Boring is the last thing that Modest Dressing is.

Modest Dressing has been a lifestyle choice for many, even before it emerged as a trend embraced by luxury fashion brands like Dolce & Gabbana, combined with a booming market worth US$322 billion globally in 2018 alone.

In fact, sometimes I question if carving out a niche market for modest wear is a redundant move.

After all, for years, modest wearers have found ways to make the fashion available to them suitable without compromising on trends.

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What is modest dressing or wear?

Despite the label, there are no single criteria as to what entails modest wear. It differs from one individual to another.

There are those for whom their criteria for modest wear is shaped by religious beliefs and cultural mores, and for others, the choice to dress modestly may arise out of a preference for clothes which are less revealing and more loose-fitted.

As a general rule, however, modest dressing pays attention to two key details:

  • Length
  • Fit

As long as the wearer’s personal criteria for appropriate length and fit are met, an outfit can be considered modest even if it is made up of individual pieces that may not necessarily be so.

Creating a modest wardrobe

How do you put together a modest outfit from otherwise “immodest” pieces?

The go-to styling tricks are: mixing and matching separates, as well as layering.

Here are 5 ways they can use to create modest outfits suitable to be worn on-campus and at conferences:

#1: Sleeveless tops two-way

Statement sleeveless tops are an easy way to spruce up standard office wear.

They can be worn over a blouse or shirt as vests.

Alternatively, they can be worn on their own under a fitted blazer.

#2: Dresses over pants

When this became a street style trend for autumn/winter 2017, I was mildly amused.

The dress-over-pants combination has been a staple for many modest fashion wearers for years.

To make the campus and conference-appropriate, dresses (including shirt-dresses) can be worn over a pair of tailored pants.

Sleeveless or short-sleeved ones can also be paired with a cardigan. Dress up this combination with pumps or oxfords, or pair them with sneakers.

#3: Jumpsuits

I like wearing my jumpsuits over a crisp shirt for a more structured look. Occasionally, I wear them under a complementing jacket.

#4: Outerwear

I don’t know about others, but being a modest fashion wearer made me develop a strange love for outerwear despite living in a place where it is summer all year round.

Since the core pieces in my wardrobe tend to be solid colors, I find that jackets, blazers, and capes are a great way to add flair and personality.

#5: Stay on-trend with seasonal colors and prints…

…and you will rarely be out of fashion, even if you are a modest wearer.

Of course, runway trends differ slightly from season to season.

However, there are certain colors and prints that more or less remain consistent favorites.

Monochrome always makes a return, as do denim, floral, and Saville Row prints.

It is a good idea to take staple trends into consideration when adding separates to a modest fashion wardrobe.

A Modest Wardrobe of another sort

Apart from length and fit, having a modest wardrobe is also be about ensuring that our clothes come from modest sources.

More fashion brands are under greater scrutiny to ensure that their practices are sustainable (in terms of material) and fair (in terms of labor practices).

As academics, we are not only making a statement with our writings and presentations but also through what we wear.

We can do our part by making sure that we do not perpetuate unsustainable and exploitative fashion by opting for brands that are making efforts to move away from such practices.

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Syafiqah Jaaffar is a Masters candidate in History at the National University of Singapore.

Her work focuses on transitional periods in Southeast Asia as spaces of potential, by looking at the interstices of narratives, literature and visual images.

She is currently editor-in-chief of The Dust Beneath Our Feet, a digital zine on Singapore’s history between the 19th to 20th century. The first volume is expected to be released in early 2019.

You can follow her on Tumblr,, check out her website, Notes from a Procrastibrain. and view her Modest Academic collection.

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