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A velvety jumpsuit embroidered with tiny horses. If one had to pinpoint the main highlight of Chloe’s Spring/Summer 18 collection, that would be it. No short skirts or plunging necklines. Instead, long sleeves and pants, and a simple V-neck cut at the front, to show just a tiny bit of skin. There’s a similar vibe at Celine, with double-layered, looped-up trench coats and side-pleated skirts grazing the ankles. This season, the silhouettes are demure, subtle, understated—and very much in sync with fashion’s growing ‘modest mood’.

The look has been rising to the forefront of catwalks and fashion presentations alike over the last few years. You’ve probably noticed it too: floor-sweeping skirts and high necklines at Dior, slip dresses layered with polo tees underneath them at Roland Mouret, slender baggy trousers at Stella McCartney. Today’s must-have garbs speak of a different, quiet femininity – one where covered-up and cool collide.

Looks from Chloe’s Autumn Winter 2018 collection demonstrate fashion’s growing ‘modest mood’

The high street has taken notice, too. At British brand Whistles, the aesthetic for this summer (and pre-fall, too) is all about loose and free-flowing shapes, be they in the forms of dresses, skirts or parkas, that hint at the body but don’t cling to it. Swedish king of minimalism COS, which has always been known for its demure aesthetic, has also kicked it up a notch with non-gender specific cuts, and pants, tops and dresses that are understated, architectural and very much centred around the idea of layering different volumes and contrasting proportions. Parisian boutique Sandro, which falls into what you might call the ‘affordable luxury’ category, has worked some of its recurring themes such as flowers, lace and feminine prints into midi dresses and double-breasted pantsuits that are soft and enveloping.

A free-flowing look from contemporary British brand Whistles’ Spring Summer 2018 offering

And if one needed any more evidence that loose and simple are fashion’s new favourite buzzwords, the fact that the kaftan has made a comeback as a must-have wardrobe item for summer 2019 should the most obvious cue. The unisex garment, which made an appearance at the Oscars earlier this year in a stunning Valentino number worn by Maya Rudolph and was on many a Paris fashion week catwalk, is the epitome of soft style – and proving so popular as beachwear staple that Harvey Nichols has recently started carrying three new kaftan-type brands alongside the already-successful Marios Schwab’s On The Island label: Sundress, Innika Choo and lemlem.

This allure of sobriety comes hot on the heels of momentous shifts, both politically and culturally, around the world. It’s tied to the revaluation of feminine codes and body politics – how to feel confident, comfortable and powerful in what you’re wearing, and dressing for yourself, rather than the male gaze. Flowing and flouncy, modest garments set the tone for a vibe that’s both empowering and laid-back, nuanced and modern. They offer a kind of armour, so to speak, but also an antidote to the often sexually saturated images filling reality TV, social media and pop culture.  As New York Times fashion critic Vanessa Friedman wrote last year, modest dressing ‘prioritises the individual and her needs over the clichés of female role play’.

Swedish king of minimalism COS amped up its understated and architectural aesthetic for Spring Summer 2018

To that end, it’s unsurprising that this year’s fashion show at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination (which opened, as per tradition, with a star-studded Met Gala in early May) explores the theme of Catholicism in fashion. Sartorial conservatism is serious dress code, and has never felt more relevant.

But the covered-up look is also a nod to and acknowledgement of the value of style-savvy Muslim urbanites among the fashion industry – a consumer segment whose spending appeal topped US$243 billion in 2015, according to Thomson Reuters State of the Global Islamic Economy report, and it’s expected increase to $368 billion by 2021.

Dior muse and actress Jennifer Lawrence wearing the fashion house’s modest Autumn Winter 2018 collection

To the eyes of many brands, demure is a way to be more inclusive towards Muslim dressers – and those of Jewish and Christian faith, too. It’s why Dolce & Gabbana now sells abayas, and Nike launched hijabs for athletes. It’s also why, from Alexander Wang to Balenciaga, Chanel and Marc Jacobs, the Autumn/Winter 18 shows saw models strutting down the runway wearing carefully draped scarves and knitted snoods, head-coverings and hoods, while Max Mara cast Muslim model Halima Aden. And it’s hit the mass market too, in another sign it’s here to stay: retail giant H&M recently announced the release of a modest clothing collection, featuring designs with long hems and long sleeves.

On a more utilitarian level, modest dressing is winning because it’s accessible. It allows for individual styling – why not wear a midi dress over trousers, as seen at Chanel Cruise 2018/2019, or pair a full skirt with bare shoulders, as in the case of PREEN Spring/Summer 18 – but also a mobility that body-con frocks just don’t offer. It’s liberating. And there’s no better fashion than that.