I came across this article on islamicity.com and I found it to be very interesting and useful. It was written by Jennifer Kabir on 8/11/09. Would love to hear reader’s comments!
As a Muslim woman who wears hijab are you happy with how you look? Does your clothing match your personality and lifestyle? Perhaps you would like to improve your look but don’t know where to begin. Maybe you’re not sure what changes you need to make in order to feel better about your image.
Like many women who have reverted to Islam, I found myself faced with the task of changing my wardrobe. For me, it was a welcomed change, as my new modest clothing and way of presenting myself to the world honored my Creator and increased my self love and value that I put on my spirit and physical being. This modest essence of the Muslim woman is our eternal style and one I have been proud to adopt.
Determined to emulate the height of modesty, I parted with anything whatsoever that might denote frivolity or unwanted attention. I proudly limited my few pieces to full abayas, jilbabs, and square white hijabs. This decision had its value in keeping with my transition in dressing Islamicaly.
However, as the years progressed I began to feel stifled by my clothing and the discomfort caused by this inner conflict. I was not feeling comfortable in my skin and could not define what the issue was. What was it that was making me so miserable?
In order to solve this puzzle I had to retrace my steps. Growing up among artists and creative energies it had always been in my nature to express myself through patterns, textures and designs. Yet, when I looked in my closet, I had limited myself to solid white hijabs and black gowns.
I grew up with beach sand beneath my toes and running barefoot along the hot sidewalks of Southern California, yet every hijab I owned was heavy opaque polyester that I found to be too hot for my liking. I was going against my own grain and could not see it.
Color had always been a vital part of my life. My Mother and Grand Mother were both water color artists and I grew up posing for paintings and learning to frame artwork. Prior to my reversion I had worked as a Makeup Artist and Hair Stylist. Yet, when I discovered Islam I had not allowed myself any artistic expression.
Rediscovering my love of art and color have restored my sense of personal satisfaction. Incorporating these elements into my dress have allowed me the unique expression I was missing and have brought me a personal style that is genuine and natural for me. I am once again happy with my appearance- now am thrilled.
I may have traded in my modesty for today’s version of fashion with the faulty belief that somehow my hijab was restricting my personal expression. Realizing that many women fall into this thinking and some even mistakenly remove their hijab fueled me to write this piece.
Below are some elements of creative style that you can work with to ask yourself the important questions about who you are and what that expression looks like for you.
Simplicity, functionality, great fabrics, and a touch of personal style are the defining points of a successful wardrobe when it comes to dressing modestly and fashionably. When we think of fashion we tend to envision airbrushed models on the cover of Vogue wearing the latest trends and making it look effortless.
Feeling great about your appearance and pulling your own unique look together really can be that easy. Think of the following as classic fashion advice with an Islamic twist!
The ten essentials
Your hijab: Your headscarf is a big part of your wardrobe yet contrary to what we have been taught it does not necessarily have to be the defining element of your style. Think of hijab as an accessory to your overall look rather than the vocal point of your dress and see what possibilities might emerge. It should compliment you and be functional for daily living. Feeling overpowered by hijab is a factor that has lead many women to remove their veil. Finding balance is key.
The art of wearing hijab: Do not-under any circumstances pin your hijab at your chin and merely leave the ends of the scarf hanging over your bosom. This style of hijab does not work for anyone and can ruin even the most elegant of ensembles. Instead tuck the ends into your clothing or wrap them around to the back of your scarf. If extra coverage is the issue simply fan the ends of the scarf around your chest and pin at the shoulder with a stylish broach. Often more voluptuous women may try to wear an extra large scarf the same way some women would throw on an oversized sweater thinking it will camouflage problem areas. Instead of flattering this tends to look frumpy and in some cases can give the impression that you don’t care about your appearance.
Hijab colors, patterns, and textures: Some women look radiant in loud floral patterns while others of us end up looking outdated and dowdy. Another hard style to wear are hijabs with eyelet stitching at the hemline and corners. In some cases, these may only be appropriate for young ladies who are practicing hijab. I know hijabees who look elegant and fabulous in dark or all black hijabs that would appear depressing and heavy on others. Pass on unbreathable materials-even in the winter, and opt for hijabs with a touch of flair instead of overdone beading and sparkle.
