Summer fashion 2022: how to dress modestly in summer

“Dressing modestly during summer isn’t easy, but this is how I make it work”

Modest fashion is a year-round affair, which isn’t always easy when the temperatures start to peak. This is how one writer has made dressing modestly during summer work for her. 

Experiencing extreme heat on a constant basis during childhood summers in Pakistan and the UAE, where modest dressing is more normalised, I learned early on that there wasn’t an exact correlation between how much you cover and how hot you get. I’ve always loved traditional Pakistani dress, and despite Islamophobic media commentary on burkas, I would gawk at how elegant Emirati women looked in their abayas and accompanying accessories despite living in a scorching desert.

My relationship with modesty hasn’t fluctuated quite as much as the UK’s summer temperatures, but when I worked and studied abroad in Spain, Jordan and Iran, I learned to adapt to different weather and cultural expectations in keeping with my own standards of modesty.

Summer fashion 2022: how to dress modestly in summer
Dressing modestly during summer is no small feat, but these straightforward tricks will help to simplify it.

Thankfully fashion has moved on from when I was a teenager and really struggled to stay cool, modest and on-trend like my peers – I already looked like the odd one out. At the time it felt like the only way to dress modestly in the summer was to overheat or look too matronly for my age, but then came jumpsuits, palazzo trousers and, later, long skirts and dresses that felt playful and age-appropriate.

Summer fashion 2022: how to dress modestly in summer
Zainab Mahmood is a fashion editor and slow fashion advocate.

The inspiration from Pakistani and Emirati women from my childhood combined with my personal experience of adapting to living in hot climates means that I now have a full, colourful, modest summer wardrobe that gets me hyped every time the sun streams through the crack in my curtains. Although God did bless me with a high tolerance for heat, He also blessed me with the skill of smart dressing and I’m here to impart my wisdom to you.

Whether you’re a regular modest dresser for religious or cultural reasons, or you just don’t want to succumb to the pressure of showing off your body whenever the sun comes out, these tips will help you live your modest hot girl summer dreams.


Give your Instagram feed a modest makeover

When you’re struggling to dress modestly and survive UK heatwaves, it can be really frustrating to see so many others dressing skimpily while living their best lives. By following other people who adhere to similar modesty standards to you on Instagram, you can start to feel less alone and more inspired by different ways of dressing for the heat. One of my favourites is @FashionBreed.

Summer fashion 2022: how to dress modestly in summer
Giving your Instagram a modest makeover can make learning how to dress modestly during summer a breeze.

Get creative 

You don’t have to wear items of clothing in the way that they’re marketed to you – experiment and find unique ways to wear items that you might not think of as modest. Crop top? Layer it under a strappy dress. Midi dress with slits down the sides? Wear it over loose trousers.

Don’t shy away from tailoring

Speaking of slits – these can be easy fixes with some basic sewing skills or a trip to nani’s or dadi’s (maternal and paternal grandmothers). Modest dresser or not, we can’t expect every item of clothing to be perfect for us so it’s important to take the initiative and get the best out of our clothes by tailoring them to our needs.

Summer fashion 2022: how to dress modestly in summer
Investing in forever pieces makes modest dressing more straightforward when dressing in a hurry.

Focus on forever pieces

If you can’t find creative ways of indulging fleeting summer fashion trends with items you already own, just think about what you truly like and feel comfortable wearing in the heat. Prioritise investing in those high quality items that you can go back to summer after summer without wasting time and money on cheap, trendy clothing that won’t last.

Prioritise natural fibres

Prioritise breathable linens, cottons and Tencel in loose styles so you can stay cool. Synthetic fibres like polyester and acrylic do not breathe or absorb sweat very well so can make you hot and sticky in extreme heat, particularly in fitted and clingy styles.

Summer fashion 2022: how to dress modestly in summer
Accessorise, accessorise, accessorise.

Make long shirts and midi shirt dresses your best friends

I know you probably think the extra fabric around your lower body will make you hotter, but long, loose opaque shirts that hang on your shoulders and just skim the rest of the body are great for ventilation. Also, when wearing a longer shirt, you’re less likely to flash your torso or back if you get caught in the wind on a Tube station escalator or at the beach.

Embrace accessories

If you’re finding dressing modestly in the heat makes your outfits more basic than you would like, add some spice with accessories. I recommend sunglasses on colourful beaded chains, jewellery and a brightly coloured bag or a vibrant vintage scarf tied on to a more neutral bag.

Use your heritage as inspiration

Traditional Pakistani clothing is so modest-friendly and the preference for natural fibres, such as cottons and linens, works so well for hot weather. Whether it’s fusing cultures by wearing a traditional kurta with London charity shop trousers, or fully committing to a shalvar kameez, my experience as a British Pakistani woman has opened me up to unique, colourful ways of dressing for the heat. Whether your own culture or someone else’s, let cultures where modest dressing is more normalised inspire you, rather than taking Victoria’s Secret models and American Vogue for fashion inspiration.

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Images: Getty; courtesy of writer