When Westerners think of Islam, women’s fashion is often one of the first things that comes to their mind. Not fashion with a capital ‘F,’ but a style of dressing that is markedly different from the pages of Vogue and Lucky Magazine: tent-like burqas, black niqabs and plain hijabs complemented by baggy clothes. Obviously, not all Muslim women dress like this; they wear shorts, sleeveless shirts and bathing suits– but for the ones who choose to cover, it would seem that fashion and appearances are furthest from their mind.
For the most part I had viewed hijabis as unstylish. In Egypt most of the girls who covered themselves wore clothes that were either plain, ugly or tacky: brightly-colored scarves and long shirts in cheap fabrics. My first inkling that there was something more out there was my husband’s cousin from Kuwait (the girl who recently got married). She wore a turban-style hijab that showed her neck, make-up and nice outfits that were neither baggy nor drab.
When I got my Iphone and went on Instagram, I found out that hijabs could be quite stylish–and that there are a lot of fashion hijabis out there! In fact, I prefer to follow fashion hijabis rather than your Average Jane fashionista. Why? Maybe it’s because oftentimes they’re girls my age who have the same style budget, shopping at h&m and Zara. Maybe it’s just the cultural anthropologist in me that wants to see how other people dress. It’s also fun to see how creative they get– and creative they are: since they can’t exactly experiment with all styles (unless they layer underneath) hijabis often pile on the accessories. I can be kind of matchy-matchy sometimes, and it’s cool to see how the girls design their outfits around their scarves.
(Left: Winnie Detwa, in her awesome bow and that coat that I’d love to steal, and me (looking like a pale ghost, thanks winter!)
When i first thought of this post, I planned on featuring Winnie Detwa (real name: Nadia) an Egyptian-American living in Michigan. Winnie was originally part of ‘Turbanation:’ she came to fame as a turban-tying hijabi with the most awesome fashion sense. I loved everything she wore: voluminous skirts (my fave), retro sunglasses, 70s flares, skinny jeans, and most of all: her turban! If I could make a turban like the sort of retro ones she wore I’d totally rock it (only perhaps with my hair down). For a hijabi her fashion sense was ‘daring:’ she would wear tight clothes, sometimes show her forearms or a bit of hair; trolling readers would bash her for being un-Islamic (seriously, did you girls forget that there are Muslim girls who actually do show their hair?! Alas this is a debate for another post).
Winnie has since removed her turban (which you can imagine caused quite a shock amongst her followers) and although I loved how she tied her turbans, I like her the better for it. Why? Because she truly embraces the idea of modesty, in every sense of it being applicable to today’s sensibilities. When she threw off her turban Winnie didn’t start parading around in low-cut thigh-high mini dresses ( it was fall anyway when she removed the hijab): instead she wears her usual gorgeous pieces. She wears a t-shirt without layering it. If she shows a little bit of leg with a rolled-up jean, no problem. We see her hair. What’s so immodest about this?
What’s in a girls heart is ultimately more important than if she covers her head or not, and in Winnie’s case this is so true: she has a heart of gold! She held a meet-and-greet for fans when she came to New York City in Bryant Park. Although it was during a terrible cold spell Winnie stood outside and chatted with us (and gave out hugs and cupcakes!) and the kind of person she was really showed through: she’s kind and likes to make everyone feel comfortable (and is super fashionable while doing it). All in all, she’s a great inspiration to both Muslims and fashion-holics.
Left: My fave pic of Winnie from her turban days, sourced from her Instagram @winniedetwa. Check out her website and blog, winniedetwa.com ! (She’s also got a Facebook page too).
The “Hijabi Hunnies,” as I nicknamed the super stylish girls who wear hijab, deserve no less of a mention. These girls range from the trendy to the elegant to the rebels; some write blogs and others set up shop. There’s a growing market for Hijabi fashion: countless Muslimahs are setting up internet websites where they sell scarves, scarf accessories (it takes skill and a lot of pins to make some of those big hijabs!) and ‘modest’ clothes. Below I highlight some of my faves; keep a lookout for a future post on them that will have lots of pictures 🙂
Myriam(melekbirkent): I absolutely adore Myriams style; if I could have anyone’s wardrobe it would probably be hers. Myriam is a Turkish girl living in Austria who blogs in several languages; she bills herself as Austria’s first fashion blogger for hijabis and non hijabis and tht couldn’t be more true: her style is very versatile and I often don’t even realize she has a hijab on (she does them in the elegant pointy Turkish style). With faux-fur vests, the chicest jewels, sparkly collars and basically every to-die-for Zara piece, Myriams style is very European with a dash if American outré and, of course, Islamic flair.
Left: Myriam working the leather and fur look, sourced from her Instagram @melekbirkent
Dina Toki-o: now on to Britain we have Dina, a half-Egyptian, half-British girl who’s definitely the most quirky and casual of the bunch: she’s often got big retro specs on, lots of layers and classic trainers, to borrow a Britishism. Her hijab is a voluminous one but she sometimes rocks a turban. I like Dina because she shows that you can look good but still be comfortable. (Btw check out her Lazy Doll online shop!)
Left: Dina in her “Keep Calm and Wear Hijab” tee, sourced from her instagram @Dinatokio
Ascia AKF: unlike the previous girls Ascia is actually based in the Middle East in Kuwait. Half-Kuwaiti, half American, Ascia has a label and blog and is part of turbanation: she’s always got some African-inspired (usually white) turban on. Ascia comes from a privileged background, it appears (hello closet that’s bigger than my bedroom) which no doubt gives her an international flair–and the chance to get her hands on some really nice clothes. Her style runs the gamut from rocker (studs and spikes) to baggy printed jumpsuits to dresses with thick stockings and booties. She’s definitely one to watch!
Left: Ascia rocking her signature turban and carrying a Sofia Al-Asfoor bag, sourced from her Instagram @ascia_akf.
Joyagh: even though she doesn’t hail from the Middle East and she’s not of Arab descent, I had to include joyagh. She’s a young student from Indonesia who reminds me of a sort of ‘Harajuku’ Hijabi: everything she wears is bright, exciting and cool. She goes for skinny pants, tons of prints, huge hijabs that I adore (my favorite style) and is always accessories with designer bags. Although I would probably look like a tween in her stuff, Joyagh pulls it off.
Left: Joyagh in a totally cutesy pastel ensemble (and that gorgeous hijab!) sourced from her Instagram @joyagh.