by Janan Zaitoun
There are certain requirements a Muslim lady needs to keep in mind when she hits the mall. She should choose clothing that modestly covers her entire body, is not transparent, and does not outline her figure. Sounds difficult, doesn’t it? When I was a teenager I frequently asked myself: Can I obey Allah’s dress code and still be fashionable?
At 18, when I began wearing the jilbab (the full length Islamic dress), I discovered that Islam actually encourages dressing fashionably, but with modesty always in mind. Ever since then, I have been fascinated with jilbab designs. During my undergraduate years, I found girls just like me who were very enthusiastic about choosing just the right jilbabs, head scarves, pins, purses, shoes and other matching accessories to wear.
Mr. Muhammad Ameen, the Head of Sales and Marketing at Islamic Design House in England (http://islamicdesignhouse.com/usa), and Tabassum Siddqui, the main fashion designer for Shukr in Spain (http://www.shukronline.com/), each agreed to an interview via Skype about their jilbab designing companies. While both companies are pioneers in their industry, they are rivals as well.
“In terms of the design, we go for [jilbab] colors that are within the social norms of a culture,” said Mr. Ameen. He also said that they regularly conduct surveys in Muslim communities around the world to find out how they can supply a better product. “For example, in Ramadan we submit our brief to our designer and we will say ‘Test the Moroccan style. Or, we want to do something for the Muslims in Russia’.” From there they are able to come up with a new design suitable for a particular culture.
Mrs. Siddqui said that “There are people that are put off by jilbabs; [they’ll say] ‘oh, I’ll look like my grandmother’.” So she looks for design cuts that make the jilbab more youthful and contemporary. She adds unexpected details, and mixes a little bit of the past with the present.
History is a source of inspiration for Mrs. Siddqui. “Historically people dressed more modestly. It’s just that now, with recent times, people have stripped away their values. So I look back and see what could be relevant now [… ] It’s a very big process. There’s a lot of research that goes into it [fashion design].”
“Pastel candy floss colors will be in for this spring and summer” said Mr. Ameen, regarding what will be popular this year. “What a lot of sisters do is wear a darker jilbab and then complement it with these brighter colors. They wear the brighter colors as a cardigan, or in their hijab [head scarf].”
As for Mrs. Siddqui’s fashion tips for girls who would like to work on their jilbab style, hooking up with other sisters who dress fashionably was the first thing she suggested. For new fashion ideas, she mentioned that “there are now tons of Islamic fashion blogs. Try wrapping your scarf a different way, or adding extra layers, like a short vest or short jacket over the jilbab. Add some accessories, and try different shoes,” said Mrs. Siddqui.
From a Muslim man’s perspective, I asked Mr. Ameen what he sees in a woman wearing jilbab. He said that he thinks the jilbab says that she’s a person who believes in her faith. Her faith gives her an identity that is more about personality than about the physical. “In spite of what’s happening in the fashion world,” he said, “she stands out and her principles come first. Her style is intricately associated with her faith and her understanding of how Allah sees her.”
Finally, some friends of mine would like to share a few of their favorite jilbabs: