Behind the Scenes: Shopping Picks for Modest Style

modest style

I recently started working with a new client who is quite different than all of the clients I have worked with before.  As it was explained to me, my client is quite religious and has a very modest style.  She’s is part of an extremely small Christian faith where the dress code for women is very conservative.  Don’t bother guessing because I promise you will never figure it out.  In addition to the expected dressing requirements, like no low cut tops or super short skirts or dresses,  my client also doesn’t wear pants, sleeveless tops or jewelry to church, or in everyday life.  For church, which she attends on a daily basis, she wears headscarves.

Out of respect for privacy, like with all my clients, I will not reveal any more about my client’s religious beliefs or information not relevant to this post.  To protect her name, as in all cases when I talk about my clients on my blog, I will give her an alias, Mrs. Vibrant.  I decided to name her Mrs. Vibrant because she has such a sunny, happy and absolutely delightful personality that makes you feel like you have known her forever.  Needless to say, Mrs. Vibrant and I had an instant bond.

I partially blame the media for this, but when we think of people with strict religious observances, many people are quick to judge these types of people involved simply because they look or dress differently, believe things that the mainstream doesn’t or primarily keep to themselves.  It’s true, many religious sects do have their own ways that often come across as secretive, and, as we all know, secrecy creates suspicion.   Even I, upon meeting my client, was incredibly curious and asked a lot of questions.  Part of that was for work purposes and the other part was simply out of typical human curiosity.  My client couldn’t have been more open and willing to share.  I feel so grateful that my work opens me up to meet such a wide variety of people I wouldn’t have the opportunity to connect with otherwise.

Yet, I learned quickly that it wasn’t just the interesting modest style that was really going to make working with Mrs. Vibrant a challenge.  Like any other woman, Mrs. Vibrant comes with her own set of body challenges.  A mother of four with a tummy leftover from childbirth, in her late thirties, about five foot tall, with a large chest and curves is enough to make the average stylist’s head spin.  Adding a layer of religious dressing rules was simply the icing on the cake.  While some might freak, I got really excited to take this on.

Last week Mrs. Vibrant and I went shopping during the Lord & Taylor Friends and Family sale.  They run this sale a few times a year and December is the best of them all, offering 30% off just about everything in the store.  The sale ends the 15th if you want to check it out.  I decided to show some of Mrs. Vibrant bought.  If you look through the pieces, you’ll see there is nothing out of the ordinary or not what any typical woman might buy.  In fact, I have had quite a few clients buy many of the pieces Mrs. Vibrant did, proving that just because someone has a modest style they don’t have to look any different or like some crazy church lady.  All you will see below is a lack of pants, jewelry, overly skimpy clothes or anything too short.  There is nothing weird about that.

What you will also find are amazing shoes.  Mrs. Vibrant and I had a great laugh when I went through her closet a few weeks ago.  While most of her clothing was modest, her shoes were off the hook cool.  As Mrs. Vibrant explained to me, “My shoes are the only place I can have a little fun.”  Religious gals can have fun too.  Let’s take a look at some of my client’s picks.

Shopping Picks for Modest Style

Skirts

modest style

  1. Ellen Tracy High Waist Pencil Skirt 2. Vince Camuto Stretch Pencil Skirt 3. Ivanka Trump Cropped Knit Sweater 4. Ivanka Trump Ribbed Flare Skirt 5. Ivanka Trump Crewneck Textured Sweater 6. Ivanka Trump Striped Knit Pencil Skirt 7. Nic & Zoe Windowpane Twirl Skirt 8. Nic & Zoe Geometric Printed Skirt

I am starting with skirts because they are not only important in a wardrobe that restricts pants, I was hit with an additional challenge; Mrs. Vibrant told me she prefers skirts in knit or that have stretch and can be pulled on.  I didn’t even know if I would find one, let alone several.  Knit skirts with stretchy waistbands can be like finding a golden unicorn.  However, I fortunately hit the motherlode of knit skirts.  All of them above are stretchy with the exception of the first style, and this doesn’t even include the styles that I was unable to find online.  For non-church activities, Mrs. Vibrant can choose skirts that this the knee, for church all of her skirts need to be right below the knee point.

