Muslim women vary in how they dress, depending on liberal or conservative mindsets, geographic location, family, age – the list goes on.
But there’s no holding back or even altering looks to fit into a more modest outfit when you can walk into a mosque or wedding wearing a long, flowing Marciano maxi dress under a Marc Jacobs knee-length coat topped with a Chloe head scarf.
If your budget permits, of course. If not, trends always hit more affordable stores even before models can step off the runway.
Moniza Bhaghani, owner of Hidaaya Books and Clothing in
“Sometimes it’s hard to find the right Islamic-type blouse in North America to sell in the store, so it has to be ordered overseas,” Bhaghani, a Muslim convert who is half
“I talk to customers about what they would like and keep in mind that things have to be a length in which women can pray.”
Bhaghani added that she likes to provide traditional Arab embroidery and bead styles because they are so similar to Latin styles, bringing the cultures together.
When she has items in her store shipped from overseas, Bhaghani will tell manufacturers beforehand about American trends to fit with the changes.
“Sometimes colors used overseas are not in fashion here, so I send them a palette using magazines and tell them to find the closest match,” she said.
She added that she keeps prices reasonably low, with scarves starting under $7 but that still have the same material and quality of high-end department stores selling the same items for double because of a designer name.
“With the economy the way it is, I have to keep it affordable,” she said, adding that many college-aged women come to her store and she wants to make sure they can shop there easily.
For a little more money, one can find Muslim-friendly clothes in department stores and boutiques as well. A noteworthy southern California blog called Hijabulous by blogger Aellaboudy holds hundreds of posted pictures from stores, boutiques and designers offering Islamic-friendly fashions. The blogger posts her favorites, which this season include long-sleeve thermal and cotton tees from Jaloux in Victoria Gardens Mall, scarves and sweaters from H&M, tops from Express and Zara, and even an Ed Hardy scarf that could be used as a silky hijab.
For college students Narmeen and Abeer Minhas of
“I kind of think it adds to the fun when you are more limited in your options,” 20-year-old Abeer Minhas said. “For example, if I see a top that I absolutely love but is a little too revealing for me, its fun to see how you can add layers to make your own personal fashion statement even more effective.”
The two sisters recently traveled to the
“Anyone from the
Dental student Narmeen Minhas, 22, pointed out that western companies in Muslim countries make more “modest” clothing to coincide with their local customers’ needs. In
Narmeen Minhas added that she loves dresses, so she uses them in layering.
“I bought some really cute dresses - knee length, sleeveless - that I’m going to wear under jeans and a white long shirt and boots,” she said. “I think that you can adapt any style to be modest and trendy.”
Muslims have noticed the need for providing people like the Minhas sisters with hijab-friendly choices, some opening stores like Bhaghani’s to accommodate the growing fashion market.
Terry Cormier opened Al-Farah two years ago in
“We had a Web site before then, and people kept showing up at our house thinking it was the store, so we just decided to open a store,” Cormier said.
Al-Farah manufactures its own clothing, getting it shipped from overseas, from countries like
“Modern stuff for younger sisters is in good demand,” she said, pointing out that she receives a lot of business from the 30 and under crowd. “They want an American style with an Islamic identity.”
American and western looks in general have also adopted Middle Eastern traditional wear recently, from the keffiyahs sold at stores like Urban Outfitters to dresses and shoes using beading and large stones as accents, often found on Egyptian and South Asian clothing.
Screen print T-shirts at trendy boutiques have lately used images of Asian and Middle Eastern women, and brands have started using recent political turmoil and messages of peace in their clothing.
Young fashionistas, Muslim and non-Muslim, have incorporated such styles into their wardrobes, but fashion for some more conservative Muslim women takes on a completely different meaning.
An article in The New York Post last year reported on Muslim women wearing fashionable clothing underneath their long, flowing robes, with sometimes the only thing the public eye could see would be flashy stilettos, a wink of bright jewelry or a brightly-colored headscarf on top, often embossed with designer names.
The Minhas sisters do not wear the jilbab over their clothing, but they do appreciate how women in Muslim countries and here who bide by such coverage choices still manage to add their own flair.
“My basic point is I aspire to dress like Arab and Turkish hijabis,” Abeer Minhas said.
Muslim American men don’t look or dress any different from others, according to
“Those with a fashion sense dress like any other common person with style,” Malik, 22, said. “My cousins and I look at GQ and we wear whatever we like in the new trends.”
Malik said some subtle differences for more conservative men would be looser clothing, not really latching on to the recent tight, skinny-jean fad or extra tight muscle shirts.
He also said Muslim men often personalize their style with their facial hair, growing thin beards or goatees. “We like our beards – that’s one of our styles, and then we have our receding hairlines which we hate,” he joked.
For Narmeen Minhas, being Muslim adds another important dimension to how she dresses.
“I also think that hijabis should look nice, i.e., I coordinate matching scarves with my clothes, because we stand out as “Muslim,” and I think it’s important to defeat the rumors that Muslim women are suppressed and unhappy.”
It may be a simplified way of fixing a much more serious image problem in society today, but if Muslims can acclimate themselves into any society and show this physically, maybe they will be more approachable and open up communication to educate the masses on the real Islam. That’s all the Minhas sisters ask for, especially when wearing their religion on their sleeves, or in some cases, on their heads.