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How Modesty Became the New Cool

Let’s talk about modest dressing. It’s a movement that’s been bubbling away under the surface at the savvy fashion maisons since Dolce & Gabbana first released it abaya and hijab collection in January 2016. Not quite two years on, and a whole whirlwind of fashion seasons past, the attitude for a greater diversity in style has had a transformative effect on the length of hemlines, sleeves, and silhouettes of dresses across the major fashion brands. Post 2016, we have seen the announcement of the Nike Pro Hijab–to be released in Spring 2018Carolina Herrera turned her hand to designing abayas in spring 2017, e-commerce sites such as The Modist and Ounass have flourished, and the international runway has seen the meteoric rise of the first hijab-wearing model, Halima Aden (also, Vogue Arabia’s June cover girl).

See the Dolce & Gabbana Spring 2017 collection here:

While one cannot pin-down a single line for the Muslim luxury marketplace as the nexus for an industry-wide appreciation for modest dressing, 2016 did serve as a tipping point. The era of body-con dresses and thigh-grazing skirts has been replaced with respectable midi dresses, Balanciaga-inspired languid looks with supersized sleeves, and floor-sweeping gowns that fully cover a woman (as seen at RodarteValentino, Dior, ChloéCéline). And yet while the fabrics have increased per garment, it all serves to make the woman’s physique all the more alluring. “I’m seeing a shared need for certain clothing all over the world, not just in the Middle East,” Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte told Vogue Arabia. “The feminine edge is specific to here though.”

No less, Arab designers that hold a universal audience–Zuhair Murad, Elie Saab, and Azzedine Alaïa–are joined by names rising up from the Haute Couture and ready-to-wear circuit from the region, including, and not limited to: Rami Al Ali, Rami Kadi, and Ashi Studio to the likes of breakout brands such as Anatomi, Nora Al Shaikh, Bouguessa, and Toby by Hatem Alakeel. While some regional designers delight in focusing specifically on facets of Middle Eastern culture, like Anatomi’s Islamic art-inspired embroidery and Nora al Shaikh’s modern spin on SA design. “There is also a Saudi sensibility to my collections, which comes through in the draping and layering of different looks on the body,” Al Shaikh explains to Vogue Arabia. Other designers look at Arabian dress codes as a whole and riff off of them in contemporary ways. “It comes naturally to balance tradition in my designs,” Alakeel told Vogue Arabia. “I have an obligation to my culture.” These brands differ greatly in their aesthetics but together, they offer up a diverse mix of striking key pieces with a conservative and unapologetically glamorous twist. Making modest dressing cool in clever ways.

See the Fleur de Lis colletion by Toby by Hatem Alakeel, featuring tradional thobes:

There’s no greater litmus test for how trends are bearing traction than on the street style network, as seen at fashion week. Above, Vogue Arabia scans the Couture Fashion Week Fall 2017 front row attendees for skirts with in-built swish, longline garments, and decidedly covered-up styles that ooze edge; proving that skin-tight clothes that cling or bear flesh are low on the fashion barometer. Click away for your masterclass in so-2017 ladylike dressing and get outfit ideas on how to wear your elegant pieces for high summer.

Read all about the Nike Pro Hijab launch ahead of Spring 2018

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