Muslim Fashion is Flourishing, and the pace doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. Valued at nearly $100 billion dollars, it’s clear that many Muslim women are seeing little, if any, conflict between modesty and fashion. 2 years ago, I found myself completely frustrated with this reality. Surrounded by turbans, lace, frills, zippers, and pins, I continued to harbor the belief that most of these women had very little understanding of the purpose of hijab. I hated hijabi fashionistas and their ridiculous tutorials. I thought they were making a joke out of the anti-capitalist, anti-consumerist symbol I had worn on my head since I was 8 years old.
Fashionably Modest focuses on three Muslim women in the fashion space, interviewed twice each over two years: fashion blogger Sadeel Allam, bikini model Mariam Basir and YouTube star Dina Tokio. I can’t do justice to their personal stories because no one can fully understand another’s inner state. But I can say this: we as Muslim women have no room to judge each other. By labeling and judging, we are stunting each other’s personal growth. We should not be focused on calling each other out, we should be focused on making it easy to grow as Muslims.
I started working on Fashionably Modest with a chip on my shoulder. I wanted to prove, once and for all, that hijabi fashion was a complete contradiction, that ‘modest fashion’ was taking people away from the fundamental truths of Islam. I’d ask the same questions of each of my interview subjects: Is it possible to be modest and fashionable? What are the limits? Are there limits?
Two years and more than 24 interviews later, I’ve learned to shy away from black and white statements. While too many selfies and too many hours watching YouTube tutorials can’t be good for anyone, I’ve had too many women tell me that hijab is so much easier to wear now that there’s so many more creative and comfortable ways to wear it. We don’t need to look unkempt to be considered practicing Muslim women. I actually found that many converts were so much more comfortable wearing hijab because Muslim fashionistas had offered them more presentable ways to wear it. Am I saying that there aren’t rules or limits? Of course not. But it’s important to remember that we need to give people room for growth – otherwise, they suffocate.
So how can we build out that space for people to grow? It dawned on me that Muslim fashion has caught on the way it has because it’s fixing a problem that American Muslims have: it’s making modestyeasier. And I realized there are so many ways that we as Muslims can make it easy to be Muslim in America. That’s why I co-founded Musallah with my husband, Rashid Dar, which will inshAllah crowdfund musallahs, or prayer spaces. Why? To make prayer easier. That’s why my friend Maahum and I have started a new site, called Libaas, which aggregates modest clothing from major retailers such as H&M and Asos. Why? To make modesty easier. This is about easing the way towards a more sincere connection with God, one that makes sense for our respective journeys.
by Nushmia Khan, Video Journalist