The women breaking hijab fashion boundaries

Anmol Irfan

These women refuse to be confined by anyone's ideas of what a Muslim woman should look like—and they look amazing doing it

“A girl with a hijab is never called a girl, she’s always referred to as a hijabi” says blogger Kinza Zubair.  

A few simple differences in clothing completely change the way women are perceived in the world. Islamophobic narratives and old-timey notions of Muslim communities have created barriers that view Muslim women through a “foreign” lens rather than understanding them through the choices they make.  

With women across the world still defined by fashion choices, and a rise in countries that seek to police those women, fashion has become so much more than just picking out trending styles and colours. As women’s clothing choices become increasingly politicised such as through hijab bans or victim-blaming, more and more women are seeking to claim their own narrative.  

A far cry from the commercialisation of identity by retailers seeking to profit off of marginalised communities, the trend in ‘hijabi’ bloggers and influencers reclaiming what it means to be in fashion, seeks to diversify the narrative rather than lump all Muslim women into one category.  

But for the last few years, hijabi fashion as it is often termed has developed far beyond the black burqa clad women still portrayed on mainstream Western media. And it's not just limited to the Arab world as many would believe.  

Countries like Pakistan have had a rich history of fashion within the region and political influence, diverse communities and more continue to change the way fashion trends come out. Mehr Husain, author of Pakistan: A Fashionable History says “Pakistani fashion was shaped more by politics than identity”, adding that the new generation’s desire to reclaim those identities gives us hope.  

The hijab itself has evolved drastically, particularly in countries where it is as much a cultural thing as it is a regional one. With the popularity of shows like Dirilis: Ertugrul, it’s interesting to see the way older fashion has been interpreted. The way hijabs are shown in the show is very specific to the needs of that time as well, much like any other fashion trends. More importantly it also shows that hijabi fashion has been evolving and changing for centuries and attempts to box it in by claiming it would retain historical accuracy are far from the truth. 

 

Hamna Ayub says despite efforts, representation still has a long way to go. “Muslim woman make a noticeable part of this world population yet we hardly see the representation once in a blue moon, and sometimes even that’s done in a way that could offend some.” she says when talking about whether or not the number of Muslim women in hijabs we see in mainstream media has increased.  

Which is why many have taken it into their own hands to use their platforms to amplify voices that are still being silenced. With bridal fashion and wedding day looks being a key part of women’s fashion, hijabi fashion trends within that category continue to grow.  

But these influencers aren’t just limiting their fashion trends to big days. And many ask, why should they be expected to. With fashion trends increasingly becoming more about a sense of identity, it isn’t too surprising that these women are standing out and making the hijab their own. Hamna also adds that women shouldn’t be categorised simply because they chose to wear the hijab. “Hijabs and modest clothes are like any other thing you casually wear in your daily life, it’s not something extraordinary, and is a part of a lot of women’s daily life.”  

We’ve come a long way from when a woman who wore a hijab would supposedly limit her to one look for the rest of her life. Not that it was ever really the case. It’s also more about who is in charge of the fashion narrative. Kinza Zubair talked about how that narrative has evolved. “Hijab and fashion were never linked before. But as time and social media is changing, we’re discovering new things and trends. And modest fashion is one of the outcomes.”  

In response to islamophobic narratives against women wearing the hijab, Muslim communities also closed up amongst themselves—seeing the introduction of "Western" trends as intrusive. A major part of this dates back to colonial histories across the world, where the forced introduction of European values influenced the way colonised people would see those cultures for generations to come. But the young generation of today know better. They are willing to carve out places for themselves that are unique to their needs and beliefs.  

In the evolution of hijabi fashion, we’ve also seen a change in something more important. These women are fearlessly countering the centuries old narrative that Muslim women are meek, submissive and unable to grow. This was often symbolised by portrayals of women in hijabs as following ‘safe’ and unchallenging fashion trends.  

But it’s high time we stop letting a choice of clothing limit an entire community of women, especially when they don’t feel limited by it at all. These women are speaking out through their fashion choices, and they deserve to be heard. 

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