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Modest Fashion Takes Over The International Runways This Year

Dresses over trousers, stockings as head covers, and clever layering – this year, modest fashion takes over the international runways.

Photo: Luigi and lango

For his Fall 2024 show, Prabal Gurung had two hijabi models walk the runway. Ugbad Abdi opened his show in an all- red look featuring a high-neck top worn under a flowing caftan, full-length gloves, and leather trousers. Ikram Abdi donned a skirt suit, gloves, and a black jacket slung casually over her arms. For years, modest fashion was relegated to the sidelines; overshadowed by mainstream trends or an afterthought by designers. The modest dresser’s options were limited – especially with luxury fashion. This is now changing. At Saint Laurent’s Spring show, models wore edgy belted boiler suits, while at Ferragamo, a fluid cape- style tunic was paired with trousers. Meanwhile, Balenciaga’s show was a lesson in edgy layering with minimal skin showing. As the inclusivity narrative continues to evolve, modesty on the runway takes center stage, with designers finding exciting new ways to cover up.

Saint Laurent

modest fashion

Rianna + Nina

modest fashion


modest fashion

Prabal Gurung

modest fashion

Issey Miyake

The Middle East and North Africa region is home to 20% of the world’s Muslims and the demand for modest fashion remains high. For instance, Saudi Arabia no longer requires its residents to wear an abaya, but the Kingdom’s women still prefer covering up. “Saudi women continue to wear the abaya because we cherish our culture, our past, and our evolving future. This is seen by how we dress and style ourselves with the abaya, which also reveals how we respect ourselves and others. We choose to be different and not imitate other cultures, and this comes from embracing our roots,” says Saudi designer Noura Sulaiman.

Modesty remains an inherent part of many Arab women’s styles, and it’s exciting to see international designers recognize this clientele. At Valentino’s Spring couture show, a long rust- colored dress was paired with elbow-length gloves and tailored pink trousers. Meanwhile, at The Row’s winter presentation, a voluminous A-line trench and a chic cape coat stole the show. “We have a very strong community in the Middle East, and the demand for modest fashion is steadily growing. It serves as a means to empower women to express their personal style while simultaneously respecting their cultural and religious beliefs. Tapping into such a market presents numerous new opportunities and fosters inspiration for innovative designs,” say the founders of the Paris-based label Rianna + Nina.

Aydha Mehnaz. Photo: Maliat Fairooz

In the past, modest dressing was limited to primarily shapeless silhouettes or baggy clothes. As the blogosphere started growing, so did the awareness of the aesthetic. “Modest fashion started as a movement in the early 2010s to introduce a new perception to how women from conservative backgrounds or certain faiths choose to dress and express themselves in the context of fashion and personal style,” explains Aydha Mehnaz, celebrity and media lead at Mugler and a modest fashion enthusiast. Social media brought a new breed of influencers – each with their take on modest dressing. While some choose to cover their heads, others prefer to show fun ways of styling their clothes without revealing skin. “Social media played a vital role – we took part in the rise of ‘modestly’ dressing fashion bloggers – actively promoting different ways of tying a scarf, layering, etc, promoting a certain lifestyle,” she affirms.

modest fashion

Photo: Yara Alnamlah

For example, Saudi influencer Yara Alnamlah’s Instagram page is a perfect guide to modest dressing, with or without an abaya. Alnamlah stays true to her cultural and religious beliefs while being a major player in the fashion industry. For the Chanel Fall 2024 show in Paris, she wore a green headscarf and a matching Chanel blazer over a button-down shirt with bell bottoms, proving that showing no skin is exceptionally stylish. The Chanel show also featured an array of covered up looks with oversized granny sweaters cinched with a belt and paired with jeans, colorful tweed pantsuits, and loose-fitting knitwear. “It’s becoming easier for ladies to cover up yet look fashionable.

There’s so much creativity now, and you see beautifully styled modest outfits thanks to social media,”says Saudi designer and founder of the label Chador, Nora Aldamer, whose aesthetic focuses on modesty. “Modesty in my designs is not about religion or covering up. Looking at royal families globally, there’s a protocol for their outfits – demure, classy, and elegant – and I want the same for my clients.”

Elsewhere, Modest Fashion Week, organized by Think Fashion, spotlights this aesthetic via a traveling fashion show held in a new country every year (the 2022 edition was hosted in Riyadh). The role of Modest Fashion Week is critical in highlighting global designers catering to this niche, yet significant market. “By bringing modest wear designers from around the world to present their collections, the dialogue about fashion as a medium of change begins to take shape,” says Sulaiman. “This is an important moment as it gives women

a chance to embrace their culture, tradition, and heritage without having to imitate styles that originate from the West,” she elaborates. “Over the years, modest fashion has become more than just an expression, but a true call for change deeply rooted in the origins of what it means to be inclusive and add to the global conversation of promoting diversity,” says Mehnaz. As we navigate the evolving landscape of fashion, one thing is abundantly clear – modesty is no longer synonymous with limitation but rather a canvas for creativity, expression, and empowerment. It’s not a trend, but a whole movement.
Originally published in the June 2024 issue of Vogue Arabia

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