I've run across many articles lately talking about the intersection between Islamic fashion, modest fashion, modernity, and the runway, and I'm not sure how to feel about it.
From Sara Ilyas's point of view, catering to fashion makes the hijab a more popular choice for Muslim youth:
It's 2012. We're bored to death with debates about the hijab. Why women wear it. Whether they are coerced into it. "Oh, but I bet they have a lovely head of hair under there". SNORE. All this talk neglects the role of fashion in the hijab's popularity. It's just easier to be a fashionable Muslim in Britain these days – walk down Oxford street and stereotypes of the hijab as bland and restrictive are laughable. There are gaggles of friends wearing bright leopard print H&M shawls as a hijab, girls with a mountain of fabric piled up to create a beehive style hijab - hell, I even saw a lady wearing a glittery blue cardigan as a headscarf once (I saw the sleeve hanging out).
And according to this article in Australia's The Age, making modest clothing more fashionable tends to give it a global appeal to all women who want to dress more modestly:
'There are lots more designers out there in the modest market. And it isn't just happening in Sydney. It's a global thing.'' Nor is it just a Muslim thing. Many of the scarves, dresses and trousers appeal to non-Muslims who don't feel comfortable in the figure-hugging, skin-bearing designs of mainstream Western fashion.
In Turkey, for example, wearing the hijab in public institutions is illegal. Despite this, almost 60% of Turkish women wear some form of head covering. This article in iAfrica connects the desire to wear the hijab--even though it may cost you a university education--as driven at least partially by the growth in the Islamic fashion industry:
The fashion world now sees a growing demand from conservative Turkish women who are keen to assert themselves. "There are now much prettier things than before," said Merve Buyuk, a 22-year-old trainee at Ala. "Designers have now understood that we exist. They've started making clothes that are not necessarily black or brown. ... I'm pretty happy with this change."
Maybe it's all about finding a happy medium between over-the-top glam and glitz, and the stereotypical black abaya. Personally, I like having the ability to express a bit of my personality in my wardrobe, and at the same time, I can remain covered.
What do you think?