By Dara, 2006
Islamic clothing does not have to be fashioned after Middle Eastern styles to be Islamic. “Islamic clothing” only means any clothing of any style that meets certain modesty requirements. Western-style Islamic clothing looks like mainstream clothing styles in the West but is modified for Islamic modesty requirements. Long skirts, long tops and blouses, loose trousers/pants, dresses, duster suits, and pantsuits are a few examples.
A skirt and top may or may not be Islamic, depending on their cut and fit. An Islamic skirt will be long, will not allow peek-a-boos through slits or sheer fabric, and will not be too tight-fitting. Because it is so hard to find a skirt that meets these requirements in a typical mall store, innovations can be made to make an inappropriate skirt appropriate. Tall boots can be worn with a skirt that is too short to cover the gap, and tailoring can fix slits and sheer fabric.
But Muslim ladies would rather just have a store where they can shop without having to check for slits and length and necklines. They want to escape the eternal cycle of see-cute-skirt-and-get-hopes-up and see-slit-in-back-and-get-frustrated.
Western-style Islamic clothing follows the trends of mainstream Western fashion design but is modified to meet Islamic standards of modesty in clothing. A French-cuffed, button-down, collared shirt with princess seaming cut from a modern stretchy cotton in a solid earth tone is a Western design. To make it “Islamic,” the buttons would be able to be buttoned up closer to the neck (as opposed to some shirts that do not even have buttons above the cleavage), the fabric would not be sheer, it would most likely be cut longer to cover the bum and then some, the sleeves would be long, and it wouldn’t have princess seaming because that shows the body shape.
A denim skirt is probably a Western design. To make it “Islamic,” it would be cut loose through the hips and thighs (or if it were tight there, one would wear a long shirt to cover that part) and reach at least to the ankles (or to a tall boot). Because there would be no slit, there would have to be some mechanism for walking. Perhaps the skirt would flare out at the bottom or maybe it would have a slit with different material sewn behind the slit to keep the skin hidden. All the embellishments in current denim trends could be and are implemented in Western-style Islamic clothing just like in their mainstream counterparts.
The recent growth of online stores that sell only Western-style Islamic clothing, and very good quality clothing at that, makes it possible for Muslim ladies to finally have stores where they can buy skirts, tops, and pantsuits with ease. Well, not all Muslim ladies—there is still a lack of clothing stores for tall, petite, plus-sized, and pregnant Muslim ladies looking for Western styles. For these ladies, sometimes clothing bought at mainstream shops specializing in tall, petite, plus, and maternity can be combined with clothing bought at Islamic clothing shops to create a workable outfit. Sometimes these ladies just have to give up on their Western-style clothing aspirations and put on a traditional abaya that can be bought in tall, petite, plus, and maternity sizes.
Many ladies will avoid shopping online even if it means they have to buy their Western-style clothing from mainstream shops, with all the hassle that that entails, because of the shipping costs, not being able to try on and inspect the clothing, and not knowing the reputation of the store. These ladies daydream of one day being able to walk into a mall and visit a chain store specializing in Western-style Islamic clothing.
2006 by Dara. Permission is granted to reproduce excerpts of this article up to 250 words in electronic newsletters or on websites provided that the text is unchanged, the text is represented as an excerpt and not a full article, and the following and verbiage is attached:
“2006 by Dara. This article was originally published at http://www.modestclothes.com/islamic/articles/what_is_western_style_islamic_clothing.html.”