By Anjum Choudhry Nayyar, Publisher
One blogger, Sabrina Enayatulla, has come up with real practical tips on helping a Muslim woman ‘Dress Well’, which incidentally is the title for her video series on the subject. She’s got episodes on ‘how to avoid ‘Hijab hair‘, ‘Date Night‘ and even ‘Tomboy Elegance.’ Her website, Slice of Lemon is a life and style blog, where she mostly does personal posts on a regular basis. She hosts Dress Well, the web-based style guide, on her site where she’s finished filming episodes for 2013.
We asked her about why she started the series and what it means to foster dialogue on the subject of fashion in a Muslim context.
How does a hijab limit/expand fashion?
I think it depends on who you ask because everyone’s perspective is different. A woman who started wearing hijab four days ago might feel a surge of excitement and creativity as she starts to incorporate hijab into her wardrobe and explore her new style. Whereas a woman who’s been wearing hijab for a few years might face new challenges as she evolves as a Muslim woman and reevaluates her personal fashion choices. And of course age and culture will also play a role in how you limit or embrace your personal fashion experience.[vsw id=”59531195″ source=”vimeo” width=”425″ height=”344″ autoplay=”no”]
What role did fashion play for you growing up?
Fashion played a big role in my life from a very young age because of my mom. She was my biggest style inspiration as a kid and I can remember rummaging through her closet and jewelery boxes when I was in elementary school trying to find ways to work her track suits, oversized sweaters and dangly wood earrings into my wardrobe.
My mom also made a lot of clothes for my sister and me when we were growing up and that really made me value original pieces. Of course I loved going shopping (as most girls do!) but it was so much fun to pick out designs I loved at the fabric store and then anxiously await the final result. Those lifeless sheets of cloth I handpicked would suddenly be transformed into the coolest shorts and T-shirts to wear to school on Monday!
But fashion didn’t stop at American clothes for us. My parents are from India and we used to attend and/or have parties at our home almost every weekend when I was growing up. My mom, sister and I would wear traditional Indian clothes on these occasions and I used to love picking out bangles and shoes and earrings and a matching purse to complement the bold colors and intricate embroidery of the magical outfits we got to wear!
Did you always wear a hijab?
No. I actually didn’t even know it was a required part of the Muslim faith for women who reached the age of maturity.
But I started looking into Islam as a whole much more closely during college and sometime during my sophomore or junior year I wanted to explore hijab further. I started wrapping my hair and slowly started to change the way I dressed. Eventually, by God’s grace, I committed to hijab and I can fully say that it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
What can we teach our daughters about fashion as it might relate to cultural wear or religion?
There is such a fine line between culture and religion and one of the most important lessons for us to teach the next generation of boys and girls is how to recognize that line, value the teachings from both sides of that line and how to prioritize the many, many things that will be expected of them from both sides. No matter what culture you identify with I really do believe it’s one of the most important life lessons that we must learn and pass on to our children.
What do you define as ‘dressing well’
I define a woman who dresses well as someone who looks original, confident, classy and comfortable in her own skin!
Have you encountered any negative feedback from those not keen on ‘fashion’ and being Muslim?
I think the most common challenge for women who blog about hijab and fashion is facing criticism from people who feel that hijab cannot and should not be considered “fashion” because it is a form of worship and obedience to God.
I agree that the purpose of hijab reaches far beyond a piece of cloth worn on ones head; a woman who observes hijab should also observe other important characteristics of a Muslim woman such as decency, kindness, trustworthiness, etc. But you can’t accurately assess a person’s level of religious understanding and practice based on their high heels – especially if you don’t understand the cultural norms that make up the society they live within.
I identify as an American-Muslim so within the context of my cultural norm as an American a graphic print and a wrist full of chunky bracelets is not perceived as immoral, sexual or attention-seeking. But having said that I’ve been to Muslim communities in the U.S. where I know a red lip or chandelier earrings might make others uncomfortable. And it’s important for me as a Muslim woman to recognize and respect the nuances in those sub-cultures even if they live within a greater culture that I identify with.
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