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This Timely Exhibit Shows Why Modest Muslim Attire Has Become The Ultimate Fashion Statement

By Jonathon Keats

If you want to understand the foremost fashion trend of our time, you’ll need a working knowledge of artificial intelligence. You’ll also want a solid background in economics, political science, and the history of religion. Modest fashion, as the trend is popularly known, is modest only in appearance. Underlying the tendency toward long sleeves, high collars, and headscarves is a combination of sophisticated marketing and high-minded self-expression. All of these threads are explored in Muslim Fashions, an important exhibition currently at the de Young Museum.

Modest fashion is a $44 billion industry, catering primarily to practicing Muslim women. Although all of the essential sartorial elements are centuries old, and major designers have been making modest garments for the Muslim market for decades, a combination of social media and search engine optimization have only recently transformed a traditional way of dress into a certified fad.

Simultaneously the contemporary political climate has transformed the attire of piety into a style of protest. From restrictions on wearing the burqa in France to President Trump’s infamous Muslim ban, governments have marginalized Muslims in terms of ethnicity and homeland, but also the range of meanings body coverage has to those who eschew exposure. Depending on background and context, even the burqa can represent everything from conformity to reverence to affluence to radicalism across the whole spectrum of religious and political belief.

The range of influences and meanings has inspired remarkable creativity in designers and wearers. What remains to be seen is whether the multiplicity of Muslim fashions can inspire tolerance for and within Islam.

(Courtesy: Forbes)

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