How to Start Wearing Hijab
In the Western wolrd, hijab usually refers to the headscarf Muslimas wear to cover their neck and hair. However, hijab also encompasses an entire style of dressing oneself that emphasizes modesty. It is important to point out that cultures define modesty in different ways across the globe. In North America, what we see as conservative clothing could easily be considered lewd elsewhere, the opposite is also true. An American Muslima dressed in a t-shirt and jeans is not viewed as being "provocatively dressed" by her non-Muslim or Muslim peers. However, she may find hijab beneficial in maintaining a closer relationship with God, or give her peace of mind that men cannot leer at her curves. With so much emphasis put on sex appeal in America, hijab can be a very liberating concept. It immediately removes that pressure and allows women to pursue other interests.
Want to know more about hijab?
- Why do I wear Hijab? Is it just Modesty that I attain?
One woman's explanation for why she and many other Muslimas wear hijab.
- Exploring Islam in the US: What's a Hijab?
Commonly known as an Islamic headscarf, the hijab isn't a simple religious tradition among Muslim women. Dressing this modestly is more than throwing on a scarf to cover your hair- It's transforming.
Generally, shirts, tops, and blouses should:
- flow loosely around the body (not fitted).
- be long enough to conceal your rear.
- have sleeves at least as long as 3/4, if not full length.
- have a high neckline (like a crew neck) that covers your chest.
- be opaque, not transparent.
Bottoms, like skirts and pants are really simple and should:
- be wide, regular, or straight-leg.
- be opaque, not transparent.
Hijabs and headscarves vary widely in styles, but overall should:
- provide the desired amount of coverage.
Where to Start?
You don't have to throw out every piece of clothing you own. Many items can still be worn with modifications to other aspects of dress. You can still wear jeans and most loose-fitting tops, these are quite acceptable when worn with a duster or wrap that hangs past the widest part of your hip while also concealing your arms.
I like to define my style with one simple rule: Minimize curves. Follow that rule if nothing else. There are other tricks and fashion supplements that will allow you to keep much of what you already wear. Replaces pieces slowly as you ease into your new look. Hijab allows a lot of room for creativity and can really make you feel like a fashion designer as you combine items in ways you never considered before. Browse a search engine for "hijab fashion" and you will be amazed at what you can do while maintaining modesty.
Exceptions and Wardrobe Supplements
At first, It seems hard to find clothing in Western culture that fits the above guidelines, especially in tops. Don't fret, there are tools to fix an item's shortcomings. Really like that turquoise top with the beautiful draped front, but a neckline a mile deep? Many online hijab clothing stores have "neck covers" that are basically a sleeveless cropped turtleneck. They can be tricky to find in searches, but are great at fixing coverage problems without adding a stifling second shirt underneath your outfit. You can also make your own. Just pick out a top with a good neckline from the local thrift store and trim it down yourself.
Sleeves are another issue. I really like to avoid layering too much, so will go out of my way to find fixes like ilovemodesty.com's one-piece sleeve set (pictured). If the weather is cooler, a simple long sleeve t-shirt underneath, or cardigan over top, solves the problem.
Another good extra to have are knee high boots. They are great if you have a pair of skinny jeans you just can't part with, or a skirt that's a little too short. Shoes are a great way to hold onto the Western culture you grew up with, and I think of them as the cherry on top of my clothing ensemble.
I have mentioned skinny jeans, but they are so controversial in Muslim attire that I believe they deserve their own section. You will find many opinions on wearing them. Personally, I believe they can be worn modestly when curves are hidden. For example, a top worn with skinnies should be long enough to reach mid-thigh or lower. Short dresses worn over pants accomplish this easily, and calves can be covered with those knee high boots. You likely have your own opinion of what is modest enough within your community, culture, and nation. God will guide you in your wardrobe decisions and other Muslims should not judge you based on appearance and fashion choices, but no one is perfect.
Can Non-Muslims Wear Hijab?
Yes, and many do. It's a common theme in many religions to cover your head, and highly unlikely that any Muslim wouldn't be absolutely thrilled to see others in more modest attire. If you are not Muslim and choose to wear a headscarf or dress in loose-fitting clothes, be prepared to be mistaken for one anyway. I often wore hijab before converting to Islam, and no one has ever been rude to me or offended by it, but I did get many "Assalamu alaikum's."
It is important to remember that not all who wear headscarves are Muslimas, and so you will see many variations in manner of dress and what is acceptable throughout North America. For me, it is less about traditional abayas (full length, full coverage dresses) and more about dressing in what's considered non-provocative attire within your native culture.