Saturday 8 March 2008

The Lazy Muslimah’s Capsule Wardrobe

When writing this I am no way stating that I am an authority on fashion or what constitutes hijab, what is ok, what is shariah-compliant or what anybody should wear. This way of thinking does make my life easier though and I would gain a lot of pleasure thinking it is of any use to another woman.

Whilst expecting Little Man I started to wear an Abaya, partly because alhamdulillah this was the time my iman had been strongest in my life and partly because my confidence was high enough to consider wearing such a thing in public and to work. It wasn’t something I had thought too hard about, it just felt like a natural next step. What it did do though, was simplify my life in some ways.

An abaya and smart jacket covered my baby bump when I was expecting Little Man and helped me through an interview which gained me promotion. Again when Gorgeous was on the way, I attended an interview for a management position whilst seven-months pregnant and no-one realised. I got the job and my new office got a big surprise.

My husband is also deeply relieved he doesn’t have to put up with petulant whines of “I’ve got nothing to weeaar” every morning, because whatever I wear an abaya will cover it.

Of course dressing this way it has its flip-side (I wouldn’t necessarily say down side). Many people assume you are Arab, rather than a Punjabi kurri (girl). Many assume that you can’t possibly speak English (although the charity muggers and evangelists leave you well alone). In fact when you start in a new place people find it odd that you are their manager and not the new temp.

Also there is the fear that you will lose who you are because your clothes say so much about you and because people assume so much when they see you dressed this way. I wore abaya in stages. Wearing hijab at university, then slowly wearing loser clothes, and then eventually wearing the full loose dress-like abaya. A colleague went straight to wearing a very loses abaya and a very big khimar mashallah when she converted to Islam. Two years later she removed it all and went bare-headed and to wearing jeans and a half-sleeve tee. I could see some people thinking she had lost faith or turned her back on hijab – but really she just felt she had lost her identity. She knew she would probably wear hijab again, but she needed to find herself first.

Being a hijabi or wearing abaya doesn’t mean losing who you are as the multitude of smart sisters out there prove. I love what Sister Kima at We Love Hijab has to say: “that the abayah is a Muslim woman's "little black dress” and that a black abayah, a pair of patent pumps and a pretty scarf can take us anywhere.
My idea of a capsule wardrobe? For what its worth:

1 good black abaya in a good material and a comfortable fit is good for work, weekend or evening depending how you dress it. I have two, because my kids love putting their dirty sticky little hands on me.
To supplement: 1 simple basic abaya in each/any of the following colours: dark or mid-grey, navy and chocolate brown. Other colours that can be good are beige, burgundy, dark/khaki green.

One good bag and a good pair of classic black court shoes/pumps with the twist (or not) that shows your style.

The colours above will go with pretty much any scarf and all you need to buy really are shoes or accessories (broaches, hijab pins, rings – oh and a nice pair of leather gloves look great with a smart abaya)

I wear my black abaya with black trainers and a square hijab when on the run playing catch-up at the weekend; with leopard pumps, a large black plain silky khimar and brown beaded bracelets when I want to look sharp at work; and with a pair of smart lady-like heels, and co-ordinating silk scarf and cocktail ring for dinner out or with friends (with no shoes and the khimar round my neck when at my mums). It’s a no-brainer for me, especially when I have to get three dirty-faced angels ready at the same time.

My intention is not at all to turn hijab into something trivial or remove the modesty or simplicity from it. It is to wear it in a way that still covers the shape of the body, still tells people that we are Muslimah’s and to be respected, but also to let our personalities shine through. I love to wear all black as much of the next sister, but sometimes it scares people and as a Muslimah I do believe that it’s our duty to reach out to others and be open enough for them to come to us. If someone is too scared/intimidated to talk to us (even other non-hijab-wearing Muslimah’s), how are they going to ask us why we wear hijab? Why we fast? Why we pray? Ask us to show them how to wear hijab?

1 comment:

  1. As-salaamu 'alaykum :)

    I found your blog by accident through Google. I was just wondering what your opinion is on wearing abayas for interviews? I usually wear abayas like the one you have pictured - loose, but not entirely structureless. I mostly wear abayas from, they're very Western in design, but still modest, alhamdulillah. I have an interview on Wednesday for which I'm supposed to wear professional business attire. I assume this means a suit, or a blazer and pants.

    If you don't mind, I would love your opinion on this. If I plan to wear abayas to regular work days, do you think I should wear an abaya to the interview as well? My abayas are not as formal as they expect; unfortunately I do not have any plain black abayas. But I have some that are enough for business casual. Or should I just wear a regular suit, which would not be as modest as the abaya but still within Islamic standards (in my opinion, inshaAllah)?

    Jazakillahu khayran :)
    Your sister in Islam,

    P.S. I really liked this post and look forward to reading more from you, inshaAllah :)