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