Modest Clothing

February 27, 2013: A Modest Proposal

As most of you likely know, Michelle Obama presented the best picture Oscar at the Academy Awards on Sunday wearing a stunning sleeveless, moderately low-cut gown. Fars, the Iranian news agency, published the official photograph of the first lady announcing the award, but Photoshopped sleeves and a much higher neckline onto the dress.

Given the culture in the Middle East, that decision was not really surprising. What may surprise you is that, according The Los Angeles Times, “Islamic clothing is getting a bit more hip,” at least in Southern California. The paper says the demand has created “fertile ground for a new generation of designers crafting clothes for women who are limited by faith and conviction from flashing too much skin.”

The article profiles several young entrepreneurial Muslim designers who have recently launched clothing lines creating more modern interpretations of traditional Muslim garb. But Muslim women are not the only consumers who are in the market for more moderate clothing. Orthodox Jews, too, have religious reasons for covering up, while still wanting to be stylish.

But a potentially bigger, nationwide market to target is the millions of American women who want their clothes to disguise more than display. Friends of mine of all sizes and ages often bemoan the fact that it’s nearly impossible to find dressy clothes with sleeves, for example.

You don’t have to design modest clothing to profit from this market-you could also sell other designers’ creations. This type of clothing would likely sell well online, enabling you to reach niche audiences even if you don’t have a large population of Muslims or Orthodox Jews nearby.