Modesty: A Fashion Paradox

Uncovering The Causes, Controversies And Key Players Behind The Global Trend To Conceal Rather Than Reveal

Hafsa Lodi

Modest fashion is a young, fast-growing, multi-billion-dollar retail sector. What do we mean by Modest Fashion? Who are the personalities and companies driving this industry?
Date Published :
June 2020
Publisher :
Neem Tree Press
Illustration :
16 pages of photographs
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding : Hardback
ISBN : 9781911107255
Pages : 288
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stock
Binding : Paperback
ISBN : 9781911107262
Pages : 288
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stock
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Modest fashion has been gaining momentum in the mainstream global fashion industry over the past half-decade and is now a multi-billion-dollar retail sector. Its growing and now consistent appearance on high-profile fashion runways, on celebrities and in the headlines of fashion publications and news outlets, has shown that the modest fashion movement is hugely relevant to consumers. This is particularly true for millennials who are attracted to the feminist influences behind concealing your body, follow faith-based dress codes, or are attuned to social media, where more and more modest fashion bloggers are using imagery to inspire their followers. While the movement can credit European high fashion houses, like Gucci, for making conservative dresses and layering “in style” and “on trend,” and subsequent Western labels like DKNY, H&M and Mango for dabbling in the realm of modest wear, it is the newly emerging group of faith-influenced fashion brands who are driving the revolution, along with a new crop of Muslim fashion bloggers. These have helped catapult demure dressing trends globally.

This book speaks to the various personalities and companies who have helped shape the modest fashion industry into such a significant retail sector, while also exploring the controversies that lie at the heart of the movement, such as one pressing question: even if it covers the skin but is flamboyant, modeled with the purpose of attracting attention, and publicly promoted on social media, can fashion truly be modest?

About The Author

Hafsa Lodi is an American journalist who has been covering fashion in the Middle East for the past decade. She moved to the UAE at 14. She has a BA in journalism from the Ryerson School of Journalism in Toronto and an MA in Islamic Law from SOAS in London. The relationships between religion, culture and modernity have always fascinated Hafsa, who covered topics like honour killings in Canada's South Asian communities, the use of DNA evidence in rape cases in Pakistan and the industrialization of the Holy City of Makkah, before turning to the fashion journalism beat. She writes for The National newspaper and fashion magazines, Mojeh and Vogue India.


Journalist Lodi debuts with a nuanced and insightful study of the “modest fashion movement” in the Muslim world and beyond. Combining high-end fashion with Muslim religious codes, the trend, according to Lodi, has motivated even nonreligious women to dress more demurely. She talks to models, designers, and social media influencers in Indonesia, Turkey, Lebanon, and Dubai, tracing the evolution of modest dress as it varies from region to region, and notes that major labels, including Michael Kors and Dolce & Gabbana, have marketed to Muslim women during “The Ramadan Rush” and “modesty themed fashion weeks.” The owner of one independent label based in the U.A.E. says that 75% of her orders come from the U.S., where Muslim consumer spending is expected to reach $368 billion by 2021. Lodi’s litany of blogs, Instagram handles, magazines, and fashion labels can be dizzying, and more evidence is needed to support her claims that the influence of Muslim fashion can be seen in “the alternative mode of style” worn by the Olsen twins, Blake Lively, and Emma Stone. Nevertheless, this enthusiastic and wide-ranging account successfully disputes Western stereotypes of Muslim women as “repressed victims of a tyrannical religion.

