WHY MODESTY MATTERS
Mimi Hecht and Mushky Notik, co-owners of Brooklyn-based modest clothing boutique, Mimu Maxi, bonded over their love for fashion and on-trend dressing. With Mimi’s knack for oversized styles and prints, along with Mushky’s eye for menswear, the Mi and Mu of Mimu are designing up a storm. Along with timeless pieces, the duo also let their “com-mimu-nity” of women around the world help vote on designs. Hecht and Notik, are sisters-in-law and members of Brooklyn’s tight-knit Orthodox Jewish community, who started Mimu Maxi because they were sick of “the lack of modest-yet-fashionable clothing options” available to them. The line not only appeals to the Orthodox Jewish, but also non-orthodox women who wear modest clothing for religious reasons and women who strive to stand within strict codes of modesty. The Mimu Maxi’s line of long skirts and below the knee long airy tops really pertains to girls that like to stay up to trend, while keeping it covered.
Modesty has been and continues to be considered important in Islamic society, but the interpretation of what clothing is considered modest varies. The holy book of Islam, the Qur’an states that women should dress modestly to showcase their personality, not their body. Orthodox and ultra-orthodox Jewish women usually wear skirts to their knees, with blouses covering the collarbone and sleeves coming to or covering elbows. Although it is hard for most women and men to abide by these rules, they do so in the most respectful way possible. For both Mimi and Mushky, finding clothing that covered their elbows, knees and collarbone was the first step (or essential)—and their preference was hard to find. This led them to create their Mimu Maxi line.
Mimu Maxi is also all about their love for their customers and creating a community, but they could not have predicted what one repost of a customer would spark. They came across fashion blogger, Summer Albarcha, who runs the popular Hipster Hijabis Instagram and thought they would send her their signature skirt to see what she would pair it with. Summer Albarcha’s Instagram is dedicated to showcasing Muslim women sporting “trendy yet modest fashion,” so she was definitely the right candidate to showcase Mimu Maxi’s clothing. Being a Muslim, Summer sticks to her faith when it comes to her fashion style, while still showcasing her passion for style on her Instagram page. After receiving the gorgeous lime-green skirt legging from Mimu Maxi, she posted it styled with her Michael Kors side bag, strappy heels and her favourite accessory, her hijab. Summer sent the picture to Hecht and Notik, who then loved the look so much they reposted it to their page
Then came the backlash. Instead of receiving rave reviews, many of Mimu Maxi’s Jewish customer base retaliated angrily, claiming that a photo of a Muslim woman was “insensitive” and “appalling,” especially at a time of turmoil in the Middle East. The age old
conflict between Israel and Palestine had reached a new level of hostility after three Israeli teens were kidnapped and found dead; the Israeli government blaming the Hamas. A full fledged war broke out amongst the rival nations resulting in the exchange of air missiles and the mass loss of civilian life. The “Jewish Women’s Life” rightly pointed out, in an article in the Daily Mail, that not every Muslim belongs to Hamas, which is true for the vast majority who are innocent bystanders.
In an effort to support equality, Hecht and Notik went to Facebook and said, “We were shocked to see women immediately pit themselves against us, essentially accusing us of being insensitive, putting our business above morals, and threatening to “unfollow” and never purchase from us again–effectively “copying” the way of Israel/jewish haters by boycotting a beautiful, holy Jewish Business! ”(mimu MaxiFacebook). The sisters-in-law share the belief that modest dressing can be promoted throughout the world, regardless of religion. Blogger, Summer Albarcha also commented to the Daily Mail, “I had more of an idea that this collaboration would show Mimu Maxi’s versatility with all faiths through their modest clothing.” Another woman in favour wrote to Hecht and Notik, “The last week has been stressful with the sensitive situation in Israel and Gaza–especially when my social media is filled sadly with racist commentary with both anti-palestinian/muslim and anti-semitic overtones. So it’s been refreshing and hopeful… to see someone highlight the importance of good relations between people of two faiths.” All of these statements were powerful and insinuate that the focus of the post was meant to portray a message of unity. Rather than speak out against a Muslim, wearing clothing created by Jewish designers, followers should promote interactions of this nature, implying a message of peace and understanding.
Modest dress can be a form of shared power and a celebration of appreciating the female form as sacred. Many religions regard modesty in this way and practice modest dress, Jewish and Muslim faiths both being partakers. In an age of media where sex sells and many women participate in self-objectification modesty can be used as a tool to empower all women and steer them away from exploitation. In the case of Summer Albarcha, her hijab should not be regarded as a symbol of difference, but should empower women to connect based on shared beliefs. Historically the objectification of women has occurred even since biblical times and is ongoing. By commenting against someone based on her faith you are only adding to the inequality of women making it easier for others to do the same. Religion and faith aside, women should not forget the fundamental right of freedom of expression, which Summer, Hecht and Notik were rightfully demonstrating. With so much controversy surrounding modest dress and whether it is a form of oppression in itself, women need to uplift each other and validate that for most modest dress is a choice, as well as a form of preservation. Modest dress should be viewed as a similarity between combatting religions and ultimately a shared belief to foster peaceful interactions. Hopefully in the future customers of multiple religions will be able to look at a similar picture and appreciate it as an expression of fashion as well as female empowerment.