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Ask CF: How Can I Dress Modestly and Fashionably?

63 Comments

Modest Dressing-Header
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Welcome to the latest edition of Ask CF! Every two weeks, we select a reader fashion question and answer it here on the site. Do you have a specific fashion question for us? Scroll to the bottom of this post to learn how to send it our way!

Ask CF Question

Dear  CF,

I find it difficult to come up with outfit ideas because I have to keep my entire body covered because of my religious beliefs. Could you guys do an article on modest dressing? I find I always get stuck in the same routine clothes because I can’t wear shorts or short dresses – and I always end up wearing cardigans tops and jeans. It would really help! Thanks!

Sincerely,

Covered Up

Our Response

Dear Covered Up,

Thank you for your question! I have received a few questions from readers asking how they can dress without exposing a lot of skin so this question seems like something that would be helpful to address. Luckily, longer hemlines for skirts and dresses have been in style recently, meaning it’s easier than ever to find modest clothing options in stores. And for days when you want to wear pants, there are also many more options to wear up top aside from cardigans. All it takes is a little creativity and experimentation to find what works for you and your lifestyle. Below, I have created a few outfits that can hopefully inspire you. Enjoy!

Sincerely,

Jessica

Outfit #1

ask cf-modest-outfit 1
Product Information: Sweater, Scarf, Pants, Shoes, Earrings

One way to stray from your jeans-and-cardigan routine is to wear a bright pair of pants on the bottom and a sweater up top. I love the idea of wearing these bamboo yellow jeans with a grey pullover. To add some excitement to your look, add on a grey floral scarf like the one above. Simple post earrings and classic grey ballet flats pull the outfit together.

Outfit #2

ask cf-modesty-outfit 3
Product Information: Short sleeve top, Long sleeve top, Pants, Bag, Necklace, Shoes

Another great way to stay covered up without using a cardigan is to layer. Here, I paired this blue-green long sleeved shirt under this swingy navy top. Grey bootcut jeans keep the look classic and simple. Next, silver sneakers provide much-needed support for your feet during a day spent running around. Last, put on this pretty silver necklace and add a pop of yellow with a fun bag. If this clutch style is not appropriate for your day, you can easily switch it out for a larger bag.

Outfit #3

ask cf-modesty-outfit 2
Product Information: Sweater, Necklace, Earrings, Skirt, Bag, Shoes

Another way to keep covered but still look stylish is to wear a maxi skirt. Maxi hemlines have gained popularity over the past few seasons, making them easy to find in stores no matter where you like to shop. I love the look of a pleated navy maxi skirt worn with a striped rugby sweater. A cool necklace like the one above will make you stand out in the crowd. And while many people often wear their maxis with sandals and heels, these options are not so practical for a college student during the fall and winter. Instead, try wearing a pair of navy Converse All-Stars. Lastly, finish the look with some studded post earrings and a simple tote.

Do you have a fashion question? Send it our way!

Is there something in your closet that you can’t seem to figure out how to wear? Do you have an event coming up and need an outfit idea? Do you have a specific fashion conundrum you need help with?

If you have a question you want to see answered in this column, just send it on over via email to askcf @ collegefashion.net and one day you might see your question answered right here on the site!

Please note: We get A LOT of email and unfortunately we will not be able to respond to every single question. However, we will read through each question and then decide which ones will be most helpful to the most readers. Thank you for your understanding.

What do you think?

Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? What do you like to wear to stay covered up? Do you like the outfits I picked out? Which one is your favorite? Please let me know by leaving a comment below! 

Posted on on October 2, 2011 / Filed Under: Fashion Tips / Tags: , , , ,

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63 Responses to “Ask CF: How Can I Dress Modestly and Fashionably?”

  1. 1
    October 2nd, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    A really awesome blog that isn’t necessarily focused on modest fashion but the blogger’s religious beliefs follow a modest code:

    http://www.thedaybookblog.com/

    So good!

