Thursday, March 27, 2008

Fashionably modest: modern Islamic style

I am quite fascinated by women's issues in Islamic contexts. Recently I have read Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi and Kabul Beauty School: an American Woman Goes Behind the Veil by Deborah Rodriguez. Each book provided an interesting perspective on the experience womanhood in Islamic societies. These are strong and admirable women.

Thus, I was quite intrigued to come across a few articles discussing modern Islamic fashion. Though the amount of Islamic women who dress modestly is not enough to constitute a majority of the female Muslim population, those who do are showing an increasing demand for clothing that allows them to be both stylish and modest.

According to this article from the International Herald Tribune, traditional Muslimahs represent a widely untapped market of women who value conventional Muslim dress but wish to showcase their personal styles as well. One woman interviewed said that she knows of many Muslim girls who shop at national brand stores and "creatively fill in the gaps-" ie, layering to conform to cultural standards of modesty. Muslim women are also experimenting with accessories and calling for more comfort and practicality from the items in their wardrobes. While many of these fashion-conscious women are hesitant to dress in such a way as to stand out in a crowd, they feel as if modesty and beauty can peacefully coexist in their closets.

This article in The Christian Science Monitor also comments that designers are beginning to take note of the increasing demand for stylish hijabs. Not only do many Muslim women want more ornate and fashionable options, they are also seeking out new ways to tie and wear their scarves. To feed this need, designers in Canada are producing Islamic clothing that allows women to express themselves while remaining true to their beliefs.

I thought these articles were interesting because they support what I have always felt about fashion - that what we wear is a way to assert ourselves as individuals. Even while operating in a context of more aesthetic constraint, women still have a natural desire to tell a story with their outfits and let their clothing speak for them. Here are a few examples of pieces for these modern Islamic fashionistas:






Irfan Yusuf said...

There is also a book about Muslim fashion called "Muhajababes", a review of which you can read here ...,20867,20399173-5003900,00.html

I have heard that Waris Dirie (a Somali Muslim woman who became a super model) has also written extensively.

Imelda Matt said...

great post...I think I saw a doco on the Kabul beauty school. Dior and Prada both launched traditional muslim ranges late last century, I'm not sure how well they sold but it might be worth digging around for the images.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if you've seen the blog 'Jezmine The Shopper'?

She doesn't mention her religion but I assume she's Muslim because of her headscarf

She's a fashion student with a charming, individual dress sense and I like her blog a lot

heather said...

if only American designers had to design clothes based on print and fabric instead of silhouette. Perhaps things would be a bit less trendy

little parisienne said...

i really like your blog and your inspiring outfits! I'll link you!

Anonymous said...

a good one to add to your reading list is Linda Steet's, Veils and Daggars.

waNi haNis said...

Thanks for bringing this up.. The link at least.. I'm totally addicted with fashion that can pull me off as a Muslim.

deryik said...

how the scarf is worn is actually differs geographically mostly (well, indonesians and egyptians, for ex), and may also be representative of certains sects of islam.i also think middle eastern and (for example) indian cultures are full of ornaments, gold jewellery anything that is in colors. i personally find it interesting that the very same middle east is also home of belly-dancing :)

what fashion industry did great for muslim women was bringing tunics back. i can see it on the streets (and in mango and zara) clearly: tunics over jeans is the new hot thing for (at least, turkish) muslim girls. i dont wear head-scarf, but i surely prefer seeing some neat clothing with the scarf rather than baggy burqa-ish cover. and of course, theres a new "muslim elite" emerging, who'd love to spend some money on big brands. they go for 100% silk scarves with burberry pattern rather than the good old white cotton.

anyways, i guess there were some examples in in case u wanna check...

Anonymous said...