Hijab fabrics: If you are still clinging to your polyester hijabs because you believe only those heavy, solid fabrics can give you full coverage then consider the following. Polyester, a completely man made fabric is widely sold in most Islamic clothing stores. For this reason, many women purchase them, not realizing what a draw back they may be. When it comes to your hijab you want to be on the lookout for materials that breathe such as rayon, linen, cotton, and even silk. While polyester hijabs may be more affordable-other fabrics such as rayon and linen shaylas are available at outlets such as TJ Maxx and Marshals. The scarf should be just heavy enough to give it some body and shape but not so heavy that it weighs you down.
The size of your hijab: The length and width of your scarf make a huge impact on how you look. A petite woman might swim in the same scarf that would flatter a statuesque woman. So where should your hijab hit you when wearing it? As a general rule the sides of your hijab should gracefully sit at the base of your shoulders while leaving some extra material to maneuver around your bosom. Petite women often have this dilemma. It’s easy to end up with a scarf that covers you down to your waist. This is overpowering and should only be worn this way if you want your hijab to be the vocal point of your look. There’s an exception to every rule and I have seen women who can successfully don a waist length hijab but not too many Muslimahs are going to feel their level best in that style unless they can pull if off.
Your clothing: A defining feature of a Muslim women’s style is that the clothing tends to be looser and avoids anything revealing in nature. However, this does not mean our clothes should be so baggy that there is no fit and shape to them. You want pieces that you can feel confident wearing and that will flatter you. Think outside of the box and take a look at classic pieces that can be tailored to fit your lifestyle. For example, a long dark pencil skirt looks beautiful and is a highly versatile piece. Pair one with a low wedge sandal for the summer or a boot for the winter. Long and flowing prairie skirts are great year round. Don’t limit yourself to one style.
Rediscovering your style: Sometimes we reach an impasse and we don’t know what we like. For some women, we are so busy taking care of everything outside ourselves that as time passes we forget what it feels like to take time for ourselves. Or it may feel like too much work to invest so much time into our appearance. I always advise women to visit a mall and check out the accessory section to break the ice. Many times we tend to dismiss something that appeals to us because we assume it’s too risky, won’t fit, or too expensive. Yet, a piece of costume jewelry seems more accessible. You might find yourself attracted to designs, colors, shapes, and elements of style that surprise you.
Accessories are a must: A flower pin, a rhinestone broach, a stack of bangles, a big chunky ring, a stylish bag, and a long necklace not to be worn all at once but still essential elements of style that can be reached for to celebrate any mood or occasion. Having a few different pieces to work with keeps your options open and let’s you explore your own fashion sense without making a long term commitment. Want to feel more demure? Reach for innocent pearls. Maybe you’re in a daring mood, the perfect time to sparkle!
Shoes, shoes, shoes: Every girl loves a good pair of shoes. Even Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz had the fabled red ruby slippers that drove the Wicked Witch mad with envy. The right shoe can compliment and set the tone of your appearance. A shoe should be practical to fit your lifestyle and I advise women to keep at least four different pairs in her wardrobe. These include a simple pair of flats, a summer sandal, dress shoes with a heel no higher than 3 inches, and casual loafers or Mary Jane’s. For cold climates a pair of ankle of knee length boots in a classic style are timeless. Avoid heavy or chunky shoes as they are hard on the feet and less feminine. The style will depend on your personal taste and your specific needs. A woman who works outside her home where she meets with clients on a regular basis might opt for a dressier shoe while a full time Mother may want something more casual and on the go.
Your abaya: I think it’s essential that a Muslim woman who attends the mosque regularly for Jummah have at least one full length abaya she can pull on over her clothing and just go. There are times when an outer garment such as an abaya is absolutely necessary and going to the masjid is one of those occasions. Jean, linen, and cotton jackets may be worn as outer garments but nothing compares to the abaya when frequenting the House of Allah.
Insha’Allah, these ten essentials will spur some inspiration for you and encourage you to retrace your own steps towards a more authentic you.