Hijab Fashion: Modernizing Modesty and Morphing Mainstream Beauty Standards - By Naballah Chi

Hijab. A tool of empowerment. Fashion. A form of self-expression. As an ensemble they both provide a refreshing contemporary feeling of elegance and vitality, producing a growing number of Muslim women who are blending fashion with their Islamic faiths. Current Hijab fashion trends, attempt to renovate a form of modest dress once defined by traditional views. These trends depict personalities in seeking self-expression while drawing inspiration from catwalks, fashion magazines, and the streets. Hijab fashion can be described by the different styles in which the Hijab is worn. Hijab fashion sprang to prominence in the early 2000s but has become much more prevalent today with young women producing weekly Hijab tutorials, monthly workshops on Hijab, seasonal fashion shows and a multitude of other exciting endeavours. What makes Hijab fashion such a prominent movement is the pulsating use of colours, striking accessories, ravishing prints and of course the artistic ability of draping the Hijabs themselves. It’s often quite invigorating to observe the sundry of personalities behind the Hijab styles, as they add a touch of veracity to the entire experience.  

As a Muslim Fashion Blogger, it’s quite stimulating to see the strides that Islamic and Hijab fashion has made and is continuing to make in the pursuit of tasteful and modest fashion whilst wearing Hijab. Muslim women are trying to break away from the commercialized and mainstream fashion world by creating their own notions of fashion, beauty and most importantly modesty. With the intervention of the Internet and savvy new social media tools at our fingertips, we are witnessing that Muslim women are now creating their own media. Young women are creating Hijab brands and more so becoming agents for those brands by immersing themselves in the world of social media as a brand name. The explosive rate at which social media is growing contributes to the dynamic sharing of content by millions of Muslims from every corner of the globe. As a matter of fact, social media has become so powerful that it is safe to say that social media is now a more powerful form of media than the mainstream media. More and more women are tuning in to sites like YouTube, Facebook and Instagram to get involved in Islamic fashion communities and upload glamorous photos and informative videos showing different styles of Hijab and Islamic Fashion on a scale that was barely imaginable a few years ago. This incredible social interaction has created a phenomenon that influences the way in which Hijab is depicted and worn. Through this visibility and vast generation and consumption of content, a thriving environment and collective awareness of what’s trending in the Islamic fashion world has been born.

Nevertheless, the advent of Hijab fashion goes beyond pixel perfect photos and high definition Hijab tutorials. Hijab and Islamic fashion is now a social enterprise that introduces girls and women to business savvy entrepreneurship and stylish flair; essential skills for the modern Muslim female pioneer. A new breed of fashion designers and entrepreneurs specializing in modest fashion specifically geared towards Muslim women is now rampant across the North America, Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Caribbean. Younger Muslim women are always looking out for new ways to incorporate fashion into the way they wear their Hijabs and so Muslim fashion designers have found innovative ways to blend both modesty and style, without having to sacrifice the basic elements of what constitutes Islamic dress or the basic elements of fashion. Hijab fashion has spread vigorously throughout the Islamic world and in some cases in the non-Islamic, as non-Muslims can occasionally be spotted donning headscarves and Islamic-inspired wear in the name of modest fashion. With a combination of high definition photography and online tools talented fashion enthusiasts are empowered to create a virtual retail space instantaneously and professionally. With this type of technology, up and coming fashion designers and independent brands can use their influence to build a client base through social media connections. On the other hand, it seems that most Hijab fashion bloggers have done something amazing, perfected it and are now amping up their promotional efforts by breaking into the fashion world with a fashionable marketing iron hammer. This is surely the way to inspire other women to share their talents and to empower themselves through a positive turn on self-esteem. Many Muslim women are being influenced and catching on quickly via YouTube and Hijab fashion blogs. These days, the startup potential of Hijab fashion bloggers is mind blowing. Muslim women are no longer gatekeepers between their personal styles and the general public, which is surely a thing of the past. There is now a growing phenomenon where Muslim women are donning trendy and innovative Hijabs, working modesty in relation to mainstream fashion trends. Hijab fashion has been steadily growing online over the past few years, with a catapult of blogs, websites and online stores. Hijab, on its own, is now interpreted in vastly different ways –some are quite modest and others are more revealing but appeal to the faithful and fashion-forward. The rise of Hijab fashion bloggers, trendy Islamic online clothing stores, and Islamic fashion shows are redefining what it means to be a modern Muslim woman. Muslim women are now enthusiastically flexing their marketing muscle in the world of fashion- something that didn’t exist a couple of years back. I think that Hijab fashion has done enough to empower Muslim women and change attitudes towards Muslims in general. In today’s global competitive market, Islamic fashion is evolving; incorporating fashion from the West while at the same time adhering to the principles of Islamic dress. One thing’s for sure: fashion is empowering Muslim women economically. One of the utmost advantages of fashion is the development of one’s individuality. In following societal trends, there is increased confidence in your personality while interrelating with others. The fashionable Hijab bloggers are usually outspoken and are a step ahead in the turf of socialization. When you become confident you can do bold things in the society and as a result you experience inner happiness. Personally, I am beginning to see a change in the perception of Hijab fashion where many up and coming Hijabi fashionistas are beginning to claim and assert their fashion identities. It’s also great to see that more diverse looks are being accepted and being promoted as beautiful, since this is something that we have known to struggle with. As the whirlwind of Hijab fashion marketing grows, however, so does a new pressure to conform to the status quo. Ironically, many of us can attest to seeing the same mainstream fashion industry standards being applied to Hijab and Islamic fashion and honestly it can be disheartening. For some it may appear as though Hijab fashion is now being commercialized in order to move ahead in the business fashion game- even if it means using models with certain features to market their products. One of the many beauties of Islam is that it frees us from this chauvinistic way of thinking. But have we really attained freedom from the constraints of the fashion world? Perhaps a more valid question is “How has mainstream fashion influenced the way Muslim women act and think”? Currently, Hijab is presented as one of the new trends in fashion, which some argue, diverts the true meaning of wearing Hijab. It can often be heard that Hijab is not a fashion statement and was never meant to be. Is the purpose of Hijab then defeated by making it fashionable? Are we thereby completely missing the point of Hijab? The notion of mainstream fashion ideals is to first take away a woman’s self-image and esteem and then offer to sell them back to her one product at a time. The increasing power of the media to define standards of beauty is causing many women to develop self esteem problems and alter their appearances. As Muslims we should try to avoid creating facets for other women to feel pressured when it comes to their appearance. Instead of trying to live up to the standards that mainstream fashion companies use and falling prey to the negative messages of mainstream advertising, Hijab fashion companies should take the opportunity to highlight the diversities that exist in the Islamic world. Hijab is meant to free us as individuals and reinforce honouring of the Muslim identity not hold us as prisoners to ideal beauty standards and scrutiny. As a Muslim fashion blogger with an online following, I believe the onus is on me to be transparent and to be real about issues we face as Muslim women, even if it means calling out the not-so-good things. We can be alluring as much as we choose to be, but I also believe in showing realistic, less triumphant sides of our lives. After all life is about finding balance and besides who can argue with finding more balance in life? Thanks for reading my musings on Hijab Fashion and Beauty. Surely my piece has cracked open a few spaces for constructive conversations.

Respectfully,

Naballah Chi