We probably all know the saying, “show legs or cleavage but never both!” But what if you’d rather not show either? Here at SUBCULTURED we’ve been exploring the idea of “modest fashion”, and proving that you don’t need to show skin to be on top of the trends. We spoke to Nava Brief-Fried, the CEO and co-founder of ModLi, an amazing online store that specifically sells modest fashion, asking her what inspired her to help so many other women find modest but fashionable clothing.

So, Nava, what inspired you to start ModLi?

What motivated me to start my own company and work there every day was my own personal need for the items that we now feature on ModLi. As someone who dresses modestly, I found it hard to find fashionable clothing. There were 2 months in a year that it was easy, but once February came around and the winter collections were taken off the shelves it made it trickier to find the longer lengths I wanted. When I started this, I didn’t think that I would have that many customers, but I set that assumption far behind me after realising that I wasn’t the only person struggling – millions of women who had the same exact problem.

How do you manage to balance modesty and fashion?

It’s easy as modesty and fashion work hand in hand together. ModLi isn’t about fashion that is dowdy and outdated, ModLi is about fashion and style for sophisticated and smart women, who want to dress in longer lengths. We have amazing customers, and whether they dress modestly because of religious restriction, or because they naturally dress in longer lengths to show personal sophistication, they were all frustrated by what was offered by mainstream stores. These women wanted to connect, to love and to cherish a brand that they can now proudly call home, which they couldn’t do with any other brand before. A lot of what ModLi is doing is changing the face of modesty by being proud of being intentionally modest, not because of restrictions but because we choose to dress this way. This statement, attitude and style can go a long way.

What are the 3 essentials tips you would give to those who wanted to try modest fashion?

– Try to avoid wearing layers. Layering in order to get the modest look just makes you look baggy and unfashionable.

– Dressing modestly applies to your entire look and not only to the pieces of clothing. Make sure your makeup, accessories and footwear are just as tasteful and sophisticated as your clothing.

– Lace dresses and blouses are one of our most popular trends of this season. Match a lace top with a basic skirt and you’re good to go.

Modest Fashion interview

What would you say is the most versatile item for dressing modestly while still being fashionable?

I would say the lace shrug. It can be worn over a dress to complete the look, but also to cover up sleeveless dresses that before you wouldn’t have dreamed of wearing. (The lace shrug can be found on the ModLi website in multiple colours and designs.)

Can modest fashion be achieved with a student budget?

Of course! For example, ModLi has many items under $50 and looks for under $100 that make you look sophisticated and smart. Remember, modest fashion can go a long way. As a student it is definitely important to look put together when it comes to first impressions and job interviews. Investing in who you are, how you look and how the world perceives you can make all the difference, and dressing modestly can only help put that image together for you.

What have you achieved through modest fashion, and how does it make you feel?

Modest fashion makes me feel like I am not compromising, and not apologizing either. Dressing modestly and fashionably makes me feel like Vogue can set scanty trends and I don’t have to conform to those. It makes me feel like I own what I wear, and no one can try and influence me and change the way I think.

How would you promote modest fashion to teenage girls who may have been taught that modest means boring?

Clothing is a common denominator to all people but style is a personal decision.  The idea that modest fashion is boring has come from those who have zero sense in fashion. Dressing modestly is a style that needs to be presented by someone who understands in style, someone who can point out the positive and fashionable things, and not the restrictions some religions try to imply through dress codes. The best way to promote modest fashion would be to show it, so I would show them 10 outfits that are modest, fashionable and definitely not boring.

Having learnt from the experts, we’ve picked out a few items that students can find not only on ModLi, but at any clothing store near you, that can help you stay warm, modest, and looking your best.

  1. Turtlenecks

 Turtlenecks have had a lot of popularity in the past (think Audrey Hepburn), and they’ve come back into the world of fashion. They don’t have to be suffocating or itchy, as long as you find the right one! We recommend ones from New Look (£8.99) paired with jeans, a skirt and tights, overalls… pretty much anything that suits your fancy. Or you know, whatever’s clean. We are students after all.  

  1. Jeans

 Jeans may be the most common article of clothing for most people, but with the dropping temperatures, there’s more than one way to shake up your denim. Ripped skinny jeans are a trend that can still be done even if you don’t want to show your knees. For example, you can get jeans that don’t have a straight open slit across the knee, and are open without showing off your skin. Another option, if skinny jeans aren’t your style, are the ripped boyfriend jeans. These are baggy enough that you could even wear a pair of tights underneath. Primark currently have a whole selection of different types of jeans (with “The Boyfriend” being £13) which can work with pretty much anything. 

When talking about modest fashion, religion is often a big factor in what you wear. Christian and Muslim styles are often overlooked in the world of fashion, and we think this needs to change! Here are a few links that really gave us inspiration on how to stay modest and look truly incredible.

  1. http://amenaofficial.com/ – Amena is Muslim, and her website is packed with tips on fashion, makeup, and seasonal style advice. She also has a youtube channel (search Amenakin!) with all the beauty and lifestyle tips you could ever need.
  1. http://downtowndemure.com/ – Here you can find a wealth of tips for Christian fashion, and they have advice on everything from formal to informal wear.

Text by Jess Madanayake, photos borrowed from Modest Fashion.