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Modest Dressing

Published date
25 Jul 2018

Faith-based Fashion and Internet Retail

Principal Investigator: Professor Reina Lewis

Faith-based Fashion and Internet Retail was a research project set up to study the growing market for modest clothing among women of the three Abrahamic faiths: Islam, Christianity and Judaism. With increasing numbers of women who are religiously motivated to dress modestly, online retailing is making it easier for women who dress this way, to combine fashion with faith.

For women seeking fashionable ways to dress modestly, like the growing numbers of Muslim women who obtain modest clothing over the web, the internet has been indispensible. Other faith groups that have dress requirements show similar developments in the commercial production and distribution of clothing: modern orthodox and ultra-orthodox Jews, and some Christian groups like the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons).

Internet marketing has been invaluable for consumers who want specialist items and has reduced overheads for specialist producers and retailers. This has been especially important in clothes marketing, where consumers seeking non-standard items can now shop online to replace or augment the high street. In most cases, internet marketing allows brands to reach beyond their immediate location, serving consumers internationally. Women are now far more likely to be able to dress in line with their sense of piety but still in fashion.

The project had three main aims:

  • To discover if the expansion and diversification through e-commerce of clothes for modest dressing is creating a new retail and style category of 'modest fashion' that has the potential to transcend specific religions and reach out to consumers across faith groups.
  • To explore the extent to which 'modest fashion' is beginning to be recognisable as a form of dressing adopted by women from different faith communities.
  • To evaluate the social and personal impact of modest fashion for the future development of interfaith dialogue and religious/secular community relations.

The project ran from March 2010 to March 2011 under the supervision of Principal Investigator Professor Reina Lewis. The Co-Investigator was Dr Emma Tarlo, Reader in Anthropology at Goldsmiths College, London, and the Project Researcher at LCF was Jane Cameron.

Modest Dressing is part of the Religion and Society Programme, funded by the UK Arts and Humanities and Social Sciences Research Councils.

Further information about the project’s main research findings:

Podcast: Mediating Modesty by Reina Lewis (24mins 30secs) recorded at the project's symposium held at London College of Fashion on 15 June 2011. The event was hosted by the research project, part of the Religion and Society Programme, funded by the UK Arts and Humanities and Social Sciences Research Councils. Reina Lewis describes and analyses, with examples drawn from representative modest fashion online retailers and modest fashion bloggers, the growing market in internet retail of modest fashion, and the online commentary accompanying it.


Outputs realised from the research project


Lewis, Reina (2013) Hijab on the shop floor: Muslims in fashion retail in Britain. In: Islamic Fashion and Anti-Fashion: New Perspectives from Europe and America. Bloomsbury Academic, London, pp. 181-200. ISBN 9780857853356

Lewis, Reina (2013) Fashion Forward and Faithtastic! Online Modest Fashion and the Development of Women as Religious Interpreters and Intermediaries. In: Modest Fashion: styling bodies, mediating faith. Dress Cultures . I. B. Taurus, Oxford, pp. 41-66. ISBN 9781780763828

Lewis, Reina and Moors, Annelies (2013) Modest fashion: styling bodies, mediating faith. Dress Cultures . I. B. Taurus, Oxford. ISBN 9781780763828

Lewis, Reina (2013) Introduction: Mediating Modesty. In: Modest Fashion: Styling Bodies, Mediating Faith. I.B. Tauris, London, pp. 1-13. ISBN 9780857722256


Lewis, Reina and Tarlo, Emma (2011) Modest dressing: faith based fashion and the internet retail. Project Report. University of the Arts London, London, UK.