Cardigans

modest style

  1. Nic & Zoe Pixel Pop Cardigan 2. T Tahari Open Front Knit Sweater 3. Nipon Boutique Ribbe Open Front Cardigan 4. Rafaella Basic Cardigan 5. Eileen Fisher Long Sleeve Knit Cardigan , Eileen Fisher Knit Pencil Skirt 6. Nic & Zoe Four Way Cardigan in Mushroom 7. Nic & Zoe Perfect Tank in Mushroom 8. Nic & Zoe Open Cardigan in Oxide 9. Nic & Zoe Perfect Tank in Oxide 10. Nic & Zoe Open Cardigan in Wild Blue 11. Nic & Zoe Perfect Tank in Wild Blue 12. Nic & Zoe Open Cardigan in Black 13. Nic & Zoe Perfect Stretch Tank 14. T Tahari Textured Crop Cardigan

Selecting as many cardigans as we did had more to do with Mrs. Vibrant’s body shape than it did with her modest style.  Being larger chested and quite broad in the back, yet with narrow shoulders, most jackets made Mrs. Vibrant look like a football player.  We needed to go softer and with layering pieces that skimmed her body more closely to give her more shape.

It was also important to choose cardigan styles that had enough shape in the waist or were short enough to be worn with skirts.  We were thrilled to find style #5, a matching cardigan and knit skirt from Eileen Fisher, and no surprise, Mrs. Vibrant loved Nic & Zoe’s four way cardigans with matching tanks.  Everyone loves these tank/cardigan sets.

Tops

Modest Style

  1. Lauren Ralph Lauren Stretch Cotton Boat Neck Tee in ivory, grey and black 2. Nic & Zoe Dotty Jacquard Top 3. MICHAEL Michael Kors Leopard Print Top 4. T Tahari Button-Front Blouse 

Tops were probably the hardest items to find for Mrs. Vibrant.  So many tops are relaxed these days making it really hard to find styles that complement skirts.  If you ever watched an episode of 19 Kids and Counting you know what I mean.  The long sleeve boat next tops from Lauren Ralph Lauren were a great find and the leopard top worked beautifully with slim pencil skirts when worn with heels due to the elastic bottom that gave it some cool retro shape with a skirt.

Dresses

modest style

  1. Donna Morgan Bell Sleeve Sheath Dress 2. Lafayette 148 Stretch Sheath Dress 3. T Tahari Fitted Sheath Dress 4. T Tahari Cali Sheath Dress 5. Tommy Hilfiger Ribbed Short Sleeve Shift Dress

These were a few of the dresses that Mrs. Vibrant purchased.  Being petite, thankfully, the length of all these dresses were church appropriate.  Even better, all the dresses, but one, had sleeves.  Dress number 4, which Mrs. Vibrant purchased in black and navy, worked perfectly with the jewel neck cardigan #14 above.

Tunics

modest

  1. Eileen Fisher High-Low Tunic 2. Eileen Fisher Textured Long Sleeve Tunic 3. Eileen Fisher Boatneck 3/4 Sleeve Tunic

This is where it got really interesting with Mrs. Vibrant.  While cleaning out her closet she mentioned that if she could find tunics long enough to pass as looking like dresses and could wear with leggings that would be a suitable substitute for casual days when not at church.  Eileen Fisher came immediately to mind and we scooped up these three tunic styles.

Shoes

modest style

  1. Ivanka Trump Tabithe Kid Suede Fringe Flats 2. Marc Fisher Suede Flats 3. Aquatalia Evelina Boots 4. Aquatalia Rumbah Boots 5. Jessica Simpson Ronica Wedge Booties 6. Nine West Brienne Ankle Boots  7. Me Too Almond Toe Ankle Boots 8. B Atwood Karina Velvet Pumps in nude and black 9. Nine West Brielyn Suede Pumps 10. Sam Edelman Hazel Suede Pumps 11. MICHAEL Michael Kors Jennings Suede Pumps 12. Jessica Simpson Tanysha Pumps 13. Aquatalia Rochelle Booties

I saved the best for last.  As I mentioned before, shoes were where we could have a lot of fun.  And, as you can see, we did.  Mrs. Vibrant bought four pairs of Aquatalia boots which aren’t cheap.  However, with the Friends and Family sale going on, she got 30% off each pair.  Aquatalia boots are not only waterproof, they are insulated and super stylish and very comfortable.  If you have the means I highly recommend them, especially when you can get them on sale.  As for the rest of the shoes, well take a look, I am sure you’ll find a few pairs you would love to add to your closet.

