I’ve always loved shopping and when I was a child, I never felt anything but excitement, whether I was shopping for an occasion or simply experimenting with the latest trends. As a young girl, I would spend the whole of Ramadan obsessing over what to wear for Eid, dragging my mother into stores in attempts to recreate the outfits I memorised from their websites. Unfortunately, this period of shopping bliss was terminated after my thirteenth birthday, leading to a phase of conflict and discord with my mother. Every outing to Oxford Street or Westfield began with a sigh; followed by endless bickering in fitting rooms, stares from nosy shoppers and hot tears conceived from sheer frustration. Why so melodramatic, one may think? Well, you try channelling your inner-Rihanna while attempting to maintain religious modesty in a hijab.
My dilemma is not due to a lack of modest clothing available that makes me look good, but that there are no brands catering to the hijabis that want to dive in headfirst to the latest trends. The reality is that many young women like myself want more than to wear a fitted maxi dress under a matching duster jacket paired with heels and a loose hijab, that only come in neutral colours. And even for those of us who do lean toward the generic uniform set by the fashion industry for modest dressers, most outlets that sell the halal Kim K style of clothing are mainly based in the UAE, (Dubai to be specific) and charge prices that tempt me to abandon my hijabi convictions altogether.
Although there are high-street stores that do cater to my quirky style like Missguided and Topshop, they could never give me the balance between being edgy and modest that I needed, resulting in options that were only almost good enough. Jeans were slashed, maxi dresses had cuts up to the thigh, long sleeved tops were backless and the simple clean cut shirts that weren’t denim or patterned just had to be sheer. One month ago, I went on a spontaneous shopping trip with my older sister, to add some lively pieces to my summer wardrobe, but whenever I laid eyes on a shirt, the cut was so low I wouldn’t dare examine it and the dresses were a midi-length that was intended to bare a calf. So, what was left? Plain t-shirts and turtlenecks not fit for the humid weather and long flowy blazers; not even close to satisfying my love for daring fashion statements.
I was in absolute awe when I saw Rihanna dominate the red carpet at the 2017 Met Gala wearing Comme de Garcon and sure enough, it sparked many day-dreaming moments in my mind of me in the ensemble, always closely followed by the disappointing reality that I could never pull off something like without forsaking my beliefs. It would seem that it has never occurred to the ‘powers that be’ in the fashion industry that women like me would have the desire to dress like a Luxury Law protégé (please see Zendaya for reference), or that we would have the faintest interest in designers such as Vetements.
Nevertheless, the industry has begun to acknowledge the need to be inclusive and having the right models to promote diversity is instrumental in promoting much needed diversity. Having Halima Aden as the face of American Eagle has garnered interest in their denim hijab; similarly, in 2016 Dolce & Gabbana launched an abaaya line (this is the long, flowing black garment often worn by Muslim women) that set an example for other brands to follow suit, and Net-a-Porter offer a ‘Ramadan Edit’ with clothes especially tailored for the holy month.
Sincerely, all fashion-conscious hijabis.
Written by Kifaya Omar