Sultana's Dream

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Sultana's Dream
September 2011


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Come Hijab or High Water - Expressing Fashion!

If you are a woman who dresses “in a way that satisfies your spiritual and stylistic requirements for reasons of faith, religion or personal preference,” then you happen to be ‘Modest Dressing,’ a term recently coined by London College of Fashion researchers. ( The Guardian 16 June 2011).

According to Professor Reina Lewis and her team, 'Modest Dressing' is a phenomenon growing among UK women of different faiths, particularly of the young, trendy headscarf-wearing sort.

“This is a generation who have grown up with consumer culture, and who expect to express every aspect of themselves through participation in consumer culture,” says Lewis.  “Many of this generation are working modesty in relation to mainstream fashion trends, not through wearing so-called ethnic or traditional clothing.”

It’s not hard to see how Muslim fashion online has steadily grown over the last few years with blogs such as UK-based Hijab Style and Hijabs High and, closer to home, Australian blogspots such as Hijab Revival and Coco’s Pearls.  One only has to Google ‘Modest Fashion’ to find sites that interpret “modest” in different ways, a point put forward by Professor Lewis.

“There is no single definition of modest; different faiths have different parameters, but there is also discussion and dispute within faiths and denominations,” she says.

Aussie Muslim women, students and professionals alike, are showing the world that religious women are no exception when it comes to following fashion and looking good.  And you don’t have to live in Lakemba or catch a Melbourne train to Broadmeadows to figure this out. 

The spectrum of fashion trends that regularly hit city streets – from skinny jeans to full-length road-sweeping skirts – is not lost on Australia’s female population who also choose to wear headscarves.  The latest designs are simply ‘converted’ (sorry, couldn’t resist) into outfits that are more wearable and that suit the fashion-conscious hijabi’s sense of style.

If anything, they are probably a relief to our sore eyes, constantly attacked as we are with images from the fashion and advertising industry of women painfully depicting ‘what’s in’ images that have us reaching for the nearest spray-can.

While Lewis and her colleagues’ research continues to discover the newest modest brands transcending their original intended audiences - for other faith groups and beyond - the rest of us patiently await for Sportsgirl’s first headscarf-wearing model to grace their store windows.  Until then though, I need to figure out how to work combat boots and ‘jeggings’ with the rest of my attire.

Dakhylina Madkul