I remember the excitement when burqini was the Macquarie Dictionary’s Word of the Year in 2011. It was originally designed for Muslim women to allow them to go swimming when they went to the beach without breaking any of their religious dress conventions. But then we discovered that the burqini worked for other women as well, particularly since skin cancer is a real problem in Australia so that exposing your skin to the sun on the beach is never a good idea. Leaving sunburn aside, there are those who like the aesthetic of white-as-white skin and who want to protect their skin from all possibility of tanning.
This progression has also occurred in the more general concept of modest fashion. Those who don’t want to follow the current fashion trends towards more and more revealing attire feel that they are left with very few clothing choices. The internet has made it possible for enterprising people to offer stylish clothes to those who wish to be modest in their dress, bypassing the mainstream outlets. The response has been enormous. Gradually others have latched on to this fashion movement, not for religious reasons but because they like the modest aesthetic. What exactly is meant by ‘modest’ is open to interpretation, and ranges from discreet attire to a full cover-up, but it is defined really by contrast with the clothing style that leaves nothing to the imagination.