If you are someone who dresses in a more modest style or just prefers a more conservative way of dress, these shopping picks definitely prove that you don’t have to skimp on style.

  • Etta

    Very interesting! I have similar needs, although for different reasons (as a teacher of teenage boys I think it’s important to not even approach inappropriate dress- but I still like to be feminine). Thanks for posting on a topic that isn’t that well covered:)

    • You are welcome! You’re right, it’s not a well covered topic at all. I think most people equate modesty with boring, uptight or unstylish, which it doesn’t have to be. I also think that few people who blog actually have much client experience, let alone experience with a type of client who has needs like this. While it can take a decent amount of focus, there is actually a lot out there for the modest-minded.

  • Thank you for this! Modesty is my number one priority when choosing my wardrobe, and I know I am not the only one by any means.

    • You are so welcome and I am glad to hear this post was helpful!

  • Janna Guerdet

    I am tall, curvy, and cusp sized (14-16) . I wear the same type of clothing (I do wear jewelry), but for different reasons. I just find them more flattering to my figure. Pencil skirts and Sheath dresses with stretch to them are my norm and much easier to fit than pants. Thanks so much for this article. People make comments all the time about my not wearing pants. I really just don’t like them, the pants that is, the comments just irk me : ) Any posts about longer skirts as an alternative to pants (purchasing, styling, capsule planning) are much appreciated. Thank you!

    • Hi Janna, I find more and more women avoiding pants. I tend to wear jeans casually or when working with clients and wear dresses when I have to get dressed up. I don’t own any tailored pants because I hate the way they look on me and have no real reason to own them.
      Longer maxi skirts have just not bee that popular for fall and winter lately so it’s hard to do a capsule post on them. However, I am sure the trend will change at some point and when the time comes I will be more than happy to cover the topic!!

      • Janna Guerdet

        I probably should have been more specific when I said longer. The right above or below the knee length skirts and dresses in this post are great. Sadly that seems to be considered “longer” these days. I love many of your articles but this was a favorite. Thank you.

        • Oh, gotcha! I was thinking the maxi skirts we all wore in the 90’s. Remember those? Lately I have been loving the midi pencil length. A lot of my clients these days ask for just below the knee. It’s just more sophisticated when you are over 40. You just have to be careful not to have that midi hemmed to the widest part of your calves and at least a small heel is necessary.

    • tgchi13

      Woman, I am size 4 when wet and pencil skirts and sheaths are what I WANT to wear when I can. I wear pants and jeans to protect my legs from occupational hazards.

      You are not alone!

  • Lauren

    I just snorted reading your comment that modesty wasn’t a “well covered topic”… haha! Too funny!

    I like dressing modestly… just because shirts that gap when I lean over and show my bra are such a pet peeve. And as for skirt length… I just feel more proportional with a longer, to right above the knee at the shortest, skirt. Plus I hate a skirt that rides WAAAAY up when I bend over.

    Functionality leads to modesty for me… plus I like a Victorian look. High buttoned necklines, mini pleats, sweepingly long skirts, narrow waists… it’s an aestestic that appeals to me -with a modern spin on it to keep it from looking costumey.

    • Hahaha, “well covered topic”. That’s funny. I have a funny and totally embarrassing story when I was at a book signing at a store in Florida. I was wearing a pencil skirt with a slit up the back. As I bent down I completely mooned the entire store. A woman walked up to me and told me what I was doing. Mortifying!

  • em

    I am boycotting Ivanka Trump’s mercantile products and any website that promotes them.

    • These were the selections of a client not mine. Personally, I don’t purchase Ivanka Trump clothing, although I have in the past, but no longer do. I have clients who won’t buy her clothing and I support their right to do so. I also support a client’s feelings feel otherwise and who do purchase clothing from Ivanka. I do not push my feelings on the topic either way. It’s simply not my place to.

    • LoriM

      Wow.