After what feels like an eternity of shoulder-baring blouses and garments featuring cutouts in places you didn't even know existed, the fashion pendulum is swinging back to a more modest approach to dressing. If you still associate covering up with a lack of chicness, it's time to let go of the idea that more fabric leads to less style.
Take Rihanna, pop culture's most watched fashion risk taker. Attending the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in April, the singer surprised onlookers in a diamond stocking by Gucci that covered her entire body, including her face. While not the most traditional modest garb, it flipped the dress code at an event known for its skin-baring uniform of crop tops and denim cut-offs.
Many of Spring 2017's runway shows featured unseasonally covered-up looks, including patchwork Fair Isle sweaters paired with floor-grazing skirts at Alexander McQueen. At Balmain, the glamazon-approved brand that was acquired by an investment group linked to the Qatari royal family last year, creative director Olivier Rousteing incorporated several long-sleeved, calf- grazing gowns. Even runway provocateur Vetements has made it cool to cover up, with sleeves that end well past the fingertips. It's a direction that will carry through to fall at labels like Marc Jacobs, Acne Studios and Tory Burch, who showcased several floor-length, long-sleeved gowns in her collection.
Athens-born, London-based designer Mary Katrantzou has been a long-time purveyor of stylish modest pieces. Famous for her colourful printwork, Katrantzou's spring collection was a psychedelic explosion of long-sleeved dresses with generous hemlines, culminating in a hypnotic, neck-to-ankle-covering ensemble that included a long-sleeved silk organza top and tech silk-blend skirt worn with a blue-and-orange acrylic chainmail singlet (every disc on the top is laser-cut and hand-linked together at Katrantzou's atelier). "Each of my collections is designed to embolden women and stand out with confidence," says Katrantzou. "My collections are not necessarily about being physically revealing, but revealing the aesthetic of our women. I want every woman to feel confident, special and uplifted in the clothes."
Katrantzou's line is one of the main attractions on The Modist, an e-commerce platform that went live in March. Described as "the first global destination for luxury modest fashion," the London and Dubai-based site is the brainchild of founder and CEO Ghizlan Guenez, stocking full-coverage, highly covetable wares by contemporary designer labels including Christopher Kane, Alberta Ferretti and Preen by Thornton Bregazzi priced in the three-to-four figure range. "It stems from a personal experience, having been surrounded by women who dress modestly and love fashion," says Guenez. "And the frustration that is experienced in trying to find clothes that are both modest and trendy."
According to the organizers of the International Modest Fashion & Design Festival, which will take place in Toronto on Aug. 26, the market for modest attire will grow to $368-billion by 2021. Whether the reason for embracing a modest MO is religious, professional or simply a style preference, what was once a challenging wardobe proposition is enveloping the fashion world.
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