  2. 2
    October 2nd, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    I love this! I’m not required by my faith to dress modestly, but I usually prefer to anyway, and I love how you kept things feminine and pretty without showing skin. Kudos!

  3. 3
    October 2nd, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    Thanks for the post. I’ve always been modest in my clothes and appearance and it has always been tough to find clothes that suite my preferences. My favourite lately has been knit tights, they go really well with skirts. Loose button up shirts with sweaters are also a favourite look for me. Jackets and blazers are also great options. For inspiration I look at styles from the 40′s and 50′s with modern touches for sure. Dressing modest can be a challenge but for me it’s important and a part of who I am.

  4. 4
    October 2nd, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    I love the first outfit — especially the yellow jeans. The color pops perfectly and not in an obnoxious way. I think there’s often a misconception that modest equals dowdy, but I whole-heartedly disagree. It’s about being chic and sophisticated and I think these outfits pull it off!

  5. 5
    October 2nd, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    Great outfits. I LOVE the last look.

  6. 6
    October 2nd, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    These are great not because I dress modestly but because I never know how to dress warmly AND fashionably. Thanks!

  7. 7
    October 2nd, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    Excellent post!

    There are some really good outfit ideas in here and I love that first scarf!

  8. 8
    October 2nd, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    These are all cute outfits, but these would still be considered not modest in many cultures/religions that require modest dress. Usually modest dress for many religions require women to cover up to collarbones, elbows, and skirts that cover the knees (no pants allowed!) I think your article is good but it doesn’t fit modest dress for Jews and Muslims. Mormons, maybe, because girls can wear pants.

  9. 9
    October 2nd, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    awesome article! I’m completely the same boat as Liz. I live where it’s pretty chilly for almost half the year so it’s awesome to see some outfits that are practical but also fashionable.

  10. 10
    October 2nd, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    I’m really glad you wrote this! While I don’t have a religious reason for wearing more conservative clothing, I do like to be covered up most of the time. It’s nice to have a website that is taking real people into account, and not just the idyllic fashionista.

  11. 11
    October 2nd, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    Love those yellow pants!

    I’d also suggest that anyone interested in modest fashion might look into the community of Mormon fashion bloggers. I’m not Mormon myself, but I read these blogs because I’m just more comfortable in non-revealing clothes.
    My favorite one is “I’m clothed much” (http://www.clothedmuch.com/)
    I’d start there and then look into the blogs that she’s featured as guest bloggers.

  12. 12
    October 2nd, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    This post was so helpful. I dress modestly because of my religious beliefs. These outfits are fashionable but still they cover you up. Thanks soooo much CF!

  13. 13
    October 2nd, 2011 at 9:16 pm

    love that last outfit. i agree with everyone above, this is a great post for dressing warmly.

  14. 14
    October 2nd, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    I love love LOVE this post. Particularly the first and last outfits. I’m in the same boat as the asker, and all too used to passing over posts that talk about shorts, etc.

    @Elle–While I can’t speak for all religions, there are many, many different opinions on what constitutes modest dress in Islam. I wear pants, though not skinnies, and these outfits are perfectly applicable with a slightly looser cut, or a longer shirt.

  15. 15
    October 2nd, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    I’m not required to dress modestly for my religion, but it is still something I prefer to do, so I really appreciate this post. I love the first and second outfits, I must buy those grey flats in the first outfit! Great job!

  16. 16
    October 2nd, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    The first outfit is so cute! I’m not required to dress like this, but I usually do. I love the sweater in the last outfit too, I have a long sleeve shirt just like it.

  17. 17
    October 2nd, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    Great outfit ideas. I usually don’t like to show skin, so this is great =)

  18. 18
    October 2nd, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    I work in a scientific field where I can dress casually, but I need to look modest- these are great ideas that I can wear to work! Love love love the first look, colored jeans are adorable :)

  19. 19
    October 2nd, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    As for dressing modestly for religious reasons (or just personal choice), menswear is a very workable trend to make modest. Blazers, too, can help get you out of that jeans-and-a-cardigan rut. Red skinny jeans, a striped top, and a black blazer? You won’t even know what to do with yourself, you’ll be so pretty and stylish (and covered up!)

