What does modesty mean to you?
Deeply personal, embedded in a complex puzzle of personal preference, religion, culture, and background, the definition of modesty can’t be pinpointed. Across the world, women experience modesty in different ways, and that’s why we wanted to open up the dialogue about modesty, modernity, and fashion.
We’ve asked some of our favourite style stars from around the world “What does modesty mean to you?” Our contributors are women of diverse background, culture, faith, and lifestyle, all of whom have made efforts to share their passion for fashion and modesty through fashion blogs, Instagrams, YouTube channels, collaborations, and companies.
Here’s what they have to say:
Ikhlas Hussain, owner of the popular Islamic fashion blog The Muslim Girl and inspiration to many women attempting to reconcile faith, culture, and identity:
“To me, modesty means guarding and covering your private parts and dressing in a way that covers your body. But it's more than just a way of dressing, but it's also a way of behaviour. So to be modest doesn't only pertain to the clothes on your body but also the way you act, in a way that is unassuming, polite, kind, and humble.
Hijab is one way to be modest in one's dress, but it's not the only way! So many of us girls, especially those of us who wear hijab, get caught up in this little detail and consider girls who don't wear hijab to be immodest, but that's not true. Hijab is only one way to express modesty, and a girl can dress modestly and cover herself without donning a scarf on her head.
Modesty doesn't mean the same thing to everyone, especially in the way that the term is most commonly understood and used (as a way of dressing). Everyone has their own understanding of what it means to dress modestly, and this is a definition that is bound to change as you grow older and have different experiences.
For example, when I first started wearing hijab, I was comfortable with wearing three-quarter sleeves, because they were more covering than the half sleeves I used to wear. But as I've grown in my hijab and modesty journey, I no longer choose to wear three-quarter sleeves and only opt for full sleeves. But this is my personal journey and opinion, there are other girls out there, hijab-wearing or non-hijab-wearing, who may still choose to wear three-quarter sleeves. It doesn't make them immodest.
The point I'm trying to make is that the definition of modesty is fluid and is personal to each girl who chooses to embrace it. And that's the beauty of it.”
Reem is the Egyptian/Californian owner of AboutThatWrap:
“I wear my wrap like I wear my soul, boldly expressing the global experiences I've been lucky enough to fill my life with. Fashion is a visible, wearable statement of who you are. My mission is to prove you can have it all, a modest yet stylish, sophisticated yet playful, classic yet trendy look, each and every day.”
Rania Qureshi is a popular TV personality from Canada’s Say Yes to the Dress:
"To me, modesty is actually a core concept that stems from my way of life, and doesn't only encompass my outward appearance or attire. I
All of these feelings embody restraint and respect, which I think are essential qualities for a woman in this age. Particularly, the term 'restraint' could be perceived as the antonym to seeking attention, which I think gives the woman a stronger and more meaningful voice in today's society. feel that being respectful, being comfortable in your own skin, and being able to express yourself without the need to glorify the female visage could all be defined within the definition of modesty.
This mindset then trickles down to my choice in dress, where I prefer long, flowing clothes that don't reveal the features of the 'fairer sex' and don't immediately seek attention. However, I also strongly believe that showing restraint and respect are not the same as feeling oppressed; rather, they are the guiding principles for me to express myself and be fashionable. I spend quite a bit of time choosing what I wear, and I am very excited that more and more modest boutiques (like your fabulous web portal) and fashion trends are popping up recently to increase my options."
“To me, modesty is more than just the way you dress, it’s also about the way you carry yourself in public and how you treat other people.”
A Palestinian American living as a nurse in Texas, as well as the owner of the modest fashion blog With Love Leena and Instagram star Leena Asad:
"Modesty means behaving and dressing in a way that displays self-respect. By showing a sense of decency in the way you act and the way you present yourself, you will naturally find that others respect you as well."
