Modest Fashion for a Modern World

Businesses like Lola Fens are giving a modern image to the traditional hijab.
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This dUCk image encapsulates the modern vibe modest fashion celebrates.
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Naelofar Hijab for Zelora| image source:

The effects of modest fashion go far beyond having fashionable hijabs; they modernise Islamic religion and empower the women practicing it.

Modest fashion, a trend that produces fashionable hijab’s for the female Muslim population to wear, is not only changing the faces of women, but the face of Islamic religion itself.

By 2014, the market was already worth of $230 billion, and has been steadily growing in the past year. Noor Nelofa Mohd, popularly known as Neelofa, latched onto this growing market with gusto when she launched her business, Naelofar Hijab. She specialises in designing hijab’s for women that are fashion forward, comfortable, and affordable.

Although designers like Neelofa have enjoyed huge success, some are raising questions as to whether fashionable hijab’s contradict the religion they are made to respect. The surge in modest fashion reflects a trend towards Muslim women dressing more conservatively in areas outside the Middle East and South Asia.

However, while there is little reference to specific clothing rules in the Quran, numerous interpretations of the religious text agree that males cannot gaze upon female bodies. For many, this implies that the act of covering should be one of modesty, rather than being worn for the purpose of beauty, which may attract attention.

Undoubtedly, it is difficult to imagine modest fashion being entertained in orthodox countries like Iran or Saudi Arabia. These countries, overwhelmingly holding to ingrained traditional notions of religious attire, mandate plain colours for female clothing.

For more open Muslim countries like Malaysia, however, modest fashion is welcomed with enthusiasm. While areas of Malaysia like Kelentan fine women for not wearing a hijab, many towns are more laid back in their approach to religious attire. Urban areas like Kuala Lumpur focus on promoting Islamic wear and allowing choice in how clothing is worn, rather than punishment. It’s areas like these where modest fashion flourishes.

Making the choice to wear a hijab, or any form of covering, is a big decision usually borne of intense self-reflection. Far from compromising religion, fashionable hijab’s modernise the religion, encouraging people to embrace Islamic tradition in their own way: as a choice, not an obligation.

Vivy Yusof began designing modest fashion in 2014 with her fashion label, dUCk, and has been greeted with an incredible amount of enthusiasm. dUCk champions respect for Islamic religion even while she modernises it. This respect goes right down to the packaging, which is considered carefully rather than being thrown in a plastic bag.

While her scarf designs are beautiful, it’s the reactions to dUCk that show the true potential behind modest fashion. “She is changing the whole reputation of the head scarf,” fan Farah Alia Razali-Tyler told the New Yorker. To Farah, hijab’s used to be regarded as “makcik [frumpy older woman]” attire. Thanks to designers like Yusof, “[people] are saying it’s okay to be more modern.”

Fashion can have incredible effects on the people wearing it, and there’s no doubt modest fashion is empowering Muslim women. Both Neelofa and Yusof have the personalities to match their modern wares. Strong, independent, feisty, and impeccably fashionable, Neelofa is even part way through writing an inspirational book to motivate other women to reach their goals.

Zaidel Baharuddin, Special Officer to Malaysia’s Minister of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives, and Consumerism, commented recently on the empowering effect of self expression through fashionable hijab’s.

You can follow the religious obligation and look good with it.

By Kate Oatley