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Conservative Hijab Updated


Aataai Gazi Mahbub (atagam)



Long the icon of a conservative, religious dress code for Muslim women, the hijab, or head covering, has also been seen as a symbol of women's repression and is now being reborn in modernity and stylishness. Its traditional design is being rethought in response to the commercial demands of the age, with the intent of re-presenting it as a fashion statement for women of conservative-to-moderate views.

For 14 centuries it was used as a single item of clothing with an unchanging design but now is being produced by different designers, with a variety of colors and textures that reflect the wearer's individual taste and preferences within the constraints of Islamic law. It tries to harmonize the religious practice of Islam with the joy of living other areas of one's life in accordance with Islamic fundamental doctrine. It has gradually been adapted to the contemporary outlook of many conservative Muslim women.

Breaking with the traditional concept of a single garment, the hijab can now be seen as a two-part covering: one for the full body, from leg to neck or shoulder, the other a hair cap or scarf, well known as an around-the-head-scarf. Like the hijab itself, this combination is very popular and keeps the face fully exposed.

The traditional covering of the face with a veil is very controversial and strictly not permitted under Qur'anic law, which is why some designers follow this pattern. A separate eye veil is available because some conservatives want to cover their full face.

Many Muslim women have combined modern dress with Western jeans, pants and shirts. For example, they wear a loose-fitting, long, leg-to-shoulder dress, over jeans or trousers and cover their hair, neck and shoulders with another piece of cloth. One wears her scarf pinned under the chin and then takes the extra length and tucks it in at the chin. The other length is pinned to her shoulder. Another wears her scarf pinned at the chin, then draws the two tails behind her head and ties them in a knot underneath the back of the scarf. Some professional women wear a long scarf over a long skirt or normal dress, like pants and a shirt. Some hijabs follow the basic tie style that enfold just ears and head and then is tied at the chin. Styles like these are seen often in Europe, the Americas and secular Muslim countries.

Modern yet devoted Pakistani Muslim women wear the shalwar qameez with a long dupatta (headscarf, which covers the full head and neck), while Bangladeshi and Indian Muslim women wear the sari with a long dupatta.

At one time, a hijab other than black would have been unheard of, but now a variety of colors and embroidered designs have a place in the style of the sartorial hijab, which has accordingly become more popular among Muslim women. The range of colors helps them express their taste and style in wearing apparel. The most popular colors are navy blue, light blue, light and dark pink, off white, dark brown, and dark and medium gray.

Colors, butterflies, beads, sequins, flowers, strawberries, mesh, leaves, tulips, stars and many abstract designs beautify the basic hijab, e.g., the star scarf, the mauve brown scarf with red flowers, the brown flower scarf embroidered with sequins, the brown scarf beaded with a brown flower print, the mocha and cream cool stretch scarf, the strawberries and cream cool stretch scarf and the black scarf with embroidered leaves.

A decorative pin to keep the two parts of the hijab together is used as an element of the sartorial hijab. A variety of designs and colors of pin cater to the individual tastes of hijab users, including white, multi-colored peacock, bright bows, circle headed pins, olive green rose diamond pins, rectangle headed pins and turquoise oval headed pins.

Other Muslim women wear various kinds of hijab, such as beaded, plain and slip-on hijabs, square and rectangular hijabs (or shaylas), the Al-Amira hijab and many others. The slip-on hijab can just be pulled over the head, allowing one to go out without more ado. The chiffon slip-on hijab has an elastic in the chin area to connect the body and head.

The Al-Amira hijab is a two-piece veil, consisting of a close-fitting cap, usually made of cotton or polyester and an accompanying tube-like scarf. The shayla is a long, rectangular scarf popular in the richer Arab lands. It's wrapped around the head and tucked or pinned in place at the shoulders. Cotton shayla hijabs are also worn in Turkey and the Middle East.

For underage Muslim girls, variously styled hijabs are made, such as the tiara hijab.

Following Western trends, the hijab fashion houses adopt various names for their styles, indicating their design concept, such as sun sequin wrap, classic Jacquard wrap, contrasting stripes wrap, starry night wrap, geometric wrap, two moons wrap and the summer wrap.

The attempt to ban the hijab in Europe has raised more awareness of it among Muslims, who are attempting to convert the conservative hijab into a fashion statement that may make it acceptable among religious and non-religious people.
Iranian designer Fahimeh Mahoutchi has designed a new type of chador, which does not require wearing an overcoat underneath. Inspired by a Western fashion magazine, the Jordanian Salwa has devised a new way of wearing the veil: it covers long hair with the fabric, then ties it up behind, leaving the neck and face uncovered. This February, Emel Algan, a leader of the Islamic Women's Organization in Berlin, designed a series of nine "modern" and "alternative" clothing designs for the hijab in various colors and materials. Most of them are like ski caps or hoods with ear flaps that can simply be slipped over the head without buttons or zips. The fabric has to be elastic, like jersey and felt.

At the London Fashion Week starting Monday, Feb. 12, 2007 one designer presented a turban-style hijab that mainly covers the head. In the hijab controversy in France last year, former interior minister and newly-elected president Nicolas Sarkozy suggested replacing the Muslim headscarf with a bandana, much to the disdain of French Muslims.

Besides, the hijab appears in many fashion venues, e.g., the U.S., U.K., France, Poland, Lebanon, Iran and Afghanistan.

The Iranian government has organized a "hijab fashion show’" from tine-to-time to accustom Iranians to new trends in Islamic dress. On the first day of the current year, some Iranians organized a hijab fashion show to introduce a new style in terms of colors and designs, in a break with Arab tradition. Iranian models were presented in skimpy tight overcoats, high heeled shoes and token headscarves perched on the back of their dyed hair.

Muslim garment houses have become more interested in introducing the new style of hijab, concerning which Al-Ikhlas Islamic Clothing, a Muslim garment firm, has announced that: "We are constantly striving to provide the latest and most up to date head covers for our customers." Hijab al-Muminat, other company, has positioned itself as a leading modern hijab fashion house.

Many Western fashion houses are trying to produce an attractive hijab with commercial appeal as an example of "diversity in clothing." Their goal is to find a niche in the Muslim clothing market and increase the level of business they do with the Muslim world.



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