In a world where western fashion trends tend to take centre stage, the demand for modest fashion is slowly growing and finding its place in the industry. However, modest fashion does not necessarily mean you cannot dress to suit modern standards.
In this article, meet three very different individuals from around the world who share their views on their common love for modest clothing; Alina Gilani, Ainaa Aqilah Amizul and Heraa Khan. Ainaa is Malaysian while Alina and Heraa have spent some years in Malaysia for their studies.
From Pakistan and with a love for Bollywood movies, Alina puts her personal spin on everyday wear. Ainaa, on the other hand, is a writer with a flair for makeup and a love for comfortable clothing. Heraa, a psychology degree holder who is currently residing in Saudi Arabia, loves experimenting with different styles and finds any reason to dress up. While they have modest fashion in common, these women differ in their approaches and needs when it comes to choosing their day-to-day.
1. What does modest fashion mean to you?
Alina: It may sound cheesy, but to me modest fashion is my identity. It provides a sense of comfort and confidence.
Ainaa: To me, modest fashion means covering up parts of your body you do not feel like showing to the public. Different people have different preferences, so which areas they want to cover is up to them.
Heraa: For me, modest fashion is just like any other style of fashion. It is how we express ourselves. I know that not everyone who chooses to dress modestly does so for religious reasons. Many women like me do, and I like that these two things go together. This way when I meet someone for the first time, they will already have some understanding of who I am.
2. Does dressing modestly mean giving up on individuality?
Alina: No, I don’t think so. Dressing up modestly is a personal choice. And nowadays, it is easier to find balance between modesty and trendy clothing.
Ainaa: It all depends on the individual themselves. There are people who feel restricted if they dress modestly but there are also some people who feel more comfortable dressing up in a modest way. For me, dressing up modestly does not mean that I am giving up my individuality. It is more of how I’m going to be differentiated from other people’s sense of style. I can experiment a lot even while dressing up modestly and still stay comfortable at the same time.
Heraa: Of course not, if you are creative enough, you can find a way to make anything work! As long as you are true to yourself, you can dress modestly and maintain your individuality. Modest fashion is a lot more diverse than most people think. And in recent times it has been given a lot more attention. Modest fashion bloggers have also become more popular, which gives people a lot more inspiration for their looks, in turn increasing the availability of more fashionable and interesting modest clothing.
3. How would you describe your personal everyday style?
Alina: My personal everyday style usually changes with the season. Currently, my style includes a monotone outfit with a bold-coloured scarf. With any piece of clothing providing appropriate coverage, my focus is always on comfort and modesty first as compared to looking fashionable or trendy with less clothing.
Ainaa: It depends on my mood, to be honest. There are times when I want to put extra effort into dressing up, but more often than not, I choose something comfortable. You would see me in a lot of skinny jeans and sweatshirts.
Heraa: If I am not lazy then I will definitely dress to impress. I like getting noticed for my outfit. My favourite compliment is when someone says, “I love what you’re wearing!” But I also prioritise comfort, which is why I have so many pairs of black tights. I prefer them over jeans. Palazzo and harem pants are also really comfortable yet stylish. I prefer wearing full-sleeved tops so I don’t have to layer up.
4. What are some of your favourite everyday clothing items that you like to incorporate into your fashion style?
Alina: A scarf around the neck for me is a must. I usually prefer wearing a coloured or floral scarf. It provides an instant pop of colour to my outfit despite minimal accessories.
Ainaa: Hijab is, of course, important to me. With a hijab, I can style it in more ways than one. My source of inspiration for all the different styles is definitely the many hijabi vloggers on YouTube who post tutorials, which I find very helpful.
Heraa: I love accessorising! I have recently been trying new looks with headbands and they are my new favourite. I also love how a nice belt can really jazz up your look!
5. What is the best style advice you have gotten? Who was it from?
Alina: The best style advice I have received would be to try on kurtis (an upper garment worn in the Indian subcontinent) with black tights or jeans. Those who know me would agree that I am often spotted following this advice. It may sound funny, but it is actually taken from one of Deepika Padukone’s movies. Before I saw it in the movie, it was hard for me to imagine a mix of eastern and western outfits.
Ainaa: Experimenting with your style is fun but comfort is key. I have always held onto that advice until today. Hence, most of my friends tend to see me in the same type of clothing because I value comfort over fashion. That is not to say, though, that my comfortable clothes are not stylish!
