Take this Hijab and Love It

This post was written by Jillian C. York, and originally published in the Winter 2009 issue of Bitch magazine.

Muslim women, as a group, don’t lack for media attention, but to say their representation in mass media is lopsided would be an understatement: They’re the subject of political, religious, and feminist debates, but their own voices are nearly invisible in the mainstream media, in film, and in books. But the one place Muslim women–in particular, muhajabat, or wearers of the hijab–are perhaps the most ignored is in the world of fashion.

It’s not that, as many might assume, women who sport the headscarf don’t care about fashion. But it’s got to be frustrating to be a muhajabah in a world of miniskirts and booty shorts. When your religious beliefs dictate a well-covered person but the mainstream fashion magazines are more like 80% bare skin and 20% clothing, you won’t be turning to Elle for advice on, say, matching a red hijab with black pants.

But without a mainstream outlet, some muhajabat have taken media matters into their own hands–or, more specifically, their blogs. With names like Stylish Muslimah, Hijabi Couture, and Hijabulous, these online fashion forums serve a dual purpose–they explain and demystify Muslim dress codes for novice muhajabat and curious outsiders, and they cull the web for fashion that can be adapted to their needs. Hijabs High, for instance, patterns itself after seen-on-the-street fashion blog The Sartorialist, with snapshots of stylish women from Singapore to Washington, D.C., posted as inspiration. The blogger behind Stylish Muslimah (“The Muslim Vogue”) assembles youthful, on-trend outfits with precise detail and links to online outlets where all the pieces can be found. And We Love Hijab highlights fashion-forward for plunds up seasonal trends in scarves, and even offers a hijab-specific version of What Not to Wear. (Sheath dresses: yea or nay?)

Perhaps the best part of hijabblogs is the sheer sense of positivity they put forth. Hijabs High says it best: The blog, its proprietor writes, “is inspired by the stylish and dynamic global community of Muslim women who fuse their identities and pronounce their place in the world everyday through beauty and fashion. It is my hope that this blog inspires, motivates, and encourages Muslims and non-Muslims alike to revisit their perceptions of the ‘look’ of Muslim women who wear the veil and encourage us all to be a little more fabulous.”

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  • Melinda

    The “We Love Hijab” has some cool photos and interesting ideas, but I can’t stand some aspects of it. Instead of recognizing that hijabis have a spectrum of definitions of modesty, some more conservative than the blogger’s own and some less, the blogger offers not suggestions but instructions based on her own specific definitions of modesty: “You’ll want to do [...] to cover [...],” instead of “If you want [...], you can do [...]. I usually [...]” And it’s incredibly judgmental. For example, look at the thread on leggings, in which the poster and commenters jump over each other to call Muslim women who wear leggings sinners. Ugh.

  • http://jamericanmuslimah.wordpress.com Jamerican Muslimah

    Melinda, then it’s time you start of blog of your own, no?

    I have a fashion blog as well and I tell people upfront where what my view on hijab is. It’s incredibly frustrating when I get comments from people on both sides- those who are conservative and those who are more liberal- wanting to adjust my blog for them. I’m just throwing ideas out there. People can take or leave them. I am sure the same goes for Welovehijab and other blogs.

  • Mehek

    BTW, I really like this article. The links are useful and it promotes how easily the Islamic fashion can still be shared throughout the world. InshaaAllah these efforts will lead to bigger and better media outlets for most people to become aware of.

    [This comment has been edited to fit within comment moderation guidelines.]