31 December 2009

The Circle Scarf

About a year ago, when Lady Gaga's first album was released, she was seen making appearances while wearing a scarf around her head:

I was hoping that it would become more popular for the general public but I haven't seen much of it yet. It looks like Rihanna was supporting the look as well:
I would prefer not to promote American Apparel's clothing but, in the interest of this post, they are selling a version of "The Circle Scarf" in their stores and online...so maybe this headcovering is being recognized as fashionable in the west...again.

30 December 2009

"Modestes" Photography Exhibit

This event is at the Red Cross Museum in Geneva, Switzerland until 24 January 2010.

I attended this exhibit when it first opened in September and I was surprised by the photography which was shown. Alexandra Boulat (the featured photographer) portrayed women in the middle east in less of an orientalist view then most European photographers. The images represented the less admired aspects of some women's lives in the Middle Eastern region with photos showing Middle Eastern men and women who became transvestites, women in hospitals with acid burns, women in poverty...over all, it was a very disturbing collection.
It continued to portray Middle Eastern women as helpless sufferers in the name of Islam.
The title of the exhibit was very misleading. Modesty is usually considered a beautiful thing but instead, this exhibit portrayed modesty as an involuntary result of suffering.
Maybe other people saw the exhibit in a different light, but in my opinion, it could have exhibited at least SOME of the beautiful aspects of Modesty in the Middle Eastern region.

29 December 2009

The Realm of the Unspeakable

"[There is] a radical difference between interior and exterior, which relfects the split between the intimate and the social life of the metropolitan being: outside, the realm of exhange, money, and masks; inside, the realm of the inalienable, the nonexchangeable, and the unspeakable."

(The Architecture of Fashion, p.210)

This is another beautiful quote that is used to describe architecture but can unquestionably be applied to fashion and modesty in Islam.

I especially enjoy the way the quote describes the "inside", "the realm of the inalienable, the nonexhangeable, and the unspeakable". I wonder what thoughts this invokes in you because for me, the inalienable, the nonexhangeable, and the unspeakable in realtion to our private lives is a beautiful thought for me. The unspeakable is not a negative thing; something which is so beautiful, one would not dare to articulate its beauty in fear that words could not do it justice.

28 December 2009

Protecting Sexuality in Design

"a cauldron of sexuality behind apparently innocent surfaces"

(The Architecture of Fashion p.198)

Personally, when I read this quote, I automatically thought of the designs of many courtyards in the United Arab Emirates. The exterior facades or "innocent surfaces" hide and protect the beautifully decorated interior designs.

The arabesque designs and flowing tile work can be associated with the "cauldron of sexuality" that the quote suggests.

Similarly to architecture, the concept of the hijab can also be related to this quote. A "innocent surface" of basic cloth behind the "cauldron of sexuality" which, to me, is a beautiful description of women. Describing sexuality as powerful and beautiful thing that is protected by an "innocent surface".

I also want to note that I took this quote from the book, The Architecture of Fashion, and this book does not talk about fashion and architecture of the Middle East. It focuses more on design in the West. This is important to note because I want to emphasis the fact that our concepts of sexuality, and protecting it is not unique to any part of the world. It is a shared view, different cultures have evolved to express this in different ways.

27 December 2009

The Aesthetic Qualities of Fabric

It is interesting to look at the many types of fabrics that are now available for designers to manipulate and play with in order to create interesting new designs.

Here are a few pictures of fabrics and their interesting and unique qualities they might embody. I removed any color from the photos as to avoid an emotional response to color as opposed to the more basic form of the cloth.

The reason I think this is important to this blog is due to the fact that fabric itself can express so many things and allow such a variety of manipulation. Do we really need extra ornamentation added to our clothing in order to stand out. The pure beauty of fabric should not go unnoticed. It is can be modest yet so intriguing.

The sequins connected by a thing string allows for a certain degree of transparency and layering.

The gauze-like quality gives more structure to the crinkling fabric. There is still a level of transparency allowing on to play with the different levels of light or fabrics when layered.

