A Wardrobe Change

Sometime last year I read an article about the oppression of Muslim women because of the “restrictive” clothing we are supposedly forced by men to wear. The writer went on and on about how my clothes, are a nuisance to wear and are unpractical. She complained that it is like a form of torture to dress as I do. Torture? I would like to take a stroll through her closet and bring to light all of the torture mechanisms she is unknowingly harboring.
I’d like to address the subject of wardrobe malfunctions. This is something that all women could relate to. Across the board, women of all cultures and religious dress have experienced certain non-practicalities of their outfits. And as women we adjust the fit to fit us.

I spent the first 21 years of my life without Islam. And during those years I dressed however the trends dictated. Sometimes I dressed completely opposite the trends just because, well that’s my nature. I wore short mini-skirts that gravely hindered my range of movements. I was always afraid of dropping something because I couldn’t bend over without exposing my rear. I figured that I'd either had to train myself to grip items much tighter or remember to squat down to retrieve fallen items. Eventually I realized I should just not wear the skirt.

In Junior High, tight tight jeans were popular. So I sported my oxygen restrictive jeans until I could no longer remember my name (not to mention the massive wedgies occurring). I had ta let um go. Oh, and I mustn’t forget that always reliable little black dress. It was a favorite of mine. I grew up in the days of always wearing stocking with a dress. Whoever invented stockings must have really hated women. Why else are we expected to wear something so fragile on our legs and feet? These are the things we use most while in motion. I would last no longer than 2 hours in a day without a huge run in my stockings, thus completely ruining the look.

I wore my hair big in the 80’s and straight in the 90’s. Big hair was somewhat difficult and time consuming for some of my girlfriends to achieve (my hair is of a more cooperative texture). We used to spend at least an hour with curling irons, back combing, hair sprays, jells, mousse, singed ears from the irons and a bit of cussing when that happened. We did all of this only to find that when the first gust of wind hit us from behind our big hair styles would be emancipated from the products that had united them in bondage. Now, the straight do’s were just as tedious to maintain. The natural enemy of my straight hair was humidity. If it were too humid, my straight locks would frizz. If it were raining, my hair would get wet and curl. UUgggghhhhh! This is when I started wearing hats.

Then, there was always the breaking-in of the new high heel shoes. Firstly the shoe was shaped completely wrong for human feet. I never knew anyone whose feet grew to a pin-point at the toe like I found in these shoes. But nonetheless, I was led to believe that these shoes would make me feel pretty. Well, for the first few days, they made my feet feel like they’d been mauled by pitbulls!

Let's talk about skin problems for a moment. For we all know that the look isn't complete without flawless pores. I’m still scarred by the mornings I would wake up only to discover the gigantic volcano of a pimple on my chin. Nothing says confidence like having someone stare, as if in a trance, into the “third eye” on your chin for an entire conversation. How do you hide that?

Everything changed the day I became a Muslim. Or did it? Well, Allah (God) instructed us, men and women to cover our bodies. Men have certain areas that they must keep covered and women have also. So now, out goes the little black dress and in comes the abayas and head scarves. An abaya is basically a loose fitting, long sleeved dress that comes down to the ankles. The main purpose is for a woman to cover her body in a way that doesn’t reveal her figure. This is so liberating. Who cares what I’m wearing because I’m just going to slip into my abaya and roll out. I personally like my abaya to reach a bit longer than my ankles only because with carrying babies and such, a dress can have a tendency to ride up a bit and I don’t want to play peek-a-boo with my legs. But there is a snag in this picture. Try climbing a flight of stairs with both arms full of groceries and a dress that is tripping you up each step. This makes for an ugly uphill battle (literally). It’s not the most graceful show you’ll witness.

Next is the headscarf. Muslim women also are required by Allah (not man) to cover the hair. Well this is great! No more waking up early to style my do before I go out. I'll save that for this evening before my husband comes home. But for now, I can just throw on my scarf and call it a day. And this is just what I do but…let’s talk about when the wind changes and becomes my enemy. I know other Muslim women have had this happen to them also. Picture it: I’m walking through the grocery store parking lot. Yeah, I think I look pretty smart in my black abaya and groovy purple silk scarf. All of a sudden a gust of wind smacks me in the back of the head and SWOOSH! My groovyness has now flown over my eyes while the entire back of my head is now blowing in the wind!

Several years into my Islamic journey I decided to wear a veil. Some women do and some don’t. It doesn’t make me more Muslim than anyone else. There are some who feel it’s a must and others who don’t. I have my personal reasons for the decision and I’m very satisfied. But that’s not to say that the veil is free from “wardrobe malfunctioning.” The good thing is that wind can no longer blow off my scarf. The veil (nikab) holds down the fort nicely. But here’s the thing: the level of where I tie my nikab behind my head makes a big difference. So if I dare wear my hair in a bun too high on my head, the nikab cannot be placed right and then it’s gonna be a bad nikab day. That means constantly tugging at the edges that keep creeping up to my eyes. So ponytail placement accuracy is a must for gratifying nikab days.
As you can see, no woman’s wardrobe is free of all kinks. But to assume that just because Muslim women use more material for their clothes that they are oppressed is ridiculous. I had a woman ask me, “Why do your men make you dress like that?” This was an honest question. She wasn’t trying to be rude. This was just how she misunderstood Islam. So I inquired, upon seeing her low cut blouse showing ample cleavage and her tight pants that revealed a beautiful figure, did her man make her wear this so he can show the world how beautiful his woman is. She told me that she dresses however she pleases. I then told her that Muslim women dress however Allah pleases and that Allah is pleased with how I’m dressed now.


aneesa's muse said...

I loved this blog!!!

Al hamdu'Allah.. Sham.. this is priceless! Especially, the end..

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