Modesty gets a lot of shade from the fashion community mostly because it is mistakenly associated with dull, shapeless, and unflattering clothes. It’s been an association that has pitted fashionable and modest dressing as opposites, reasoning that if someone has coverage requirements then they also cannot expect to have great style, which — I’m sorry — is absurd. It’s like telling someone with a food allergy that they can’t eat delicious meals.
What’s most frustrating is that this assumption isn’t just an opinion; it has manifested itself in our stores. Stylish, modest clothes are very hard to find in the mainstream marketplace. Modest dressers routinely piece their outfits together from sleeveless, sheer, mini and backless options like a game of Tetris. We’re often forced to add haphazard layers to get the coverage we need. This is despite the fact that the demand for modest fashion is massive; millions of women with hundreds of billions of dollars to spend want modest clothing for religious, professional, and personal reasons.
One of the biggest reason that these women (and their dollars) are invisible is that the image of a modest consumer isn't something the typical, secular shopper can readily recall. There's no modesty equivalent of a Vanessa Hudgens (for those with boho style), Emma Watson (for those who prioritize sustainability), or Gigi Hadid (for athleisure-heads). However, one of the modest community's biggest icons — an unofficial spokesperson, even — is one of the most recognizable celebrities in the world: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.
Yes, Kate Middleton dresses modestly — though you probably didn’t notice, which is the entire point. She nearly always covers her shoulders, shows very little cleavage, and doesn’t wear anything above the knee. Modest fashion fans love her because she's an easy-to-reference example of what conservative dressers have been asking for — the same on-trend styles everyone else is wearing, but with more coverage: higher necklines, longer lengths and sleeves. Kate Middleton is proof that modesty and fashion can go together, and it doesn't have to be a big thing.
But if you’ve tried to emulate Kate Middleton’s look, you know how difficult it is to find a cute midi-dress with sleeves that’s also affordable. Just because there are women like Kate doesn’t mean that the market is easier for the rest of us without royal budgets. I know this because in addition to being a modest dresser I also run a modest e-commerce site. I spend countless hours scouring the industry to find modest fashion brands that allow the everyday woman to get the Kate Middleton look. As royalty goes, Kate does wear accessible, under $300, items, from brands including: Zara, J Brand, Reiss, and Whistles. These are in addition to her higher end favorites: Alexander McQueen, Jenny Packham, Erdem, and Burberry among others.
The concept of fashion-forward modesty may have Kate as its most prominent icon, but it’s spearheaded by a prolific group of fashion bloggers — diverse women of different faiths, sizes, and backgrounds who challenge the misconceptions about modesty by showcasing how it is a beautiful option for the modern woman. We hope that fashion industry will realize that the “Kate Middleton Effect” — the selling frenzy that ensues with each item Kate wears — is driven not only by her royal star power but also by a desire for beautiful modest fashion that's largely going unanswered.
Some of our favorite looks, ahead.