Modest Fashion & Muslim Sisterhood: Facing Division and Judgements

The modest fashion sector is now at its golden age. The sector is booming with online shopping websites, boutiques, blogs, magazines, fashion shows, shopping fests, and more. Even the mainstream brands such as H&M, Dolce & Gabbana, Mango and Uniqlo created exclusive collections for veiled women in effort to profit from this huge market. Yes, I can hear you saying, “Thank God, the world has realized ‘us’ at the end.” It could be a “win for representation.” Nobody can deny that modest women have had difficulty finding outfits that address their needs, with alternatives being previously limited.

But, wait! Now we are face to face with another problem: most of the modest women are getting polarized day by day. What about our sisterhood? As the gap between Muslim women who are tradition and those who are the chic elite widens, it hurts a sense of sisterhood. The discourse of “they” and “we” is deeply felt nowadays. For instance, most of the traditional Muslim women do not see fashionable, chic, veiled women with full make-up and in posh expensive attire as their sisters. If you have ever happened to be in such a conversation, you must have heard that sentence: “Oh, come on! They are not of us!”

My country, Turkey, is an interesting example from this respect. The price tags seem to break the tie between the modest women themselves that was assumed to be much stronger in the past. The more that Muslim elites tend to shop luxe, sumptuous styles in stores and online, the more they get alienated from the community of sisterhood. Scarves or abayas almost worth of most of the traditional poor families’ monthly income become the main “criminal.” At that point, some modest women of average income easily accuse their chic counterparts of high income with being uncommitted to Islamic rules, and antagonize them. But, in my opinion, the issue cannot be explained in the realm of Islam per se, as those women do. The very sociocultural and economic contexts the society exist should be taken into consideration if we are to answer how and why the latest modest fashion trend engender the dissolution of unity; otherwise, the debate just revolves around the women, and women’s bodies are turned to the point of attestation. In fact, this is often the case. When you look at most of the debates on modest fashion, you see that discussions are mainly based on, again, the women and women’s bodies. I encourage anyone to strongly contemplate the ties between modest women throughout the world from a different perspective. Let’s brainstorm together!

This article was written by Burcu Özgüçlü.

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