I recently met the fiancé of a dear friend of mine and she, just like other people I’ve met in my life, could not help but comment on how I’m “hiding the beauty of my body under a turtleneck and maxi skirt.” This was followed by her thoughts on how I should not be oppressed and that I need to be strong enough to fight against patriarchal guidelines of modest dressing.
This discussion is just too tiring for me by now and yet every time someone starts it, it makes me cringe inside. There are many hilarious assumptions about women who choose to wear modest outfits in their everyday life and while I can’t speak for all hijabis, I can say the fact I’m wearing loose pieces doesn’t imply I’m oppressed or I don’t pay attention to fashion trends or weather conditions.
I was lucky to grow up among broad-minded supportive people, which meant I was always free to do whatever I wanted. But when it came to clothes, somehow naturally, I came to love modest styles and preferred covered clothing over revealing pieces.
However, dressing modestly is not just about an outfit, but also about how you see yourself. It is not restricted by the attire, religion, gender or age; it is a belief that comes from within to build your self-esteem and gives you the strength to be different.
How Modesty Makes Me Powerful
When I head out to the beach in modest swimwear or any other place in a flowy abaya, I sometimes attract several looks of disapproval, whispers, sneers or even open hostility. I for one, tend to ignore these looks and to make things more interesting, I usually do it with a friendly smile.
I believe that this is what gives me the strength, power and confidence to do whatever I want. It makes me realize that I am more than what I choose to wear. Moreover, I dress modestly out of my own free will. My outfit is not chosen by the society or by the men in my house. This is the strength that I would not give up for anything in the world.
How Modesty Makes Me Beautiful
Beauty is all about being at ease, content and comfortable. Modest women are truly lucky to not be confined to stereotyped standards of beauty. We don’t need to expose our bodies to feel beautiful, nor do we need to be validated by standardized fashion labels. We can be more beautiful than that on our own — and in the way we like.
Apart from feeling beautiful, I also realized that modest outfits made my life stress-free. I no longer had to worry about making my collarbone shine perfectly, having the perfect thighs or gorgeously toned arms , or keeping my tummy tucked in. Life is hard enough without having to worry about what people think of your body. By letting go of this stress, I was able to fall in love with my body and I felt more beautiful than ever before.
Modesty is a belief on its own, a belief that dressing decently will not make me less attractive and that I do not dress for anyone else but myself. And as I said, modesty can never be limited to only a specific gender or a particular community. It is a universal concept for anyone who believes in his or her self-worth.
Despite the fact that I’m a firm believer of modesty, I don’t expect the whole world to dress the way I do. Everyone should have the right to believe in what they want and wear what they want based on those beliefs. So let’s just aim to simply live and let live.
Sarah Ghanem is a happy Muslimah who is keen on trendy, yet modest Muslim clothing for women. She always tries to stay productive and passionate. Ever since she managed to turn her passion into a profession, she’s been a proud stylist and fashion consultant at Modanisa.