Covered-up fashion: Why not baring all is suddenly stylish

Covered-up fashion: Why not baring all is suddenly stylish

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Maria Alia shows off her superior modest city style wearing Peter Pilotto in New York City.

Maria Alia shows off her superior modest city style wearing Peter Pilotto in New York City.

I’d found it: the ideal dress for a black-tie summer wedding. This particular dress was long but lightweight, just embellished enough, with a neckline that wouldn’t scandalise the grandmother of the bride. Except – I realised as I clicked ahead to the rear-view photo – that this otherwise perfect chapel-to-dance floor gown was backless.

“That’s incredibly frustrating,” says Ghizlan Guenez, founder and chief executive of The Modist, a new e-commerce site focused on the more decorous side of high fashion. Guenez, an elegant 38-year-old who grew up in Algiers, Beirut and London before settling into a private-equity career in Dubai, has a lifetime of experience with let-downs like these. She and many women in her circle choose to dress modestly, making every shopping expedition into a series of elimination rounds for nonconforming features. “If they find something they like, either it has a slit, or it’s sleeveless or it’s sheer… There are millions of women who dress this way and they’ve been completely

Until now, that is: Guenez launched The Modist in March 2017. With the tag-line “luxury modest fashion for extraordinary women”, the online store is primed to reach a worldwide audience of women who prefer their fashion a bit more covered-up.

You won’t find any crop tops, shorts, spaghetti straps or (ahem) backless gowns. What you will find is flattering dresses, midi skirts, interesting shirting and other assorted ready-to-wear that leaves a little something to the imagination. The site is a boon to any woman who’s ever felt a dress would be perfect if only it had sleeves.

 

Guenez and her team leave defining what constitutes modesty to their shopper. “Really it’s ‘little-m’ modest,” Sasha Sarokin, the site’s buying and fashion director and a 10-year alumna of Net-a-Porter, says with a smile. “It’s more understated and a bit more refined. I enjoy buying for a woman who doesn’t necessarily identify as modest or not; she just likes the look.” To wit: her dress the day we meet is a high-necked, long-sleeved, mid-calf, tiger-printed number by Ukrainian designer Petar Petrov (which I know because I heard at least five women gasp over it and ask about the designer).

The site launched with a stable of 75 brands ranging from the established (Marni, Alberta Ferretti, Robert Clergerie) to the emerging (London-based Rejina Pyo and Racil; Turkish brand Mimya). The pitching process involved a good deal of visual-assisted education about modesty. But over and over again, Guenez and Sarokin would arrive at meetings to find that the women on the other side of the table were modestly dressed, whether they were conscious of that as a style choice or not.

For fashion undoubtedly is in the midst of a modest moment. The covered-up vision of beauty that Valentino pioneered has infiltrated every corner of the industry, prevailing at Gucci, Celine and Balenciaga. The breakout star of the autumn/winter runways was Halima Aden, a 19-year-old Somali-American model who wore her hijab on the MaxMara runway and on the covers of CR Fashion Book, Vogue Arabia and Allure.

Clearly, some of this shift stems from brands’ growing awareness of the importance of the Muslim fashion market – it’s projected to increase to $672 billion by 2019, according to a report from Thomson Reuters. Dolce & Gabbana introduced a line of hijabs in 2016, and Mango has quietly built its special collection for Ramadan into an impressive offering over the past 10 years.

“Modest fashion is witnessing a revolution without precedent,” a spokesman for the Spanish brand said. This revolution will be hashtagged, with more than 600,000 Instagram posts tagged as #modestfashion. It’s a trend that cuts across religious lines, with Christian, Jewish and Muslim style bloggers all cheering over the same modest, fashionable pieces that The Modist specialises in.

Not that the trend for modest dressing is limited to certain religions or cultures. Guenez’s brainwave may have come in Dubai, but half of the site’s sales so far come from outside the Middle East: the US is the second largest market, followed by the UK.

Guenez knows the online shopping field is crowded and challenging. Earlier this month, Conde Nast closed Style.com after nine months and an estimated US$100 million ($136m) in investment. Brand executives tell Guenez the world doesn’t need another e-commerce player.

“What makes them stop and think is that they can very clearly see how we are different. We’re talking to a different population of women – women who have not been spoken to before, who are frustrated, who need this service.”TIPS FOR MODERN MODESTY

Just as there’s a range of reasons to embrace modest style, from religious to aesthetic, there’s also a spectrum of ways to wear it. If you’re ready to try a more covered-up look, heed these tips from The Modist’s Ghizlan Guenez and Sasha Sarokin.

