew it, there was finally a place for me.

As time went on, I began to notice that the layering I’d been doing was becoming trendy and showing tons of skin was no longer the standard. For me, dressing modestly was the norm, and for it to become a trend internationally was more than fascinating. Modest fashion isn’t limited to Muslim women either, it’s also popular with the Mormon community. It isn’t just a fad or something that’ll be a throwback trend a couple of decades from now; it’s the foundation for everything I wear and my style guideline.

Maha Syeda modest fashion

Courtesy Maha Syeda

It is truly an amazing thing to be able to dress modestly and still get to participate in fashion. It’s important to be included and for the needs of Muslim women to be recognized, especially as the fashion industry is becoming more representative and diverse, even though it wasn’t (and in some cases, still isn’t) always this accepting. It feels great to be able to dress in a way where I’m comfortable without appearing outlandish or being questioned about my attire. It’s also given me the confidence to try new styles and to be more fashion-forward, whereas a few years ago I wasn’t as inspired to express myself through clothing.

Maha Syeda modest fashion

Courtesy Maha Syeda

As modest fashion continues to grow and make its place, I hope it becomes the norm for the mainstream. Because it isn’t just a trend, it’s our way of dressing, a lifestyle, and a movement that makes us feel like we’re being represented properly and that we belong.


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