Leah Vernon, the creator behind the blog names: Beauty and the Muse and LeahVDaily. She is 20-something style/fashion blogger, plus model, writer, novelist, and body-positive activist from Detroit. She was inspired to start blogging in 2013 because there wasn't enough "diverse" representation of real beauty in the media. Her goals are to continue to spread style and self-love to underrepresented groups, and to spark a fashion revolution:
“To me, modesty is internal. A connection between you and God. I believe once you embrace modesty on the inside, it will simply radiate outwards. Modesty just isn’t about the clothes or hijab (Islamic head covering) but it’s a way of life. Although, I’m not the most modest Muslimah out there, I do try every day to incorporate modest pieces into my wardrobe and keep it stylish and fresh.”
Sharon Langert, the stylist and inspirational speaker behind the modest clothing blog Fashion-isha:
“I believe that every single person in this world is born with a beautifully wrapped gift from Hashem. And the gift includes all the stuff we don't like. Every last drop of it. Do you know why? Because without all that stuff we would never become the strong, fierce, godlike people we were born to become. Think of all the times that good things come out of seemingly bad things, or situations change for the better only because of painful occurrences. Or just think of how you feel during and after a really tough workout…
So what does all this have to do with modesty and body shaming? By thinking of a Tiffany box, I realized, that to me, modesty is exactly the opposite of body shaming. Each one of our bodies is as beautiful and precious as a perfect Tiffany diamond (and, yes they come in all shapes, sizes, and colors). Our bodies are so precious and powerful that we have been given the gift of fabulous packaging. And that's why I personally believe that fashion has the potential for great holiness.”
The inspirational Style Blogger and model Naballah Chi of Trinidad and Tobago, who has spoken at length
about her personal journey and the growth of her faith and views on modesty on her blog:
“Modesty is a character trait. When we are modest people we are not attempting to draw unnecessary attention
to ourselves, be it through our clothing or our actions, vocabulary or interests. Modest people show restraint in their actions as well as their clothing. They have personal integrity and display themselves in a manner that reflects their commitment and alignment to Gods will. Modesty allows one to be a window into our soul and not a mirror of society. And we all know that modesty is quickly disappearing from our society, as society tells women the less they wear the more empowered they are. Modesty in all aspects of our life requires constant introspection. It is an honest reflection of our personal integrity and desire to have no wedges between us and our Lord. What is considered modest or appropriate changes depending on culture and context. It also changes from woman to woman, depending on body type, personality,
personal convictions and season in life. While we may long for a universal dress code that defines modesty there isn't one, because modesty transcends a dress code. Modesty is a virtue that is about inward character and discipline of both women and men. This directly affects how we order our priorities, thoughts, actions, and outward appearance.”
Maryam Asadullah, the Texas-raised owner of the modest fashion blog Sincerely Maryam and entrepreneur of a scarf collection:
“Modesty for me goes beyond just the meaning of dressing conservatively and hiding skin/hair. For me, modesty is in my speech, in my thoughts, and in my outlook on life. Modesty is not something that is mandated to me, rather, it is something I choose to be. Modesty in its full form is simplicity, kindness, selflessness, and acceptance. It's the behavior you set out that brings positivity to the people and situations around you!”
Hassanah El-Yacoubi is the founder of PFH, a popular fashion blog that bridges faith and fashion. She’s also a PhD Student in Religious Studies where she focuses on enhancing the narrative of Muslim Women.
"Modesty is my opportunity to show just how beautiful it is to leave something to the imagination,an
d at its core is the fulfillment of what I believe to be a religious obligation. Modesty is not an indication of who is a better Muslimah, but rather is a chance to outwardly display your inner aspirations of your best self. While modesty is manifested differently from person to person, we can all agree that its central principal is to cover as opposed to reveal. After all, the most treasured possessions come in the most beautiful wrappings."
Zahra Sandberg, the Chicago-based author of the popular fashion blog Love Zahra and advocate of responsibly-sourced clothing:
"As a Style Blogger, I love wearing clothes that express my indiviuality and creativity, and I believe dressing well is just plain good manners. Our clothes can serve to empower us as women to feel confident and beautiful inside and out. In my view, the meaning of modesty shouldn't be trivialized by simply measuring how much skin a women chooses to cover. Being humble, treating all of Allah’s (swt) creatures with kindness and empathy, and being non judgmental, are all far more important traits of the truly modest person."
What does modesty mean to you? Join the conversation below.