No matter who you are, what you do, how much money you make, or how curvy/tall/petite/small you are (or want to be) fashion can feel intimidating. I think this is especially true for Muslim women who wear hijab. No matter where we go we carry this announcement of faith around with us. And though it can feel incredibly empowering and superhero-like to know that a 1,400 year-old-religion is thriving among Muslim women who could otherwise be lost among the herds of cleavage and short-shorts, it can also be a little nerve-wracking. It can make your heart pound, your skin perspire and your mouth a little dry to know that the only way all eyes won't be on you when you enter a room is if someone else walks in ahead of you juggling kittens.
So then you secretly pray to hear a sweet meow.
When it comes to picking clothes for big or small events I'll admit that sometimes I try on a flirty lace dress, 5-inch heels, shake out my hair and look at myself in the mirror and think I wish I could wear THIS tonight.
As Muslim women, I think we've all been there.
Image Credit: Grace Hwang Lynch
At times it can be frustrating. Other times we don't think twice as we toss that mini onto a pile of trial outfits stacked like a Jenga puzzle high on our beds. We swap the body-hugging tops for layers of long-sleeve-shirts even when it's too hot outside; we replace the curve-extenuating bottoms with long skirts and gowns and wide-leg trousers.
For a Muslim woman, trying on clothes or trying to style an outfit can be exhausting and disappointing while simultaneously acting as a fierce confidence builder. It's a constant battle, but when balance is struck it can be exhilarating. Suddenly you've arrived in all your hijab-wearing Muslim glory and you want to world to know how special it feels to be different -- to be noticed.
Of course then there's that moment when some random guy at the train station flips you the bird, but you're still feeling good so you smile and hold up a peace sign. He winces, and you check to make sure all your hijab pins are in place.
It's probably fair to say that not all Muslim women feel about clothes the way I do. Not everyone will turn the pages of an Anthroplogie catalog and feel actual pain because their heart is swelling at the thought of buying that so-perfect-for-Fall coat. Not all Muslim woman think twice about what they wear to work or what they'll wear to their best friend's wedding. For some Muslim women attire is hardly a topic of thought let alone a topic for conversation or a blog post.
But for those of us who stand together in solidarity of will power as we walk past J. Crew's summer collection or pine after a vintage bikini on Etsy, I want us to listen carefully for that anthem that celebrates the moments we feel strong and weak, proud and shy. That anthem is for those of us who fight the urge to show up at Six Flags in denim cutoffs or to a coffee house in skin-tight leggings even when -- especially when --we can see that Pilates is totally working.
If you've never heard it, I can't explain to you what the anthem sounds like and I don't think it even has words. But I know that it exists. I can hear it when it's 102 degrees and 94 percent humidity in New York city and I see a group of young girls in long tops and jeans, black and white chucks and neatly pinned hijabs walking down the opposite side of the street. When our eyes meet we nod in recognition of each other's courage and fear, dedication and moments of doubt. That's when the anthem is heard so loudly it fills you up inside giving you a type of release from the world that nothing else can compare to.
Not even the sound of a sweet meow.
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