In July 2014, DKNY released a Ramadan collection designed specifically for Muslim women. Two months later, rising modeling star Mariah Idrissi was hired as H&M’s first hijab-wearing model. In January 2016, Nura Afia became the first Muslim ambassador for Cover Girl, posing alongside Katy Perry and Sofia Vegara. In September 2016, Anniesa Hasibuan made New York Fashion Week history by presenting a lineup of wearing hijab as a fashion statement entirely hijabi models. Two months later, Halima Aden of Minnesota became the first to wearing wear a hijab and burkini in an American beauty pageant.
It’s the modesty movement. And it’s claiming it’s place the fashion world.
Dina Imamovic, a Murfreesboro Islamic fashion designer and founder of Dalliance Designers, is a proponent the new style.
“Islamic modest fashion did not exist seven years ago,” said Imamovic, a petite woman, explaining in a vaguely annoyed manner how much trouble women have to go through to find clothing larger than “a yard of fabric.”
MTSU student Talea Rahman is one of many Muslim women of millennial age on campus who wear a hijab to classes. She believes modest fashion shows people that “there are different ways to feel beautiful. It doesn’t matter if you show more or less skin.”
The last few years have seen the rise of numerous hijabi fashion bloggers and vloggers, such as Dina Tokio, one of the many popularrs credited with sparking the “turban trend.”
The term hijabi refers to a woman who wears the hijab, an Islamic head scarf.
Imamovic disliked having to add layer upon layer, over and under every outfit to gain a modest look, however stylish it may be. She took to sketching, searching for manufacturers to create her vision, and built her business one head scarf at a time.
“It came from a selfish place; me wanting nice stuff to wear.”
2016 seemed to be the year for the modesty movement. Hijab-clad women appeared everywhere from pageants to runways to local retail stores.
“We’re pushing back,” Imamovic said, explaining how she sees the modesty movement as more of a feminist reform. “Everything is about being sexy. Other than fall and winter collections, all you see is nudity. … But we’re pushing back. We don’t need to show our goodies to feel sexy and powerful.”
Which brings us to the hijab itself.
The hijab is a scarf worn on the head by many but not all Muslim women. In addition to being an act of religious devotion, it is meant to symbolize modesty, both outwardly and internally, to privatize a woman’s body for only those closest to her and to emphasize her words, actions and intelligence over her looks.
The hijab has been at the center of many political and religious debates. Meanwhile, now more than ever and especially in the West, women are reclaiming the hijab as their own symbol of feminism and religious identity. However, given the current political climate, donning the headscarf take quite a lot of courage, in addition to being difficult in a practical sense.
“[Wearing the hijab is] a pain in the backside. Not gonna lie,” Tokio stated in her video “Why I Wear Hijab (The Truth).”
“The only reason I’ve managed to stay consistent is because of keeping it interesting with the likes of fashion, styling, design, creativity,” the presenter added.
“If anyone tells you it’s easy, it’s not,” Imamovic said. But bringing modest fashion, and specifically hijab fashion, into mainstream outlets has normalized the hijab and taken some of that burden away and shows everyone that dressing modestly can be fun and stylish, she noted.
Of course, the modesty movement has faced its share of criticism as well, from both Muslim and non-Muslim women. There are those who claim hijabi beauty vloggers and designers are reducing the religious garment to a fashion statement, therefore defeating its original purpose. And there are those who try to equalize modesty with “body shaming.” Tokio has certainly gotten several comments on her channel criticizing her promotion of modest fashion.
Rahman said the criticism is unfounded.
“There are millions of Muslim women in the world that come from all different cultures. African Muslims have a different sense of style compared to Turkish Muslims and American Muslims. To denounce the merging of different styles is to denounce the idea that Islam spread to different countries and merged into their cultures,” Rahman said. “Denouncing this fashion idea is preventing Muslim girls of finding ways to be modest but also feel good in what they wear.”
Imamovic’s feelings are similar.
“If you don’t like it go make your own statements, and we’ll make our statements side by side,” the Murfreesboro-based designer said about the criticism. “We are here to support our sisters in faith in whatever way we can.”
Imaan Malik is a journalism student at Middle Tennessee State University.