This fabric is obviously thick enough for pleating. The tension of the pulling on the fabric is more apparent and makes us want to see what
is causing that stress (conceptually).

The lace is so feminine and so light.

26 December 2009

Women's Barrier in Mosques

With the 5th season of the Little Mosque on the Prairie premiering in January 2010, I thought I would bring up an interesting architectural topic relating to one of the shows first episodes.

The issue of the Women's barrier in Mosques...

In episode 2 (season 1), the newly formed mosque must decide if they should or should not have a wall separating the men and women during prayer.

The two main characters had different ideas:

Baber, the more conservative Muslim character, first initiates the construction of a partition wall:

Rayan, the Muslimah feminist character, feels that there is no need for a wall and that having the women sit in the back of the prayer hall is a sufficient barrier.

In the end, there is a partition wall constructed but it is smaller, with a slight screen, and women have the choice to either site behind it or sit to the side of it.

It is an interesting compromise. What do you think about the physical partition in mosques?

25 December 2009

Hijab Cartoon

24 December 2009

Islamic Costume/Facade

"architectural styles [are] fashionable facades that are literally 'nailed on' to the structure, as mere 'costume'."

(The Architecture of Fashion, p.189)

If we were to remove the plasterwork and tile work on the facade of this wall, would we still be able to identify this building as a facade of a mosque in Northern Africa?

23 December 2009

Ornament and Sensuality

"Women's fashion is identified with ornamentation, which in turn is identified with sensuality, in particular man's 'sickly sensuality' which the ornaments are intended to attract."

(The Architecture of Fashion p.198)

* photo taken from here, artwork by Marco Guerra & Yasmina Alaoui

22 December 2009

Modernity Undefined

"the very search for a modern look is not modern. Modernity is not a look. The modern is an unconscious effect of new conditions rather than something produced by artists...to seek it is necessarily to lose it."

(The Architecture of Fashion p.187)

The most intriguing part of that quote is "the modern is an unconscious effect of new conditions" and I feel like it brings up an interesting point when we think about it in terms of the hijab and other modest clothing.

How has modest clothing in the Islamic world changed as a response to new conditions in our society? If you look past the added glitter and embroidery, the form of the hijab, abaya, and niqab has changed very little over the past hundred years despite the dramatic change that has taken place in the Middle East.

There is an interesting article about the designer Diala Kabbara who designed an abaya to address the needs of expatriots who were visiting Saudi Arabia. Here are some excerpts from the article:

"The arrival of expatriate women in the Kingdom, especially during the economic boom of the late 70s, helped transform the ‘abaya’ into a more functional garment. Most women who went out shopping in those days would tie up the long sides of their ‘abaya’ into a clumsy knot. This prevented them from tripping over the dangling flaps. Gradually, buttons and zippers appeared, enabling women to wear the abaya like a light coat. And finally touches of color began to appear on this outer wrapper which reminds us that before the plain black abaya, Saudi women’s black cloaks were embellished with gold."

You can see some of her designs here

21 December 2009

Dressing for your Surroundings

"woe to the lady who would enter such a room in a dress that was not artistically suitable."

-Karl Ernst Osthaus

As Karl Ernst Osthaus implies, it is important to consider the venue when choosing what to wear to an event. You must be dressed appropriately for your surroundings.

This brings up the issue of women who usually wear a niqab/abaya/hijab in their own country but when they leave on vacation they remove their modest clothing in order to fit in more in their, usually Western destination.

Wearing the hijab or niqab in the Western world does draw attention to them and attract stares by men and women so, to some extend, the intention of being modest is compromised. Some women prefer to not be starred at like an alien and feel that it defeats the purpose of wearing the hijab.

How do you feel about being starred at when traveling to non-Islamic countries? Do you feel your privacy is compromised?

20 December 2009

Hijab in Christianity

I have studied traditional clothing from around the world but I was particularly interested in the use of head scarves worn by the women in many European countries. I bring this topic up because, living in America, I find it important to look at the similarities between the East and West and between Islam and Christianity in order for us to better coexist.