THINK BEYOND THE OBVIOUS

A miniskirt that’s just a tad too short for comfort can make a smart tunic when worn over a pair of tailored trousers. A corset that exposes too much skin looks sharp over a crisp cotton shirt. “We pick things that are not as squarely modest, but the way we style them makes them modest,” Guenez says.

BALANCE VOLUME

If you’ve got a statement top, keep the trousers or skirt slim, and vice versa. “It adds drama in all the right ways,” Sorokin says.

LAYER IT UP

A black polo neck bodysuit is a modest dresser’s best friend. Wear it under camisoles, shirts and bustiers – but if you layer the top of your outfit, keep the bottom simple, with a long skirt or chic trousers.

ENLIST A FASHION MAGICIAN (AKA TAILOR)

Sometimes all it takes to make a piece modest is a little tinkering: closing a slit, adding a lining or lengthening the sleeves.

It pays to find a local, reliable tailor to help make your wardrobe work for you.

FABRIC QUALITY IS EVERYTHING

When you’re wearing more clothing, the quality of the fabric becomes even more important. Look for substantial fabrics that sit beautifully and will wear well.

WHEN IN DOUBT, WEAR A DRESS

“The long-sleeved maxi-dress with a Victorian influence is the piece of the season – don’t be afraid of some fabulous print,” Sorokin says.

Clearly, some of this shift stems from brands’ growing awareness of the importance of the Muslim fashion market – it’s projected to increase to $672 billion by 2019, according to a report from Thomson Reuters. Dolce & Gabbana introduced a line of hijabs in 2016, and Mango has quietly built its special collection for Ramadan into an impressive offering over the past 10 years.Image result for HIGH FASHION: Queen Rania of Jordan is the epitome of impeccably selected modest style. Be inspired + discover her fashion formula via

“Modest fashion is witnessing a revolution without precedent,” a spokesman for the Spanish brand said. This revolution will be hashtagged, with more than 600,000 Instagram posts tagged as #modestfashion. It’s a trend that cuts across religious lines, with Christian, Jewish and Muslim style bloggers all cheering over the same modest, fashionable pieces that The Modist specialises in.

Not that the trend for modest dressing is limited to certain religions or cultures. Guenez’s brainwave may have come in Dubai, but half of the site’s sales so far come from outside the Middle East: the US is the second largest market, followed by the UK.

Guenez knows the online shopping field is crowded and challenging. Earlier this month, Conde Nast closed Style.com after nine months and an estimated US$100 million ($136m) in investment. Brand executives tell Guenez the world doesn’t need another e-commerce player.

“What makes them stop and think is that they can very clearly see how we are different. We’re talking to a different population of women – women who have not been spoken to before, who are frustrated, who need this service.”

Image result for MODIST MUSE: #MariaAlia shows off (and shares tips on) her superior modest city style wearing #PeterPilotto in NYC. Read all about it now on #TheMODMagazine via #TheModist.

TIPS FOR MODERN MODESTY

Just as there’s a range of reasons to embrace modest style, from religious to aesthetic, there’s also a spectrum of ways to wear it. If you’re ready to try a more covered-up look, heed these tips from The Modist’s Ghizlan Guenez and Sasha Sarokin.

THINK BEYOND THE OBVIOUS

A miniskirt that’s just a tad too short for comfort can make a smart tunic when worn over a pair of tailored trousers. A corset that exposes too much skin looks sharp over a crisp cotton shirt. “We pick things that are not as squarely modest, but the way we style them makes them modest,” Guenez says.

BALANCE VOLUME

If you’ve got a statement top, keep the trousers or skirt slim, and vice versa. “It adds drama in all the right ways,” Sorokin says.

LAYER IT UP

A black polo neck bodysuit is a modest dresser’s best friend. Wear it under camisoles, shirts and bustiers – but if you layer the top of your outfit, keep the bottom simple, with a long skirt or chic trousers.

ENLIST A FASHION MAGICIAN (AKA TAILOR)

Sometimes all it takes to make a piece modest is a little tinkering: closing a slit, adding a lining or lengthening the sleeves.

It pays to find a local, reliable tailor to help make your wardrobe work for you.

FABRIC QUALITY IS EVERYTHING

When you’re wearing more clothing, the quality of the fabric becomes even more important. Look for substantial fabrics that sit beautifully and will wear well.

WHEN IN DOUBT, WEAR A DRESS

“The long-sleeved maxi-dress with a Victorian influence is the piece of the season – don’t be afraid of some fabulous print,” Sorokin says.

Image result for NEW TO SALE: A standout piece from the label's Spring '17 runway, #Preen by Thornton Bregazzi's Meda midi dress is drenched in silver sequins and detailed with ivory and bubblegum-pink silk-chiffon panels. See more at
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