Being fashionable can be enough of a challenge for women. So imagine the difficulty for women who want to dress in stylish modest clothes.

Being fashionable can be enough of a challenge for women. So imagine the difficulty for women who want to dress in stylish modest clothes.

Trendy clothing is, after all, mostly about showing off what you have — not covering it up.

For Zahra Aljabri, a 33-year-old Muslim woman born in Atlanta and raised in Ventura County, California, finding the right clothes — fashionable but not revealing — has been a routine predicament.

“It’s not just a preference that I prefer to wear clothing this length; it’s a requirement,” she said.

And not just for her.

“For a lot of Muslim women, being able to fit in and to look like they’re wearing clothes at the mall, it’s something they really relish,” Aljabri said. “They want to be able to balance their faith and their home country or the country they came to adopt. They’re wanting to find those pieces that reflect both aspects of their identity.”

The former attorney decided to do something about it.

In 2012, Aljabri co-launched with her husband, James Faghmous, the online boutique, which sells long-sleeve shirts, loose pants, maxi skirts, et al — some of which she designed — and has links to other online stores.

These clothes aren’t just for Muslim women, but for women of all backgrounds.

Aljabri said she often hears from Christians, Jews, and others thrilled to find fashionable clothes in a range of coverage styles at and through her Mode-sty shop.

Inclusivity is the message she’s bringing to Toledo this weekend with her interfaith modest fashion show and presentation, Modesty: A Reflection of True Beauty, at 2 p.m. Saturday in the Basil Goes Activity Building at Christ the King Catholic Church, 4100 Harvest Lane. For admission, bring a nonperishable food item or package of diapers to be donated to the US Together Refugee program in Toledo, which serves more than 30 refugee families. She will also meet with local Syrian refugee women that evening.

“That’s what I love to do, to bring women together across all faiths. I’m going to speak to that and what I hope will naturally occur is just relaying the commonality that women share in general.”

The oldest of three children born to Kenyan immigrants — her father is an engineer and her mother works in accounting — Aljabri grew up in one of the few black households in a mostly white Los Angeles suburb, and in one of only four Muslim families.

As a teenager she wore loose-fitting T-shirts and jeans. And just before her freshman year at UCLA, she began wearing a headscarf. Her choice of clothing grew more modest as she further explored and learned more about her faith.

To Aljabri, her fashion style isn’t so much of a statement as it is an extension of who she is. She says it’s a vastly underserved market.

“My dream when I moved to New York was to work with brands and work with designers to get them to offer modest lines they way they do with plus-size and smaller-size lines,” she said.

So far, that hasn’t happened, despite a growing demand that one recent Reuters story estimated could be worth $480 billion for Muslim apparel alone by 2019.

“People have acknowledged the market and are receptive to the idea in theory,” she said, “but modesty has a lot of negative connotations. Designers have perceptions of who their market is and [the market for modest fashion] hasn’t materialized into anything.”

Meanwhile, Mode-sty benefits from word-of-mouth and social media among women desperate to dress in ways that say so much by revealing so little.

“I’m looking for modern, trendy, contemporary, beautiful clothes you could see a celebrity wearing,” she said. “My style icon is Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge. She wears beautiful but mostly modest pieces. She looks fantastic, she looks beautiful, and that’s the type of clothing I’m looking for.”

Contact Kirk Baird at or 419-724-6734.


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