At all the schools I’ve been to, I’ve noticed the popular girls are usually the most fashionable. It’s like living the movie Mean Girls when they’re walking down the hall way, perfect hair flowing in the air, mini skirts, tight jeans and belly tops. Just simply looking perfect. Who doesn’t want to look good? And when you have a religious obligation like I do, it is especially important to find creative ways to standout fashion-wise while honouring that belief.
As a Muslim woman, I wear a scarf around my head called a hijab. Muslims believe that covering our hair hides our beauty. We do this to gain more respect from men. Not only do I cover my hair, I do dress modestly, covering my arms and legs. Essentially the covering is to reduce the attraction between men and women.
My hijab always adds to my overall look. I like to look bold and outgoing and choose to wear vibrant colours such as, red, pink, blue, green, and orange, which match my personality. I can wear anything I want without having to worry if it is too revealing, because I always have a long sleeve shirt underneath to cover my arms.
Many people wear scarves around their necks just to be fashionable. I use my hijab as an accent to compliment my outfits. I like to wear a vibrant coloured top, with a matching coloured scarf, because it makes me stand out.
I never used to care if what I wore was branded or in style, but that changed in Grade 8 when I moved to Toronto from Cairo, Egypt. I was 13 years old at my first school year in Canada. I made lots of friends, but I can’t forget this one friend whom I considered my best friend. We hung out everyday during lunch hour and after school until one day she began to avoid me. When I asked why, she simply said. “Look at what you’re wearing and everyone else is wearing.”
I took a second look at myself, I realized that my jeans were baggy and my top was too loose. Overall, I looked like a frumpy mess.
She walked away as I stood there struck by her words. My best friend didn’t want to hangout with me anymore. It wasn’t because she didn’t like me for who I was, but because she didn’t like my fashion sense. I guessed she didn’t like that I wasn’t wearing designer cloths. That was the day I realized there are people who will judge the way you dress, and no matter what, you can’t satisfy everyone.
I knew that many people often build their first impression on appearances. For a Muslim woman wearing a hijab it can be even worse. Describe someone as wearing a hijab and the picture that comes to mind is dull and boring and frumpy, like Grade 8 me. Often people think that wearing the hijab is due to oppression and will make you ugly. But that is not true. It is a religious obligation that you may choose to fulfil or not. Just like going to the church. In Muslim countries, since most people choose to be religious, over the years it became incorporated into the culture as well.
The way I dress now didn’t begin overnight, but rather it took years. A part of it was me trying to figure out who I am, but most importantly, what kind of a person I want to be in the future. I believe that I wouldn’t be the person I am today without my style. I love matching my hijab colour to what I’m wearing, because it’s different from the common black hijab. I usually wear bright fitted clothing with a matching hijab. People see my hijab as a statement piece rather than just a religious requirement.
Since my grade school days, I’ve never had any negative feedback on my style; in fact I always get compliments. They vary from my jewelry, to my tops and jeans, but mainly, about my hijab.
I’ve found that people love seeing people of other religions and cultures in bright colours. Some of the compliments I get now are “wow, I love your scarf,” “Your head piece is gorgeous,” “I love how you match everything you’re wearing.” These compliments showed me that people do appreciate the effort and the thought I put into my wardrobe selection.
I chose a role for myself, while I want to fulfil my religious obligation; I also have a message to convey. Being a Muslim and wearing a hijab doesn’t have to make me ugly. I can be modest and pretty at the same time.
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