Anti-Britney: The New Look
Designers make modest clothing for women who don't want to show so much
Many of the niche retailers selling modest clothes were inspired by religion. Brooke Samad, founder of Marabo, a clothing line aimed at Muslim women, says of her customers, "They may believe in Islam, but at the end of the day, they're a young Muslim woman in this country, and they want to go shopping and get what's hip and stylish."
Rachel Lubchansky, 29, founded the online retailer Funky Frum after discovering that women in her Jewish community shared her frustration with the lack of trendy yet modest clothes. She helped launch her site by sending fliers to 500 synagogues across the country. She's since found interest from women of different faiths as well as nonreligious women.
Rippy also found that Shade Clothing resonated with women beyond its original Mormon base. "Such a small percentage of women genuinely feel comfortable exposing their body," she says.
While national sales numbers in modest clothes are hard to come by, analysts describe an overall trend toward layered looks that expose less skin as well as classier looks. "We're back to refinement," says Roseanne Cumella, senior vice president of merchandising for the Doneger Group, a retail consultancy.
Not everyone's jumping on the modesty bandwagon. When asked whether J.Crew was following the trend, a spokeswoman said, "No," adding, "We do what's fun. We're not looking to cover up." Still, alongside skimpy bikinis and short skirts, knee-length dresses with high collars are featured in their spring catalog-outfits that could easily be sold by a retailer specializing in modest clothing.
While Rippy acknowledges that shopping at mainstream stores is easier today, she says she's not counting on that trend to last. "For me, modesty is not a trend. It's a lifestyle. ... We'll be here regardless of what the trends do."