What Place Does Modesty Have In Fashion?

Vanessa Friedman from The New York Times recently declared that modesty was a trend beyond a trend. In fact, she said, it was a social and societal shift, a defining clothing change of our century. Is this true, I wondered? I found two distinctions:

  1. Forced modesty is not “a trend”, and should be treated with derision. Forced modesty is when someone is made, against their will, to cover up. The recent backlash against dress codes, which are often geared towards girls, calls this forced modesty “shaming” and “discriminatory.”
  2. Religious modesty is not “a trend”, since the stricter branches of religions have been wearing modest clothing for centuries. Religious modesty is in the news more because of instances such as France’s Burkini Ban, where the French government is banning religiously important clothing. This is not to say it’s just France; on the other end of the spectrum, Iran and Saudi Arabia require women to wear hijabs.

If you take these out of the picture, is modesty a thing in fashion right now? I tend to disagree, though Vanessa Friedman had some good points.

I think that women have decided that they do what is most comfortable for them, and for some that’s modesty, while for others it’s not. For instance, on the red carpet, you can see this quite well in the difference between what Ruth Negga wears and what Bella Hadid wears. There’s an I’m-wearing-this-for-myself quality that this allows women to have while dressing up, and it makes for more interesting outfits (that are a mix of modest and not).

There doesn’t have to be a major shift in the way we dress for our century to be interesting, fashion-wise. From athleisure to streetwear to the new Gucci to social media, there’s plenty to influence fashion. Perhaps modesty is simply an unintended consequence of those Supreme sweatsuits (or gilded Gucci suits).


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