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Modest Women: How Feminism Is Influencing The New Generation of Style Visionaries

Lifestyle

Scrolling through close to one million photos under Instagram's trending hashtag #modestfashion, I expected to see mostly Hijab-clad women, Mormon-style clothing, and Orthodox fashion. Instead, I noticed something different. I saw millennial women, dressed in feminine button downs, beautiful long dresses with cinched waists, and gorgeous designer boots to match their handbags.


Sweeping across the closets of western culture, these were real women I was seeing in the near 1 million photos, all sporting different body types, smiling, and happy in their own skin. According to Who What Wear in January, "searches for "modest fashion" [on PinterestUK] are up 500 percent since the beginning of this year." I took a page from Carrie Bradshaw's book and I wondered: is modern, chic modesty the new IT girl trend?

Kate Hudson attends The 2018 Golden Globe Awards in a polkadot gown. Photo Courtesy of Mirror

One factor that seems to influence most fashion trends is a question of whether or not your identity within the clothing and what you feel it represents.

As an example, I have a proclivity for gorgeous, vivid loafers of all different colors, as they fulfill my need for a simple pop of color that reflects my personality. In the midst of the workweek slump, when I am up to my eyeballs in work and feel at my most vulnerable, my vibrant shoes give me comfort and confidence.

This notion certainly holds true to modest fashion, as people who identify as modest seek out the clothing of modest fashion companies. But what about the other way around? Many modest styles are gearing toward trendy, modern, and attractive styles that fall within many unified standards of acceptable dress. In Hollywood, A-list Celebrities such as Angelina Jolie, Kate Hudson, Zendaya, and Beyonce' have all sported less skin on the 2018 red carpets this season in their dare I say conservative, well thought out dress choices that definitely don't compromise fabulous for extra fabric.

Feminism + Modesty

A change is upon us. People are leaning toward the modest notion because they can identify with themselves and the confidence, not to be swept up with the western culture of provocative wear. Actress and Emmy Award winner Mayim Bilalik, known for her role in Big Bang Theory, penned a powerful essay as an op-ed for the New York Times on feminism in the Weinstein era. In it, Mayim noted that the power she felt as a figure in Hollywood many times involved a conscious decision of how she portrayed her body and her dress in order to navigate the harsh, overtly critical landscape that surrounded her. In other words, her modesty was her personal power. In the modern political sphere, it can oftentimes seem incredibly daunting and uncertain, as women have been jumping through the hoops and hurdles of society's laid out expectations for centuries.

C'est Moi Clothing Spring/Summer 2018 Ruffle Midi Dress.

The Future is Now

So, how do we bridge the gap between the “old spinster" stereotypes of the past and the modest fashion icons of the future? For starters, outlets like TheModist.com are gaining popularity, serving up Net-A-Porter vibes and sleek, eye-catching designs. Women of all walks of life now have options, further clearing the notion that longer inseams and lower hemlines are oppressive and defeminizing. Macy's recently announced its collaboration with Verona Collection, the Muslim-founded brand featuring sparking both blame and backlash on social media and online reviews from all over the world:

Lisa Vogl, the brand's founder, said in a press release, “Verona Collection is more than a clothing brand. It's a platform for a community of women to express their personal identity and embrace fashion that makes them feel confident on the inside and outside." Vogl continues to express that her designs are not, in fact, oppressing women of the western world at all, she is not force-feeding any shoppers her hijabs to wear as accessories.

On The Verona Collection website, Lisa states:

“After embracing Islam, she had a stark realization: modest and fashionable clothing were both hard to acquire and difficult to afford. After doing a bit of research, she realized that many other women, both Muslim and non-Muslim, felt the same way."

Thus, her goal is to present options in shopping malls all over the country in an area which was once an empty void to purchase with positivity and inclusivity. Other notable brands that have come out have been Orthodox Jewish and Mormon-inspired designers, boasting fashion-forward designs and affordable basics.

Jen Loch, a Mormon mother of three and founder of Jen clothing, describes her struggles in realizing that modest can be fashionable growing up.

“As I grew up and got married I finally started to understand why modesty was important. I now have a passion for helping young women discover the value of modesty, and that 'modest fashion' doesn't have to be an oxymoron!"

Valentino's Spring Haute Couture, Paris Fashion Week 2018

Wherever your personal style falls in the modest spectrum, we can all ultimately agree that this fashionable niche is on the rise on a global scale. It is not only incredibly fascinating seeing each designer's unique take on their pieces, but it is empowering knowing that we as women with different inherent beliefs can unify under our stylistic standards of our own choosing. The future is now, and we have the ability to resonate our message to the generations to come. My hope as a stylist and designer of essential pieces is for you to evolve and adapt your own wardrobe repertoire in a way that isn't forced. Be bold, be chic, be comfortable, and above all else, be you.

Career

Male Managers Afraid To Mentor Women In Wake Of #MeToo Movement

Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.


In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.

What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.

Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.

Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.

While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.

According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.

In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.


Source-Alex Brandon, AP

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.

Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.

The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.