Muslima Fashionista: High fashion and modesty—clashing ideals, or can it actually work?

Muslima Fashionista
Model for Underwraps Agency, NYC

There is no shortage of controversy about how Muslim women should dress.

Some argue Muslim women need to adopt Western-style fashion if they want to assimilate and flourish in Western culture. Others insist that modest dress is a non-negotiable article of the their faith, and challenge Western democracies to demonstrate their much-vaunted commitment to freedom by making room for everything from headscarves to burqas.

Is modest dress oppressive, or does it free women from superficial notions of beauty and command respect?  As the debate rages on, some Muslim women have staked the middle ground, where modest dress and fashion-forward styles are viewed as perfectly compatible.

A New York City modeling agency has brought bold interpretations of Islamic dress to the catwalk, turning heads and challenging stereotypes in the world of high fashion and beyond.

Modesty x Couture | New Muslim Modeling Agency in NYC

By Ada Lee, Schema Magazine

The American-born Muslim designer Nailah Lymus seeks out to bridge the gap between fashion and modesty. She does so by launching a new modeling agency in New York City for Muslim models.

The agency, Underwraps, will represent aspiring models that wish to work in the mainstream fashion industry without having to compromise their faith-led belief of modesty in dress. According to Lymus, it is a belief that requires clothes to be loose and not shape revealing, and that the only body parts that can be visible are your face, hands and feet.

“Being modest isn’t just a Muslim concept; it crosses many religions and cultures,” says Lymus. “Beautiful women who have always wanted to venture on to the catwalk but have declined because of their beliefs now have a chance.” Lymus’ goal with Underwraps, to me, seems to be creating a new space for reconciling concepts that are seemingly conflicting.

Lymus attracted attention when she first launched her line of clothing “Amirah Creations” last year. Her designs are hot but they’re also trail blazing—she’s determined to break stereotypes and limitations of what Muslim women can wear, and ultimately, how they can fit in without forfeiting their identities.

UnderwrapsUnderwraps Model

How will this agency fare in an industry where flesh-baring models are the standard? Judging by the comments online, it seems like everybody has their own idea of what modesty, Islam, modeling, and high fashion should be about. Many are skeptical of whether it’ll survive. Others are saying that there is no market for modest fashion.

But if fashion is an expression of the self, then what Lymus is doing resonates in Schema—Underwraps is to Muslim models as Schema is to hyphenated Canadians. It’s a space where 1st/2nd/3rd generations can navigate through cultures without having to compromise, without having to choose simply being one or the other.

So I say, you go, girl.

Ada Lee is a sixth year Human Geography/International Relations student who is interested in people and what makes them tick. The list ranges from social justice to astrology. She tries to get by in life by getting high on ideas, breathing deeply, and dreaming vividly. Follow 0415ADA at your own risk.

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