Heraa: Less is more! My sister says that to me all the time. She is my fashion inspiration, except I like bright colours while she does not. She has taught me how to put together simple yet elegant outfits. You can wear your regular clothes and add one or two statement pieces and it will do the trick.
6. Where do you source or buy your clothing from?
Alina: Most of my desi or traditional-inspired clothes are sourced from Pakistan and the western-style clothes from Malaysia.
Ainaa: I usually purchased my clothing from either e-commerce website such as Zalora and Fashion Valet or at local shopping malls.
Heraa: H&M, Cotton On and Uniqlo in Malaysia, American Eagle, Mango, Zara, Bershka, Pull & Bear, Stradivarius and Nichii in Saudi Arabia. For accessories and shoes, I go to Aldo and Payless. I do my online shopping from Modanisa and Zalora.
7. Are there any favourite brands/outlets you stick to? Why there?
Alina: My desi clothes are mostly from Pakistan brands such Generation, Khaadi and Sapphire. However, my western clothes are mostly from Cotton On. Cotton On provides a wide variety of dresses that match my style and coverage preference and it is also more affordable as compared to other brands with similar preferences.
Ainaa: I don’t have a particular brand that I stick to however, I find that quite a number of my clothes are from Poplook. This is because the type of materials they use for their clothing are quality and I find it comfortable to wear most of the time.
Heraa: The ones I mentioned in my previous answer. I’ve been shopping there for years and I know the kind of stuff they have and I’m sure to find what I’m looking for. It just depends on what it is that I want. For example, if I want a causal dress then I’ll go to H&M or Nichii. For something formal I’ll usually go to Zara or Mango. For something more fun, Stradivarius is my go-to. I also feel these places have great sales so you can find quality products for a good price.
8. What is your shopping experience like? Do you face difficulties wherever you live in finding the right clothes?
Alina: Finding the right clothes was always a source of great distress as finding clothes which match my style and yet are within the affordable price range are quite hard to come by. Initially, it took me quite some time to find the right shops but now I have a set of places I find comfortable to shop in. I’ve not had much trouble with shopping in-person, but with online shopping, it’s difficult to predict the modesty and size of some of the clothes as often the pictures displayed on the website can be very deceiving.
Ainaa: Fortunately, living in Malaysia, where the population is predominantly Muslim, finding a modest wear shops or brands are easy enough. I have plenty of options to choose from. Quite a few brands also offer modest wear for those who are plus-sized so it’s quite convenient to shop here.
Heraa: It’s not too different from a regular person’s experience. There are always going to be pieces that you see and you’ll wish were a little bit different to fit your needs and you’ll have to move on but once you become an expert on how to layer your tops then you can make almost anything work.
I don’t face any difficulty finding the right clothes where I’m currently living because most women here opt for modest fashion choices, so the majority of the shopping outlets cater to those needs. Most shops that I walk into will have something that I can work with. But even when I didn’t live here, I still didn’t find it too difficult to shop. You just have to be creative when putting together your outfits. I can buy a basic T-shirt from anywhere; all I have to do for it to fit my needs is make sure it is oversized and then throw on a jacket or cardigan on top.
9. What advice would you like to give small-to-medium business owners on modest fashion clothing?
Alina: My advice would be to try experimenting with modest clothing styles and new trends and come up with a variety of chic and fashionable clothing options for consumers.
Ainaa: Quality is the most important thing for all consumers. That is one of the reasons customers tend to stick to a brand. Try not to stick to only one style for all your products or copying other brands or fashion designers.
Heraa: Just that it would be nice if they incorporated a few pieces that cater to people who like to dress modestly. Like I said earlier, I know most people equate dressing modestly to religious reasons, but there are people out there who just are more comfortable in bigger clothes or being more covered up, so it would be nice to have more options and styles that match current fashion trends and are easily available.
Modest fashion has come a long way especially in Malaysia where most the population choose to dress conservatively. When tapping into the modest fashion clientele, a something for modest fashion brand owners to keep in mind is the variety of clothing options available.
Do not be afraid to experiment with designs and the latest trends. Quality and comfort are key points that keep customers coming back, especially for pieces they wear often and want to continue wearing.