After researching this topic more, I discovered that there is a passage in the Bible which suggests that women cover their heads.

Here is the passage from the Bible:

I Corinthians 11:2-16.
2 Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. 3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, 5 but every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as if her head were haven. 6 For if a woman will not be covered, then let her be shorn! But since it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. 7 For indeed a man ought not to cover his head, being the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 For this reason the woman should have authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 In any case, woman is not independent of man, nor man of woman, in the Lord; 12 for as woman is [created] from man, so man is now [born] through woman. And all things are from God. 13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 But if anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.

Putting the obvious sexism aside, it is interesting to think about what happen to this tradition. Many Christians cast this passage aside saying that the practice of covering your head is an ancient custom which has "gone out of style" and is no longer applicable. It is also hard for many modern women in Christianity to accept this passage since it implies that the head covering is a symbol of man's power over women (see verse 10 in the passage above).

What I am wondering about is why the Jewish and Christian traditions of head covering went "out of style" where as in Islam, tradition and adherence to the Koran has been able to last this long. Is it possible that it could be due to the Middle East's isolation from the developed world for so long?

I hope no one take offense to this post, it is not a reflection of my beliefs, I am just proposing a topic of discussion and I would like to hear what others feel about this.

Here is an interesting website which discusses many Christian women's modern interpretation of the above passage: Head Covering Today

Here is another interesting website which analysis each verse in the above passage: Women's Headcovering in the Bible

19 December 2009

Decision to Veil in the UK

"My choice of the veil is one of the most important personal decisions of my life. I was at school thinking about applying to university...In that kind of world I felt that it was imiportant to dress so that people would know I was a Muslim...My decision to wear the veil also ties into my feelings of coming from this different kind of background. We are a British family but because of Islam and our links with Pakistan we have different values and traditions from the families of my non-Muslim friends...I would feel completely exposed without my veil. It is liberating to have the freedom of movement and to be able to communicate with people without being on show. It's what you say that's important not what you look like...At the same time wearing the veil makes me feel special, it's a kind of badge of identity and a sign that my religion is important to me...I find it easier to mix and get around in public and not be bothered by lecherous stares or worse. But these are just advantages of a certain style of dress which doesn't draw attention to the body or fit the Western stereotypes of sexy clothes. They don't have anything specific to do with Islam, they have more to do with being female in a sexist and male dominated society where women are judged by how they look."

-Nadia, a British-Asian medical student who adopted the veil at the age of sixteen.

Extracts from Helen Watson, 'Women and the Veil: Personal Responses to Global Process', in Akbar S. Ahmed and Hastings Donnan (eds), Islam, Globalization and Postmodernity, London and New York; Routledge, 1994.

Movie-Fashioning Faith

I wanted to share a beautiful video which was posted by HijabStyle on December 17th.

The title of the movie is "Fashioning Faith" by Yasmin Moll.

here is the link to the movie (first posted by HijabStyle).

"Fashioning Faith" by Yasmin Moll from Sabrina Enayatulla on Vimeo.

18 December 2009

Book Recommendation: Architecture in Fashion

Architecture in Fashion by Deborah Fausch

This book is very inspiring to my whole intention for this blog. Although the essays in this book speak mostly about western architecture and its relationship to western fashion, the theories are still applicable.

There are numerous quotes from this book which continue to inspire me and will be the premise for many of my future posts.

17 December 2009

Istanbul- The Silhouette

While visiting the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, I noticed an interesting combination of fabric and architecture. Covering one of the main doors of the mosque is a plastic tarp that is used to create a smaller doorway (as opposed to the original 7 meter tall door). The need for a smaller opening is probably to keep birds out of the prayer hall as well as to protect against rain.

The interesting aspect of this piece of fabric is the way they chose to accent the original frame of the door with a floral design.
The green color of the tarp is very prominent and makes a very distinct impression on the overall aesthetic of the mosque.

