There are many reasons to critique the fashion industry. One of the most poignant is its bias towards certain body types. Specifically, the industry often advantages people who have the kinds of bodies idealized by the media.
In theory, this should not be the case. After all, fashion brands are trying to sell clothing, and most of us do not have so-called “perfect” bodies. However, if you look at the trajectory of fashion over the past century, it makes a fair amount of sense.
Since long before our current generation, fashion has steadily evolved to embrace the human body. Women in the 1800s would wear clothes which hid their form. But over the decades, they started wearing outfits that showed off some skin, accentuated their bodies, and displayed their pride in their own physiques. For men, the change was slower, but millennial men started wearing skinny jeans and Gen Z males wear crop tops.
Unfortunately, this has created another kind of problem.
The pitfalls of body consciousness
Prior to modern fashion, Western society shared a collective shame over having bodies at all. Now, taking pride in your body is praised. The problem is that not all body types are included in this praise.
With the increasing visibility of female bodies, companies began to produce products to remove imperfections. In order to sell these products, they had to identify such imperfections. Thus, female body hair became shameful so that Gillette could sell razors to women. Cellulite became shameful so that skincare companies could sell creams. The list goes on.
We’ve reached a point at which we receive very conflicting messages. Fashion implores us to be proud of our bodies, while adverts tell us they’re far from perfect.
It is in this context that modest fashion is making waves. Here is why it is important in 2021.
Modest fashion: a new kind of pride
The narrative against modern fashion goes that it encourages people (usually women) to feel ashamed of their skin. Many people associate it strongly with religion and oppressive patriarchal attitudes.
But this is far from the reality. What modest fashion provides is a way to take pride in your physicality in a world that shames imperfection. It allows you to protect yourself from the harmful effects of body-shaming, while still drawing attention to yourself.
With items like tankini swimsuits from Modli, modest fashion also means the fear of being shamed never has to interfere with living your life to the full. It is certainly not a way of hiding yourself, but rather a means of expressing yourself so that you no longer feel you have to hide.
As attitudes change, body-shaming is becoming less socially acceptable. However, there is still a long way to go. Furthermore, the ideal world is not one in which everyone feels comfortable showing off skin all the time, but in which shame does not dictate what a person wears. In that reality, modest fashion is as legitimate a choice as any other.
Fashion has taken us a long way from the Victorian shame of human physicality. But in 2021, we still need modest fashion to fearlessly express ourselves the way we want to.