  20. 20
    October 2nd, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    yeah mormons don’t need to cover up elbows or collar bones or legs, but these outfits are darling. i am a mormon and i find SHADE brand or DOWNEAST brand shirts go great for layering if you live somewhere that is warm and they cover enough skin to look modest enough…if i haven’t gotten new clothes for awhile and am stuck wearing the same ones, i like to add a bold piece of new or different jewelry, or a hair accessory to my outfits that make them look like a completely different outfit!! i am in love with this blog btw!

  21. 21
    October 2nd, 2011 at 11:40 pm

    Thanks a ton for answering my question CF! I wasn’t sure if you guys would pick it up but you did and I appreciate it a ton :D

    Im sure this will help a lot of girls because it helped me a lot :) Now I don’t have to keep going back to my silly cardigan and jeans combo~

    Thanks again ^_^

  22. 22
    October 3rd, 2011 at 12:50 am

    Very nice outfits. They all seem so comfortable and relaxed while still looking fashionable.

  23. 23
    October 3rd, 2011 at 12:51 am

    Maxi skirts are a great option, and I’m often awed by the girls in my school who dress modestly and wear a hijab because they dress so beautifully! The modesty requires different silhouettes and creativity that really stand out among all the frankly annoying “booty skirts” and leggings.
    I have to dress modestly for a trip to Japan coming up where I will be in a conservative setting, so this is helpful to me too. Thanks for a great post!

  24. 24
    October 3rd, 2011 at 3:05 am

    Having lived in a Muslim country, I have the a lot of tolerance for women who cover up. However, something still irks me about any religion that dictates how women should dress.

  25. 25
    October 3rd, 2011 at 4:09 am

    I love all the outfits. It shows that you don’t have to show your skin to look cute and stylish.

  26. 26
    October 3rd, 2011 at 4:36 am

    not my fav looks but i do like the 1st outfit

  27. 27
    October 3rd, 2011 at 11:21 am

    I love these outfits! I especially like the maxi skirt, which I think is a must have and is very fashionable. I really like the colorful jeans too, although I would prefer a pair of coral or red jeans!

  28. 28
    October 3rd, 2011 at 11:22 am

    @Anelis.

    I totally get where you are coming from but I think Western society does the same thing to women, just in a more subtle fashion. Regardless of the weather, women are expected to dress in revealing clothes and high heels to appeal to men.

    I wear Docs every day (mostly because they’re comfortable and sturdy and partially out of habit), like I can’t even remember the last time I wore heels or ballet flats. I get flax for that even though the rest of my attire is quite feminine- miniskirts, dresses, fitted tops and long flowing hair.

    So although I don’t agree with requiring women to cover up when the same isn’t asked of men, I do think that Western society has a very rigid attitude towards how women dress and it’s just as damaging.

  29. 29
    October 3rd, 2011 at 11:29 am

    well, this post is really nice, I can relate in many ways.
    regarding the 1st outfit, it’s really nice, but the idea of getting a colorful jeans frightens me a lot, I never think I can pull it off…
    I also have a peach colored maxi skirt, so that gave me another way of dressing it up, I never thought it could be wearable to converse shoes though. :)

  30. 30
    October 3rd, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    I also think the first two looks of rhe Amelia Erhart post are pretty modest and fashionable

  31. 31
    October 3rd, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    Dear CF,
    I am a freshman and absolutely love your blog. I love wearing simple plain tees I just don’t know how to make my outfits not look plain all the time. I usually just wear them with jeans. I usually just wear spearys and I just got a cute pain of riding boots. I want to know how to not look so plain while still keeping it affordable.