I want to show how this relates to fashion...

It is interesting to look at the color change in the abaya. The lighter cream color obviously highlights a thinner and more pronounced silhouette of the female figure. This is attractive to us because the female figure is, of course, beautiful and highlighting it with a subtle outline does not go unappreciated.
It relates to the above photo of the tarp at the blue mosque with the use of an embordered design which highlights the frame of the original door.
It is another example of how fashion and architecture is related. We can start to take elements of architecture and apply it to fashion or vice versa.
Do you think it is less modest to have these subtle outlines of a female silhouette on an abaya?

16 December 2009

Haya and the Hijab in Islam

here is some information regarding Modesty in Islam and its relationship to the hijab:

1.An act of obedience.
The hijab is an act of obedience to Allah and to his prophet (pbuh), Allah says in the Qur'an: `It is not for a believer, man or woman, when Allah and His messenger have decreed a matter that they should have an option in their decision. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger, has indeed strayed in a plain error.' (S33:36).
Allah also said: 'And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things) and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts, etc) and not to show off their adornment except what must (ordinarily) appear thereof, that they should draw their veils over their Juyubihinna.'(S24:31).

2.The Hijab is IFFAH (Modesty).
Allah (subhana wa'atala) made the adherence to the hijab a manifestation for chastity and modesty. Allah says: 'O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (veils) over their bodies (when outdoors). That is most convenient that they should be known and not molested.' (S33:59). In the above Ayaah there is an evidence that the recognition of the apparent beauty of the woman is harmful to her. When the cause of attraction ends, the restriction is removed. This is illustrated in the case of elderly women who may have lost every aspect of attraction. Allah (swt) made it permissible for them to lay aside their outer garments and expose their faces and hands reminding, however, that is still better for them to keep their modesty.

3.The hijab is Tahara (Purity)
Allah (swt) had shown us the hikma (wisdom) behind the legislation of the hijab: `And when you ask them (the Prophet's wives) for anything you want, ask them from behind a screen, that is purer for your hearts and their hearts.' (S33:53).
The hijab makes for greater purity for the hearts of believing men and women because it screens against the desire of the heart. Without the hijab, the heart may or may not desire. That is why the heart is more pure when the sight is blocked (by hijab) and thus the prevention of fitna (evil actions is very much manifested. The hijab cuts off the ill thoughts and the greed of the sick hearts:
`Be not soft in speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease (of hypocrisy or evil desire for adultery, etc) should be moved with desire, but speak in an honorable manner.' (S33:32)

4.The hijab is a Shield
The prophet (pbuh) said: "Allah, Most High, is Heaven, is Ha'yeii (Bashful), Sit'teer (Shielder). He loves Haya' (Bashfulness) and Sitr (Shielding; Covering)." The Prophet (pbuh) also said: "Any woman who takes off her clothes in other than her husband's house (to show off for unlawful purposes), has broken Allah's shield upon her. "The hadith demonstrates that depending upon the kind of action committed there will be either reward (if good) or punishment (if bad).

5. The hijab is Taqwah (Righteousness)
Allah (swt) says in the Qur'an: `O children of Adam! We have bestowed raiment upon you to cover yourselves (screen your private parts, etc) and as an adornment. But the raiment of righteousness, that is better.'(S7:26). The widespread forms of dresses in the world today are mostly for show off and hardly taken as a cover and shield of the woman's body. To the believing women, however the purpose is to safeguard their bodies and cover their private parts as a manifestation of the order of Allah. It is an act of Taqwah (righteousness).

6.The hijab is Eemaan (Belief or Faith)
Allah (swt) did not address His words about the hijab except to the believing women, Al-Mo'minat. In many cases in the Qur'an Allah refers to the "the believing women". Aisha (RA), the wife of the prophet (pbuh), addressed some women from the tribe of Banu Tameem who came to visit her and had light clothes on them, they were improperly dressed: "If indeed you are believing women, then truly this is not the dress of the believing women, and if you are not believing women, then enjoy it."

