Make the most of this summer, ladies, because this may well be the last year when you will be able to wear those lovely short skirts and sleeveless blouses around town and also those skimpy bikinis on the beach. Next year there will be a change and in the summers to come your summer clothes will be quite, quite different. Believe me!
Over the past few years, Modest Fashion has become the latest trend in the Western non-Islamic countries. Recently, the London College of Fashion set up a research project to study the apparently ‘growing market for modest clothing amongst women of the three Abrahamic faiths: Islam, Christianity and Judaism’. Even the leading fashion houses of Hermes, Esté Lauder and Dolce & Gabana have launched exclusive collections of modest clothes for women because, according to the Huffington Post, they are ‘…intrigued by the emphasis given to the design rather than the body of the woman’.
Or was it perhaps the money, for this ‘Modest Fashion’ industry is now estimated to be worth US$96 billion and rapidly growing. In February this year (2017), the first British Muslim-friendly Modest Fashion Show for women took place in London while in Tokyo, Japan, the second annual Modest Fashion show will be taking place in the Halal Expo there in the autumn.
Check your daily paper or weekly magazine and you’ll still see women in the skimpy, body-revealing clothes we’ve become used to over the past 100 years, but if you check on-line for ‘Modest Fashion’, you may be surprised at how many such web sites there are.
For instance, on BBC Radio 1, their Advice programme declares:
The profile of modest fashion is rising. Historically dressing conservatively has been at odds with what’s considered ‘cool’ in Western fashion trends, but more considered covered looks are increasingly becoming more appealing to young adults.
On a web site entitled Style and Virtue there are Modesty guidelines ‘…as mentioned on the Laura Ingraham Show’. ‘Pure Fashion models are more than just fashion models’ they are ROLE MODELS!’ it declares and adds: ‘Pure Fashion clothing styles flatter the figure, without drawing undo attention to any particular area.’
Apparently, according to Style and Virtue:
Necklines should be four fingers below the collarbone’, ‘Pants can be form-fitting but not too tight, especially in the seat or thigh area’ and of course, ‘Dresses need sleeves or two-inch wide straps’. Even some shoes can be unsuitable: ‘Not all shoes are modest. Some speak a whole language – extra platform or overly strappy heels might be sending the wrong message.
And finally, ‘Let your clothing be a testament of your dignity as a young lady. What you choose to wear can affect your behaviour.’
A Sky News report on the London Fashion Show goes further, quoting a Saira Khan that ‘I think it’s about wanting to wear fashionable clothes without attracting the attention of the opposite sex’.
I’m glad to say that Julie Burchill, writing in the Daily Mail on 29th June 2017, slammed the ‘great cover-up’ of the new modesty dressing, saying she finds this new trend disturbing, something with which I would agree. As she says, this mild-sounding term has historically been used as a tool of oppression. Throughout the centuries, where body-covering clothes have not been necessary for warmth, they have been imposed by men who use the word ‘modest’ to mean ‘you’re my woman and I don’t want you showing your body to other men’.
And the fashion leaders are falling for it. When the Duchess of Cambridge attended the wedding of her sister Pippa in a fussy, mid-calf dress she was called ‘frumpy’ by fashion writers; in a post-honeymoon photo, Pippa wore a long-sleeved, ankle-length dress which was more than frumpy and was eye-catching for all the wrong reasons.
Well, she’s married now so perhaps her husband has become a post-modern man and has decided that he, too, doesn’t want his wife showing any part of her body to other men.
And this could trigger another trend, one amongst men, for now several western, non-Muslim celebrities such as Nicole Kidman and Gwyneth Paltrow have been pictured in very modest dresses, covering just about everything but high neck and face, hands and a few toes.
But how did this ‘faith-based’ and ‘pious’ modest clothing for those not faith-based or pious start? Who set it in motion? For this is not a natural revolving of the fashion, where short dresses are replaced by the next generation of girls with long ones which are then replaced again by the following generation by even shorter ones. This is not a case of choosing again the long, flowered maxi dresses of the 1970s. This is an imposition, even if the designers and their customers are not aware of it. It is no longer a case of ‘perhaps you would like to wear this next season’, it is ‘we’ll pretend it’s not happening, but you will wear this next season’.
And since where the celebrities lead, the fashion herd tends to follow, next year you may find yourself wearing obligatory modest dresses, the next year a face-veil and thereafter a burkini instead of a bikini on the beach.
That is, unless you can, yourself, help to reverse what I believe to be a very frightening trend.
A Feminist Day of Rage, for instance?