    Thank you,
    Too plain

  32. 32
    October 3rd, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    I like this post and agree with Stephanie’s tips too! Dressing modestly is super classy :) One question I have is- I tend to get cold easily, is it a little lame to always style short dresses with tights and cardigans?

  33. 33
    October 3rd, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    I was so excited when I saw the title! love the concept. Was disappointed, though, that only one outfit incorporated a skirt.
    Can you do a part two, focusing on modest skirt/ top combos? and maybe even scout some modest dresses from wherever they have been hiding? I, for one, don’t wear pants, and I know many girls who don’t.

    And I agree that modest and dowdy HAVE NOTHING TO DO with each other.
    one could show tons of skin and look horrible, cheap and tacky. On the other hand, I know some girls and women who dress modestly and well. They can look just- or even more- beautiful. The trick is to make it look intentional, not “Cant help it I gotta”

  34. 34
    October 3rd, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    I love love love those jeans, but the link for them isn’t working for me, can anybody post it? Thanks!

  35. 35
    October 3rd, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    I love that you did this! I too prefer to dress modestly, so this article was awesome. I love how you played with bottoms–colored, maxi skirts, etc. I would love to see more of this!

  36. 36
    October 3rd, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    I agree with those above that mentioned Mormon bloggers…I’m not Mormon, I’m Catholic so though we don’t have any explicit requirements, we are encouraged to dress modestly. i especially like thedaybookblog.com and http://wearingitonmysleeves.blogspot.com/ both girls are Mormon and have excellent style. I also find their blogs fascinating from a lifestyle perspective, as both girls married while still in college, so it’s cool to read about their atypical college experiences.

  37. 37
    October 3rd, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    For once wearable clothes ! kudos.

  38. 38
    October 3rd, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    There are tons of inspiration from vintage wear, particularly from eras where women dressed a lot more conservatively.

  39. 39
    October 3rd, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    I love this post! Because of my faith (I’m Catholic), while I am not required per se to dress modestly, it is HIGHLY advised and always encouraged! Modesty is such a beautiful virtue and this year I have been embracing modest fashion. I must say, while it may be limiting in some respects, it’s much more comfortable! Never needing to worry about whether or not a skirt is too short, pants are too tight or whether or not my girls are gratuitously on display. To keep it cute and looking less like a nun I have embraced bright maxi-dresses, maxi skirts and I am celebrating the return of the midi! Jazz things up with colourful shoes, accessories and scarves. Go crazy with your make up! I am having so much fun diving into my own creativity while respecting my body and my dignity!

  40. 40
    October 3rd, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    @Elle – I would wear all 3 of these outfits and i’m Muslim, these clothes are perfectly acceptable religious-wise. The third outfit is not really my style though, but that’s a different story!

    I love the first outfit the most – I feel inspired to buy some colorful skinnies now!

  41. 41
    October 3rd, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    Fantastic. I think we need more posts like this. Not because the outfits features on CF aren’t awesome, but because sometimes it’s just too cold to wear shorts and skirts – even with tights! (I live in Wales and rainy season is…well, all year round. Boo!)

  42. 42
    October 3rd, 2011 at 11:40 pm

    Thanks CF! I think this post helped more than a few of us. ;)
    I’m Christian and like to dress modestly, not just because of my beliefs, but because I don’t WANT to be objectified by men. I consider myself an old-school feminist in the way that women’s way of dressing shouldn’t be dictated by giving lustful men some eye candy.
    That said, I LOVE these outfits, especially the first one! I agree with the other Leah, could you do a part 2 with more dresses and skirts? Even better, are there some non-maxi skirts that aren’t really short? I can only find them at Goodwill. :)

  43. 43
    October 4th, 2011 at 12:16 am

    Love these outfits and love this post!! These definitely fit my modesty standards! And way cute!! You can always dress fashionably AND modestly at the same time ;D

  44. 44
    October 4th, 2011 at 12:53 am

    Hi! can you help me get mischa bartons(marissa cooper) look from “The O.C.” i love that show. even though its over i think her style is so amazing! please help me!