7. The hijab is Haya' (Bashfulness)
There are two authentic hadith which state: "Each religion has a morality and the morality of Islam is haya'" AND "Bashfulness is from belief, and belief is in Al-Jannah (paradise)". The hijab fits the natural bashfulness which is a part of the nature of women.

8.The hijab is Gheerah
The hijab fits the natural feeling of Gheerah, which is intrinsic in the straight man who does not like people to look at his wife or daughters. Gheerah is a driving emotion that drives the straight man to safeguard women who are related to him from strangers. The straight MUSLIM man has Gheerah for ALL MUSLIM women In response to lust and desire, men look (with desire) at other women while they do not mind that other men do the same to their wives or daughters. The mixing of sexes and absence of hijab destroys the Gheera in men. Islam considers Gheerah an integral part of faith. The dignity of the wife or daughter or any other Muslim woman must be highly respected and defended.

information taken from Virtues of Hijab

15 December 2009

Modesty of Architecture- Form and Facade

Modesty can be expressed in many different ways and, of particular interest to me is how it is applied to Architecture.
Similar to clothing, the form of a building expresses a lot about a place and can look particularly extravagant or simple.
I want to look at two examples of architecture in the Arabian gulf, the Islamic Art Museum in Doha and the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi. Both of these buildings are associated with Islam and the representation of each countries culture.
How do you feel about ornamentation on buildings? Do buildings need to be modest when representing Islam?

Islamic Art Museum in Doha:

Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi:

14 December 2009

Book Recommendation: The Fashion of Architecture

The Fashion of Architecture by Bradley Quinn

This is the book which was referenced in yesterday's posting:

"Architecture is making its presence felt in cutting-edge fashion. The pliable metals, membrane structures, lightweight glasses and plastics used in building construction are creeping onto the catwalk. As they do so, their impact on recent textile developments has produced fabrics that enable clothing to act as individual climate-controlled environments that can exchange information with embedded sensors, resulting in wearable ‘dwellings’ that act as both shelter and clothing. At the same time, architects are borrowing the techniques of pleating, stapling, cutting and draping from traditional tailoring to design buildings that are flexible, interactive, inflatable and even portable."

13 December 2009

Experiments with Fashion and Modesty

WARNING: This post may offend some people. The intention is only to inspire thought and provoke comments regarding the theory of the veil.

In the book The Fashion of Architecture by Bradley Quinn, the work of Hussein Chalayan was featured discussing the concept of sensuality and its association with revealing and concealing the body.

Here is a segment from the book (p. 22-23):

"Exploring the sensuality associated with revealing and concealing the body, fashion innovator Huseein Chalayan has even placed his catwalk audience under surveillance. In 1997 he sent models onto the catwalk wearing black chadors of varying lengths and nothing else, exploring the capacity of traditional Islamic dress to define and de-individuate the body by concealing the wearer's identity. The shortest chador exposed the model's body from the navel downward, while another model roamed the catwalk in only a yashmak. Both enabled the wearers to gauge the audience's reactions while remaining anonymous to the onlookers.

An expert on the social significance of veiling, Fadwa El Guindi points out that, 'dress form and behavior...are not accompanied by withdrawal, seclusion, or segregation'. With vision and mobility among the essential concerns of Islamic dress, the sense of privacy afforded by veiling is comparable to the refuge of a building, yet allows the wearer to wander freely.

Chalayan's inversion connects contemporary modes of visuality with this long tradition, demonstrating this power that masking can provide for a wearer who wishes to see and yet remain unseen."

***the picture was edited in order to avoid posting inappropriate nudity on this site.

12 December 2009

The Modesty of Ornamentation

A reoccurring issue that I face when looking at abaya designs is the application of extravagant ornamentation on the outside of the abaya.

When the purpose of the abaya is to be dressed modesty, doesn't the ornamentation contradict the form of the dress?

Obviously this is not a new topic of thought but I am interested in hearing your thoughts on how much ornamentation is too much? too little? just right?

