Dressing Chic, But Modest

Prince William and Kate Middleton at the Mandela PremiereFeaturing: Kate MiddletonWhere: London, United KingdomWhen: 05 Dec 2013Credit: WENN.comIn a culture where dressing risqué is all the rage, dressing modestly seems to suggest a prudish, old-fashioned mentality.

Yes, there will be moments when you want to flaunt what you’ve got. Confidence, personality, skin and all.

But for most of us, not every moment requires the goal of seduction. And, as any young professional can attest, finding conservative, affordable business casual clothes that can transition to happy hour or a dressy dinner can be a difficult task when crop tops, underwear as outerwear and the mini-est of miniskirts are in vogue.

There is a creative art to dressing both chic and modestly. Here, we glean inspiration from a startup website, Downton Abbey and runway collections inspired by the 1940s to prove you don’t have to sacrifice fashion or figure-flattering forms for the sake of being conservative.


Trendier than Gap. Less flashy than American Apparel. More affordable basics than J.Crew and Theory. Everlane, which has offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco, tries to be transparent about the true cost and nature of apparel and accessories, from factory production to final product. Because products are sold only online, there’s no overhead from retail stores inflating the price.

So far, Everlane only sells tops. But you can get a silk button-downs ranging in colors ranging from soft rose to navy and marine for $80. The shirts come with a flap over the buttons, perfect for those times when you have to bend over but don’t need the world to see your bra peeking through the button gap. (Ugh, button gaps!) Ingenious.

1920s sequin dresses

Sequined slip dresses inspired by the 1920s offer the best of both worlds: a dress that won’t cling to your hips like a bodycon but still stamps a fashion statement with eye-catching sequins. The 20s were still a conservative era, and many of the dresses simply hung from the shoulders to the hemline without much structure. But the beauty lay in the intricate beadwork of flapper dresses. And their influence is still very much alive today, such as this stunning Emilio Pucci midnight-blue evening gown.

If only we could all have elegant dresses like Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey. Oh wait, one day we can!

1940s hourglass

In the spring, a host of designers sent 1940s hourglass silhouettes trotting down the runways of fall/winter collections. Bottega Veneta and Prada, for example, accentuated the woman’s body not by baring skin, but by complementing her curves with cinched waists and fitted knee-length dresses.

Take a cue about classic, conservative fashion from the postwar-inspired collage of prints and modest dresses in this Marc by Marc Jacobs collection. Pair a knee-length skirt with a blouse, and pull the look together with an understated waist-belt. Or, kick it up a notch by wearing a neck-high, short-sleeved dress with a big, bold print.

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