  45. 45
    October 4th, 2011 at 3:07 am

    oh yeah i second the motion to get mischa bartin (marissa cooper) inspired look on cf

  46. 46
    October 4th, 2011 at 4:26 am

    Thank you so much for this post. As a Muslim who despairs of finding fashionable yet modest clothing I really appreciate the help:) Although I don’t completely cover up I still prefer looser and longer options in outfits.

    You know what drives me crazy though? The total lack of modest evening dresses. I can never find a pretty sleeved/maxi evening gown in the shops. I would really love it if you could post some suggestions. I know others who have the same problem, some of them like me and others because they are self concious about parts of the body and feel that covering them would be more flattering.

    Thank you!

  47. 47
    October 4th, 2011 at 10:23 am

    I have no reason to dress modestly, but these are great outfits for fall or for those who do wish to dress modestly. Great article!

  48. 48
    October 4th, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    I really love all of these looks–they’re so classic, fashion forward, and yet, modest. I’m tall(ish) at 5’7 so I have to worry about certain hemlines that would look fine on one of my shorter friends but show too much leg on me for a class room setting. I really love the first look–and I think these outfits are really easy to make from pieces already in most of our closets.

  49. 49
    October 4th, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    great post n great outfits. another option i wud have included wuda been like a maxi dress maybe w a jean jacket or sumthing

  50. 50
    October 4th, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    @AnnieK – It’s always hard to know who wears what, my friend is a Pakistani Muslim and she doesn’t wear pants, so I suppose each family tradition is different. I’m Jewish, and although I never used to dress modestly, as I grew older I now only wear skirts that cover my knees and elbows, like the more tradition Orthodox women wear. Getting into dressing modestly really makes a girl feel pretty deep down because, (for me at least) I know guys (and girls!) look at me in a different light when I am covered up, and it is a good feeling.

  51. 51
    October 5th, 2011 at 1:58 am

    Woah guys, thank you so much for the feedback! I have read each and every comment & I am so happy that we can all get involved in this discussion together. A few comments:

    As many of you have mentioned, there are so many things you can do to dress modestly. Blazers, maxi-dresses, vintage styles, menswear, etc. are all great suggestions that I considered for this post too but didn’t add in. Looking back I think it would have been good to mention, so I’m so happy that you guys did!

    For those of you who shared blogs: I really enjoyed looking at these! They were great suggestions, so thank you!

    Ali: Definitely not! Tights and cardigans with dresses give you so many opportunities to play with textures, patterns, and layering — something that is definitely not lame!

    Here is the link for the pants. Sorry that it wasn’t correct earlier: http://shop.nordstrom.com/s/fire-skinny-stretch-denim-jeans-juniors/3231001?origin=category&resultback=2064

    Again, thank you all so much for your responses! I really enjoy hearing everyone’s thoughts and opinions.

  52. 52
    October 5th, 2011 at 4:53 am

    This post was really helpful. I always have trouble finding modest evening dresses for Balls and other events, so if you could do a post on modest evening dresses that would be highly appreciated!

    Part 2 of this post would be great too! The clothes look amazing :)

  53. 53
    October 5th, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    I’ve been wanting to ask this question on CF myself, and so I was happy to see this post. I’m Catholic, not Muslim, and so don’t necessarily need to cover up from wrist to ankle. Dressing modestly but fashionably is still somewhat of a challenge, though. I would love to see more help on this from CF!

  54. 54
    October 10th, 2011 at 4:45 am

    Ooh, I’m liking that second outfit. :) And, a post on modest evening dresses would be much appreciated by me as well!

    Mm, to contribute to influences on what women wear (religion or ‘Western’ or otherwise), what we’ve got to realize is: Everything we come across will influence us in some way or another. Everything. Some things are more direct, like a religion dictating what women should and should not wear; other things are more subtle, like Western society’s views (as has been mentioned).