- Publishers Weekly

*starred review* Modesty, in the context of contemporary womenswear, is clearly trending. Dolce & Gabbana introduced a collection of abayas back in 2016; Gucci has been touting hijab-inspired headcoverings since 2018, and just this past year Sports Illustrated put a burkini-clad model on the cover of its swimsuit issue. Outside of fashion, however, the concept of modesty is fraught with social, religious, and political implications. This thoughtful consideration touches on numerous aspects, ranging from Islamic, Jewish, and Christian scriptural passages enjoining modest clothing, to high fashion modest-wear runway shows, institutionalized subjugation of women, and activists' claims that voluntary covering-up is a form of feminist expression. Author Lodi, an American journalist living in Dubai, is uniquely qualified to address this topic, thanks to her years of experience covering the international fashion beat and her master's degree in Islamic law. She maintains a balanced and accessible tone, introducing modest-wear designers and models alongside analyses of international sales and marketing strategies. And the sales figures she quotes are impressive: retailers ranging from H&M to Macy's are becoming involved in the modesty movement. This trend shows no sign of going away, so expect increasing reader interest.

- Booklist

Hafsa Lodi’s thoughtful Modesty: A Fashion Paradox focuses on fashion’s growing trend toward modesty and how pop culture interprets that trend. Lodi, who wears modest clothing herself, is an American fashion journalist who lives in Dubai. She begins sections of her text with personal stories and discusses alignments across religious boundaries, focusing on the variety of girls who grow up with modesty restrictions. Considerations of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish texts on the meanings and purpose of modesty are at the book’s core, though it also discusses government restrictions and cultural modesty norms in countries including Egypt and Indonesia. The book widens into a discussion of the global modest fashion trend, which is attributed to everything from companies capitalizing on wealthy Middle Eastern consumers’ tastes to a backlash against men’s harassment, brought to light by the #MeToo movement. As Lodi shows: there’s both consistency and variation within discussions of modest clothing.

The book’s focus on the fashions themselves tantalizes. Lodi is specific when it comes to colors, fabrics, and styles, relishing details. Modest Fashion Weeks; the scaling up of modest fashion influencer culture on social media; and the increasing number of e-commerce and traditional fashion houses who focus more efforts on modest clothing all factor in.

Refusing to pigeonhole Middle Eastern and Muslim women, the book acknowledges that, while there are women who are restricted by modesty laws, many more find protection, comfort, and spiritual meaning in the clothing practices that they voluntarily choose. There are no simple interpretations here; in their place, Lodi centers enduring questions about why women choose, or do not choose, modest fashion.

Smart and journalistic, Modesty embraces the heterogeneity of fashion and of modesty to tell a new story about self-expression and freedom.

- Foreword Reviews

I’m pretty much the last person anyone would ask about fashion, modest or otherwise. That’s not a dig on my clothing choices, although they are usually unimpressive. Rather it is just a fact that I have never been very interested in fashion.

Which is why it’s funny that I am so excited to read Hafsa Lodi’s book Modesty: A Fashion Paradox. Although the photographs in it are striking, it’s not the styling or clothing I’m interested in. Instead it is the way fashion intersects with definitions of “modesty” (whatever that means) and “modest fashion.”
Lodi studied journalism and has written about fashion (among other topics) for numerous publications including The National and Vogue India. She is thoughtful and reflective in her writing, something a topic like this strongly requires. It would be easy to fall into simple dichotomies of covering one’s body is good or bad. However, Lodi avoids this in her shorter pieces. I expect nothing less of her in her book.

- Book Riot, Book Riot

"Modesty has long been one of fashion’s most debated principles. Equally deemed sexist and empowering, depending on who you ask, covering up—whether for religious, cultural, or personal reasons—makes a statement. Fashion journalist Hafsa Lodi answers the question “Is modest fashion a contradiction?” with a well-researched and tender portrait of the politics and people behind a movement."

- Harpers Bazaar

"She gives us all the deets on the modest fashion world diversity, challenges and what’s to come future wise"

- Salam Girl Podcast

“Speaking to the high-profile figures, fashion labels and high street stores which have played a significant role in making modest fashion a multi-billion-pound industry, Modesty: A Fashion Paradox also explores the movement’s limitations. But what really makes for potent reading is how Lodi debunks the myth that modest fashion is simply a ‘Muslim’ movement. 

- AnOther Magazine

Modesty: A Fashion Paradox, examines the distention that lies at the core of the modest movement, and how it’s pegged as the new fashion phenomenon

- AnokhiLife

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