Modest Fashion*

*An international phenomenon in art and fashion.

21 September 2019 to 9 February 2020

It is something new and a billion-dollar industry; something you have may never have heard about even though you may already be wearing it: modest fashion. As the first museum in the Netherlands we present this international fashion phenomenon together with work from contemporary designers, combined with contemporary art.

The creations by this cutting edge of designers are fashionable and covered. Worn by women, religious or not, who do not wish to participate in the ‘aesthetics of nudity’. Where the miniskirt was once regarded as a feminist statement, modern women wish to be free and decide for themselves how to show themselves to the world: make up your own mind! Modest Fashion is therefore not about the question ‘covererd or not?’, but about freedom of choice and creativity of women everywhere. The exhibition marks the 100th  anniversary of female suffrage in the Netherlands, and at the same time celebrates the fact that 100 years ago the first woman took a seat in the Town Council of Schiedam.

From black and white to colour

The exhibition Modest Fashion combines fun and fashion, links up perfectly with  with the zeitgeist and – on top of that – is something to feast one’s eyes on. Designer Said Mahrouf selected the outfits for the exhibition and created three designs especially for this Museum. He selected many fashion looks with pictures and videos van big fashion houses and independent labels. The styles differ from minimalistic to exuberant. From fashion brand Bouguessa with a black-and-white design that refers to the minimalistic art of Jene Highstein. Opposite of that is Karl Lagerfeld. He designed an outfit for Chanel with multiple layers with prints inspired by traditional Moroccan patterns.

Cultural exchange

Modest Fashion is a contemporary phenomenon, and has risen in popularity in the past few years. For her recent series Hijab in Transition Perrine Philomeen got inspired by a woman with a traditional headscarf (hijab) with Adidas-cap. Meryem Slimani styles herself and her mother; fashionable and futuristic. At the same time it fits within a long history of cultural exchange. In the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Dutch wore a hooded cloak, a coat that could cover them from head to toe. Sometimes men wore them as well. The cloak has an Arabic-Andalusian origin: the ‘haik’.


Especially for Modest Fashion, guest curators Rajae El Mouhandiz and Alexandra van Dongen combined fashion items with artworks. El Mouhandiz is a Dutch-Moroccan artistic jack of all trades from Rotterdam. In the spring of 2019 she toured the Netherlands with her theatre show Thuis, Ontheemd #2. Art historian Alexandra van Dongen is design curator at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen and compiled different exhibitions in other museums as a guest curator, for example Powermask, in conjunction with fashion designer Walter van Beirendonck. ‘We live in the era of choice’, explains El Mouhandiz. ‘A woman is no longer just a muse, she is also a creator.’ She refers to research by Mama Cash earlier this year: only 13% of the art in Dutch museums is made by women.

Humour, sensuality, minimalism

The fashion items in the exhibition are chosen by Said Mahrouf. Born in Marocco, he was raised in the Netherlands, after which he studied in Amsterdam and New York. He has been professionally active in Casablanca since 2011. His work look minimalistic and sensual. Some designers he selected for the exhibition are characterized by humour, others try to explore the frontiers of sensuality. Sometimes there are aesthetic similarities.


With their fashion brand The Row the American twin sisters Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen were important for the modest fashion trend. They became world-famous as child stars in the popular television series Full House. Modest fashion as a phenomenon also is also gaining in popularity in Hollywood, Vogue wrote the other day. An example is superstar Taylor Swift, who is spotted regularly in modest fashion. ‘Some people think that women are forced to dress modestly, but it is fun and you no longer have to think that men see you as a sex object all the time’, an American designer explains in the magazine.

Participating fashion designers and -houses

Kionna van Aanholt, Saliha Bouiadi, Bouguessa, Hussein Chalayan, Jonathan Christopher, Chanel, Dior, Lisa Folawiyo, F R E N K E N, Maison Rabih Kayrouz, Kayat, Layeur, Said Mahrouf, The Row, Christian Wijnants

Participating artists

Fida Al Hussan, Alia Ali, Anida Yoeu Ali, Anouk, Yael Bartana, Amina Benbouchta, Carolle Benitah, Jean Besancenot, Jenny Boot, Meriem Bouderbala, Yasmina Bouziane, Wilhelmina Cooper, Iris van Dongen, Alicia Framis, Shadi Ghadirian, Maïmouna Guerresi, Neelam Hakeem, Mona Haydar, Wenceslaus Hollar, Suzanne Jongmans, Hayv Kahraman, Lola Keyezua, Fatima Mazmouz, Aïda Muluneh, Shirin Neshat, Irving Penn, Perrine Philomeen, Shahzia Sikander, Meryem Slimani, Newsha Tavakolian, Ambrosius Visscher/Jacobus van der Hoeven


The Museum’s fringe events aim to connect people from different cultural and religious backgrounds. This is in line with the ‘My Schiedam’ programme, for which the Museum cooperates with local residents.

In view of this new method of working, the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam has been selected as one of five museums (and the only non-English language organization) for the ‘first wave’ of the international project OFFBYFORALL.

Many thanks are due to