In the world of fashion, trends can be top-down or bottom-up. In a top-down trend, designers tell us the big colors for the season, the cuts and styles we should wear, and we follow their lead. But with billions of people now connected through social media platforms, trends are increasingly bottom-up, driven by consumers. Smart brands meet bottom-up consumer trends, while others let bottom-up trends pass them by.

The conservative fashion movement is one such trend that’s passing most brands by. It’s a trend where “sexy styles” take a backseat to classier, more conservative looks. Women are swapping their mini-skirts for longer, A-line, knee-length skirts. Move over fitted spaghetti-strap tank tops, and make way for flowy tunic tops.

Global “Modest Fashion” Searches
These days, you can walk into almost any retail store and find a blouse, pants, or outfit that’s deemed modest or business-professional. But you rarely see these stores go out of their way to label such apparel as “modest” or “conservative”. You’d think that with the growing trend, brands would hurry to embrace the new movement. Within the last 5 years alone, Google search trends reflect a steady increase in search terms related to modest fashion.

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Yet, even with this growing trend, there still seems to be a hesitation to label clothing as modest, even though it’s a new business market with consistent profits. However, the term “conservative” tends to be associated with religious ideologies, women’s “traditional roles”, or being prudish.

An Audience-Led Trend
In recent years, the destigmatization of modest fashion is on the rise, mainly thanks to Instagram. Instagram is a place for modest fashionistas to meet and share their style while also throwing out the idea that modestly-dressed women want to blend into the background.

But with the controversy that surrounds modest fashion, there are those we can look to for inspiration and normalization in the industry. Late last year, 19-year-old Halima Aden made history when she became the first contestant to wear a hijab and burkini while competing in the Miss Minnesota U.S.A. pageant.

London hosted the first ever Modest Fashion Festival this year. Over 40 brands gathered from across the globe to exhibit their collections, as well as hundreds of festival attendees to see the new apparel the festival had to show. The gathered brands from across the globe included some from Turkey, Somalia, and Malaysia. This showcase drew international attention and interest from retailers, including interest from smaller retailers. Among the many models at this event, Miss Minnesota U.S.A. contestant Halima Aden was also in attendance.

Fashion bloggers like Cori Robinson, (@dresscorilynn) Liz Roy, (@downtowndemure) Sharon Langert (@fashionisa), and Heba Jay, (@hebajay) have taken Instagram by storm with their takes on modest fashion. Even celebrities such as Adele, Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, and Emma Watson are known for rarely showing skin on the red carpet.

The Brands Embracing Modest Fashion
Though they may be few, and also lesser-known, there are also some clothing brands challenging the stigma that surrounds conservative fashion. Brands such as Modcloth, Sweet Salt Clothing, Mode-sty, The Modest Poppy, and Trendy Wendy’z are helping to shed some light on modest fashion. Consumers can find a variety of apparel on these sites, including long, flowy skirts, high necklines, and ankle-length dresses. And most of these websites pride on themselves on being a conservative, modest niche in fashion.

While for these brands the embrace of modest fashion isn’t a major brand departure, Nike represents a brand making a significant pivot towards conservative fashion in an effort to expand their global footprint. The sportswear giant has plans to release a one-of-a-kind, top-tier performance product, the Nike Pro Hijab, early on in 2018. This new release aligns with Nike’s founding mission, “to serve athletes,” with the signature addendum: “If you have a body, you’re an athlete.”

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With the release of this news, search trends related to performance hijabs have had a significant increase, and are not just limited to the United States.

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The Nike Pro Hijab is meant to address performance issues associated with the standard hijab. Standard hijabs are often too heavy or bulky, lack breathability, and often shift during movement. There’s also a significant lack of performance-based hijabs being sold in today’s fashion market, which puts a brand like Nike way ahead of the game.

Whether a woman dresses modestly for her religious beliefs, self-motivations, or just for her own personal fashion taste, the modest fashion trend is slowly on the rise. Instagram influencers and brands are beginning to break the stigma, and with any luck, the Nike Pro Hijab will help pave the way for other top fashion brands to jump on the bandwagon.

Author: Kaitlyn Carter, Office Administrator at Engage