What I’ve Learned from Growing Up As a Muslim Girl in a Fashion-Forward World

This article was syndicated from Manal Shaikh for Her Campus's celebration of Muslim Women's Day.

As a young Muslim girl, I have undoubtedly struggled immensely when it came to clothing and fashion. It was difficult for me to discover that I could still stay "in fashion" while being properly covered. I remember when I was younger, girls at school would always ask me the daring questions of “Aren’t you hot in those jeans? Why don’t you wear shorts?” For some reason, I always felt quite embarrassed when that happened. I tended to give lame excuses on how I just like wearing jeans, and I never really explained the rules of modesty that I follow in Islam.

As I got older, it became even more difficult. For example, if I wanted to attend a party, all of my friends were buying dresses with no problem, while I was struggling for weeks because I couldn’t find a dress that was stylish and also covered my legs, cleavage, and shoulders — along with not being too tight on my body. If I did find a dress that fit my criteria, I was still clouded with the idea that I might look out of fashion compared to my peers. I grew to hate dresses and skirts solely because of the fact that I could never find anything for me. Even finding a dress for my high school graduation day was so difficult for me, and I remember I was so upset over the fact that I had to spend endless time in finding an appropriate dress just so I could graduate.

What I’ve realized now though, is that those doubts and embarrassing moments I had were all in my head. Nobody else was judging me – it was really just me being afraid to show who I am and what I believe in. I’ve grown to learn that as long as I carry myself in confidence, I will still look stylish, and I have nothing to worry about. Confidence can change one’s perceptions on everything. Similarly, one of my best friends shared with me her struggles from when she began to wear hijab, and how her confidence has grown over time:

“I didn’t grow up with anyone who covered their hair, so it was quite underwhelming and slightly discouraging being the only one. However, once I discovered how stylish hijabi women were on YouTube and social media, it was pretty amazing to see how it opened the doors to fashion,” says Zaynub Siddiqui, a junior at University of Maryland, Baltimore. “Now, being completely covered while staying fashionable is fun since I’m always pondering of ways to wear things and piece them together. The practice of being modestly dressed and knowing that I was covering for God, made it even more rewarding when I started styling my outfits.”

I often see individuals on social media shame Muslim women who don’t wear hijab, or for not being covered enough. I believe it’s so important to stress that whether someone wears hijab or not, whether they wear tight clothing or not, whether they wear revealing clothing or not — it doesn’t make them any less of a Muslim.

Nobody has the right to tell you about how immersed you are in your faith, because that is something personal between you and God. I see this type of judgment happen a great deal to the Muslim women community, and that’s why I feel as if it’s our job to be the powerful women we are and stand together.

At the end of the day, we must all break through stereotypes. Advocate for what we believe in. Show that we do — in fact — have a voice. Because I can assure you, there is nothing more beautiful than that.

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