Manhattan Muslim Fashion Exhibit Shows Modest Clothing Doesn't Mean Boring

A new exhibit on the Upper East Side aims to show visitors that modest clothing can be lively

Mannequins dressed in an array of vibrant colors are lined throughout the third floor of The Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

“Contemporary Muslim Fashions” is the first major museum exhibition in New York City to explore the rise of the modest fashion industry. The exhibit portrays how Muslim women -- those who cover their heads and those who do not -- have influenced style both within and beyond their communities.

Faiza Bouguessa (b. 1983, France) for Faiza Bouguessa (est. 2014, United Arab Emirates); "Two-Tone Crepe Snood" 70˚ Collection, 2014; Polyester crepe, satin lining; Courtesy of Bouguessa

The exhibit, which opened Feb. 28, features at least 80 outfits that are compiled from established and emerging designers with looks ranging from street wear to couture. The show features clothing from more than 16 countries and aims to increase visibility among designers and brands whose clothing interpret modesty on a global scale, curators say.

Muslim fashion is one of the fastest growing sectors of the fashion industry. “It’s currently valued at $44 billion dollars annually,” said Susan Brown, an associate exhibition curator.

Visitors can expect to learn about three different aspects of the contemporary Muslim fashion industry, including the fashion shows that feed it and what influences high-end fashion and street wear.

Photo Courtesy: Cooper Hewitt; Yasmin Sobeih (b. 1990, United Kingdom) for UNDER-RÂPT (est. 2017, United Kingdom); Ensemble (raincoat, T-shirt, shorts, hooded top, and sport tights); 2018; Printed MicroModal®, Tencel™; Courtesy of UNDER-RÂPT

“In the last five years there’s been an uptick of Muslim modest fashion weeks happening all over the world,” Jill d’Alessandro, a co-curator from San Francisco, said. “So, we started to review these fashion weeks and just tried to find great design coming out of these fashion weeks.”

D’Alessandro said the exhibit portrays how covered-up clothing can be vibrant and fashionable.

“It was really important for people to understand that there’s great design and that a big sector of the population wants to be highly fashionable while adhering to their modest dress code.”  

The “Contemporary Muslim Fashions” exhibit will run through August 23rd 2020.

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