    For example, I dress predominantly in skirts, dresses and shorts–seldom to the knees, though often with tights underneath–but I do not do it to please men. Nor do I wear heels to please men (I just buy ones that are extremely comfortable, haha). They just happen to be what I feel most comfortable wearing. I generally don’t like the feel of pants or long dresses, so I don’t wear them (pj pants and formal and ‘princess’ dresses are exceptions). I haven’t got around to making more knee-length skirts, though I hope I will once my course load dies down a bit. I wear bows in my hair when I want to, curl it when I feel like it, and drool over shoes and bags I find adorable. I am proud to call myself a woman. And I will damn well freak out over an adorable plushie or china doll or pack of stationary (etc.) that I find in a store.

    Am I being influenced by Western society’s views of what is ‘normal’? Yes. Am I being controlled by it? No. I’m being myself. To me, choosing to forsake certain items simply to ‘rebel’ against what are perceived as society’s norms is to be influenced just as negatively as blindly following what are perceived as society’s norms is. We all need to make our own decisions. If that means dressing modestly because you respect your religion’s dress code, props to you; if that means rocking a leather mini skirt and leopard-print spike heels because you feel like it, props to you; if that means wearing jeans and a t-shirt every day because they’re comfy and you don’t want to wear anything else to sit through a full day of lectures, props to you; if . . . well, you can see where I’m going with this. ;)

  55. 55
    October 15th, 2011 at 9:10 am

    This is awesome !!!! I mainly get my fashion source from here . Cosidering I’m only 13 and I love the fashion and beauty tips . It also helps because I’m in middle high

  56. 56
    December 1st, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    I am so glad for this post! I wish each and every post would be just like this!!!! I absolutely love the outfits!

  57. 57
    May 3rd, 2012 at 10:42 pm

    Most everything on here is modest but the gray jeans or pants, are SKIN TIGHT. And the shorts are TOO short to. Neither of those are modest.

  58. 58
    June 8th, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    For Ask CF I was wondering if you could do a post on alternatives to skinny jeans?…

    How to style boot-cut/flared jeans, or boyfriend jeans? What shoes would you would wear with them and how to look fashionable in them?

    This would be great as I don’t feel comfortable in skinny jeans as I’m a hourglass figure and I’m sure other girls feel the same way I do :S

    Thank-you :] xxx

  59. 59
    November 25th, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    This post is awesome for two reasons in my eyes: 1) I live in the UK and we’ve had about 3 days of sun this year, and 2) I like to dress modestly cause I like to leave stuff to the imagination (and I can nicely cover up the body bits I don’t like :P) I’ve been taking some inspiration from Kate Middleton recently, as she’s required to be modest for her role

    I’m glad that it can be fashionable to dress modestly.

  60. 60
    January 31st, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    Oh how lovely are the suggestions!!!! I have to dress modestly due to
    religious beliefs and honouring my father, so the ideas were awesome.
    I am a sporty student, doing my studies, playing sport, and working in Jack wills in the weekends, Jack wlls gives me a lot of ispiration for clothes, but
    your post ispect. thank you, lols Mellissa

  61. 61
    January 31st, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    Thank you for the post. The outfit ideas were so lovely.
    I have to dress modestly due to religious beliefs and honouring my husband.
    All the ideas were fab. I used to be stuck in the rut with plain jeans and jumpers, And i thought modesty an fashion were two different things, but this
    post showed me you can look gorgeous and dress modestly at the same time. I am a sporty personality and I am forever running around, so dresses arent really suitible for me. I wear jeans and pants a lot as I ride my bike a lot
    and i also run around and play sport. And I always dress modestly.
    thank you so much for the post. all my love Hilary

  62. 62
    March 25th, 2014 at 5:20 am

    im muslim and love modest clothing

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