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Modest fashion: the fine line between freedom and restriction

“Freedom” and “restriction” are two concepts in antithesis but, in fashion, have been the two sides of the same coin for years.

During the Victorian Age, a respectable woman dressed in modest fashion; a super tight corset and overlapping layers of heavy clothing. To look more beautiful and to follow the trends of the time, Victorians endured from 3 to 15 kg of fabrics and accessories!

Bustiers were the concrete and symbolic representation of a social restriction. Women didn’t have any role in the society of the time other than to be fragile statues to admire. Fortunately, through the years, things have changed and the world (not only the fashion one) made giant footsteps.

The first woman to rise the voice, was nothing less than Coco Chanel who set women free from sartorial (and social) constraints. Coco once said:

“I was working towards a new society. Up until then they had been clothes designed for women who were useless and idle, women whose lady’s maids had to pass them their stockings; I now had customers who were busy women; a busy woman needs to feel comfortable in her clothes. You need to be able to roll up your sleeves”.

After her many others followed: Yves Saint Laurent with his sensual feminine tuxedo and in the 1960s, against the backdrop of a sparkling London, Mary Quant’s miniskirt. These designers’ creations reflected a cultural momentum in which women began to grow professionally and therefore needed to be free.

Modest fashion: cool and covered

Recently, the so called “modest fashion” represents an example of the fine line between freedom and restriction in fashion. This new trend is related on women’s willingness to be stylish while remaining partially covered up. The decision can be due to religion-ethnic fulfillment but not necessarily. It also represents the personal and conscious choice of wearing traditional clothing in order to attain a particular aesthetic.

When the topic of “modest clothing” comes up, images of Middle Eastern women in long robes appear. And while that remains true, modest clothing are far away from being dowdy or boring. On the contrary: most of them are ultra-feminine, with puffed shoulders, extravagant ruffled collars, candy-coloured taffeta and loud floral prints.

Nevertheless this kind of fashion is not immune to criticism. Why should a woman want to cover up and hide herself behind large and prude garments? Isn’t this a step backward? These interrogatives are legit but we should analyze the issue under a different point of view. Wearing modest fashion has nothing to do with society’s rules and external world, is rather something connected to the inner self and freedom of expression, whatever this is.

Women who love modest clothing don’t want to impress anyone or catch the male gaze, they dress in this way for themselves, to feel empowered. Modest fashion is not about following a fad or a trend, is a matter of values and beliefs which will accompany the users for life.

This is another brilliant expedient to make the fashion industry beyond appearance, and use its enormous media power to convey messages of freedom and inclusion.


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