*photos taken from Hijab Style

11 December 2009

Book Recommendation: Veil

Veil: Modesty, Privacy and Resistance
by Fadwa El Guindi

El Guindi discusses the relationship between "the veil" and space in her book Veil: Modesty, Priacy and Resistance. She brings up the topic of versitility of a piece of fabric:

"One property of the veil is its dynamic flexibility, which allows for spontaneous manipulation and instant changing of form. The quality of pull down to uncover or pull up to cover provides the wearer with the advantage of instant maneuvering." (p.97-98)

Another topic El Guindi brings up is the aesthetic relationship between the viewing screen of a burqa and the mashrabiyya:

"'the veil which women in Ghanyari wear can also be used in a similar way to the burqa as a kind of 'shutter' from the gaze of the public in general...' While all face veils have the same property- 'transparency' for the wearer- the one that makes the point dramatically is the Afghan form. A veil- mashrabiyya visual comparison..." (p. 102)

10 December 2009

Conservative Yet Chic Garb Gaining Ground

Article from gulfnews.com

Dubai: Farashati aims to provide "conservative chic" clothing options for women who want to be stylish without compromising their values.

Gulf News sat down with Farashati creative director Farhana Farooq about her views on the 'modesty clothing' industry.

What are the key selling points of this product?

I'd say the key selling point remains the design philosophy behind Farashati. Customers who dress conservatively do not have to layer their clothes any more to cover up. Our designs are in line with the latest trends and come with longer sleeves and longer length. It's a one-stop shopping experience where customers also experience the choice of a matching head scarf.

How confident are you that this concept will pick up?

There is clearly a 'gap' that exists. Our target audience has a distinct set of needs that is not being met by the current fashion retailers. Currently, the only option conservative women have is to layer their clothes - which isn't just uncomfortable but also offers them minimal fashion options even if they are ready to pay the price for it. So the gap we're discussing has always existed - whether in the Middle East or otherwise - and is market-induced since fashion houses tend to concentrate only on liberal styles. I am confident that coupled with good quality, the concept of Farashati is bound to gain popularity in the retail industry.

How many women in Dubai and in the GCC do you think actively use/prefer modesty clothing?

Research figures strongly support the need for conservative fashion options. The UAE is a diverse country with a large population of expatriates belonging to Islamic countries - 15 per cent from GCC countries and eight per cent Iranians in addition to 19 per cent Emiratis. The survey also revealed that over 96 per cent of UAE residents follow and practise Islam - a possible indication of the expected demand for conservative clothing. Farashati also conducted a dipstick research on shopping patterns among UAE residents, 30 per cent of those surveyed answered in the affirmative about the regular use of head scarves, 54 per cent wanted 3/4ths if not full-length sleeves and 68 per cent preferred tops that would cover their hips.

You can check out Farashati designs at:

Introduction to Modesty In Vogue

This blog is intended to discuss issues about Modesty and Design, particularly in fashion and architecture in relation to Islam and Islamic culture.

Some people may ask how I can discuss these four things in one blog (modesty, fashion, architecture, and Islam) and that is a reasonable question.

For one, Fashion and Architecture are both intimately related through design. Fashion is the design of clothing to protect the body and Architecture is the design of a structure to shelter and protect space. These two types of design are both used as a basic part of life but are also representative of an idea, culture, personal image, and function.

Secondly, Modesty, or Haya in Islam is a basic part of life in Islamic culture and can be exhibited in many different ways but most notably in behavior and even dress. The hijab is a primary example of how women in Islam represent their modesty. Modesty can also be exhibited through other forms of dress but also architecture. When talking about modesty in architecture, especially in Islamic societies, one can image the traditional courtyard houses of the Arabian Gulf where the walls and exterior facades of buildings are minimal and purely functional while the interior of the buildings are decorated in ornate tile work.

Throughout this blog, I don't always plan on discussing all four things at once in every post, but my main focus is on how we represent our Modesty or Haya in relation to design and our aesthetic world.