Modern Modesty: How You Can Cover Up Without Sacrificing Your Style

What exactly *is* modesty? As a word, it initially feels so perplexing as you feel like you have to either A) keep your jewelry in the storage and/or B) not show too much skin. Since it’s mainly regulated to faith, I feel that the whole idea of modesty goes beyond religion.

Growing up, I rotated between a school uniform by day, a short dress on weekends, a pair of hotpants for the island trips and last but not least, something “proper” to please the parents whenever I went to church. Despite my semi-restrictive dress code, I was blessed to have the freedom to put on whatever I wanted. But, learning the true meaning of modesty wasn’t something that I understood until I went outside of Singapore.

On April, I went on two week holiday in the Middle East. Between Jerusalem to Istanbul, almost every other place I visited had heavy religious undertones, which initially made it hard for me to think about what to wear. Since I grew up with the notion that modesty meant bland clothing, I restricted myself to a pair of jeans, t-shirt and Doc Martens. By covering myself up in these clothes, I felt like I looked like a stereotypical tourist. As much as I hated to sound superficial, it was very clear that I felt out of place whether it was visiting a church, synagogue or mosque.

If it was the modesty dress code that restricted me, it was nothing like what you’d think. In fact, it was my false perception that did me in by conforming to the stereotype of the world’s idea of modesty. Since religion was and still is seen as a polarizing topic, I was taught to believe that modesty wasn’t fashionable. But since it was an unwritten rule to cover up, it came from the fact that it was and still is the custom to show respect to the city’s culture.

While being surrounded in a place with a totally different culture from you might seem difficult to adjust to, don’t let the dress code scare you away from expressing your style.

If you need to find outfit inspirations, discover the 12 modest wear fashion influencers (on Harper’s BAZAAR Singapore) who are changing the game. Before you copy their outfits, I’ve cracked the code on how to dress like a modest fashion blogger with these easy top 5 tips:

  1. Build your outfit with a layering base

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A single t-shirt is not going sit there and help you sustain you during the entire trip. As the Middle East has a drier climate, the pro is that you won’t sweat so much. However, the biggest con about the weather is the scorching heat, which will make you feel like you’re roasting in a BBQ grill. If being in a loose long-sleeved is not your thing, try going for a lycra turtleneck top from British swimwear brand Hunza G. Fitted with a bit of flounce at the sleeves, it’ll help you look hot and stay cool. Whether it’s a blazer-style dress with pants, sleeveless jumpsuit or a pair of high-waisted jeans, this top looks so good with everything. Trust me, you can thank me later.

If turtlenecks aren’t your thang, you can go for a simple basic long-sleeved tee from Cotton Citizen.

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2. Play with hemlines

Short hemlines aren’t going to make it. Rather than attracting piercing stares, command attention in a classic silhouette with a longer hemline. You can go for a simple wrap dress like Saint x Sinner‘s calf-revealing midi hemline or a knee-grazing hemline from Exhibit‘s.

3. When in doubt, strut your stuff in a dressy bag

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Dressing modestly doesn’t mean having to tone down your look 180. Given that temples are the star of the show (when you’re visiting a religious place), let your bag complement its opulent interiors. Rather than sticking to your basic black bag, switch it up with a passion play of colors and textures. My go-to brand for your ideal travel bag is Pop & Suki. With one silhouette, you can create MANY looks: you can either get a fanny bag strap for hands-free days, a chain strap for dressier evenings and/or turn your purse into a makeshift mini backpack with more straps! Knowing that a handful of you believe that less is more, small and spacious is the way to make that motto a reality.

P.S. (Just type in MICHELLEVARINATA15 for a 15% off discount when you go on this link!)

4. Play with prints


I love a hat, but you gotta take it off when you’re inside a church, mosque or synagogue. However, some places DO require you to cover your head at all times (e.g. every mosque in Istanbul).

Although I was generally prepped to wear more conservative garments, I didn’t anticipate that I would have to cover my head when I visited a mosque during my trip in Instanbul. If you want to find a quick solution to hide a bad hair day, go for a scarf like Réalisation Par‘s tantalizing cherry print or Haute Hijab‘s pretty python print. Apart from wearing your scarf as a hijab, you can try wearing it as a scarf with fitted white tee and jeans.

5. Try a two piece

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While layers are a popular method among modest fashion bloggers/influencers, you can stay cool and turn up the heat in a two-piece. Versatile, easy to match and super chic, you won’t regret purchasing a matching set. You can go for a refined set like Layeur’s beaded top and pants or a tunic dress with skinny jeans/leggings underneath.






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Published by

Michelle Varinata

Lapis - (n.) a layer Shrek once said that "onions have layers" as he was peeling one. Like an onion, I have layers. Born in Jakarta and raised in Singapore, I grew up being surrounded in a multicultural environment. Then, I moved to the States, where I lived in NYC and L.A. The creativity, hustle, bustle and vibe of those cities inspired me to become a blogger, journalist and influencer. Writing by day and living it up by night, I slay in the streets one OOTD at a time. Full-face makeup included, too. ;)

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