Fashion designers are now starting to see head scarves as the latest hot fashion trend. In an Islam Online article, various designers were quoted about this new trend. Two words that came up often were”modesty” and “chasity”. Apparently fashion designers want to show that modesty, chasity and elegance are not mutually exclusive. Although the designers said that they weren’t focused solely on Muslim women, I’m sure that Muslim women are definitely a market that is increasingly being focused on by the fashion industry.

As a hijabi, maybe people think I would be elated by this article but I’m actually a bit cautious. For one thing, isn’t the one of the objectives of hijab to take the focus off of outer appearances? One of the most common arguments given by hijab apologists is that the hijab prevents women from only being judged by how they look. It allows women to be judged for who they truly are. If headscarves are suddenly made into the latest fashion trend, doesn’t it suddenly lose that purpose? Hasn’t it become the latest commodity that women must have? As Muslims, should we support that? That’s why I was a bit surprised that the article was featured on an Islamic website. The commercialization of hijab seems antithetical to what hijab is all about.

Also, the article brought up the issue of the definitions of modesty and chasity. As I read the article, I kept wondering how modesty and chasity are defined especially in this quote:

According to Dennis Nothdruft, curator of London’s Fashion and Textile Museum, the headscarf resurgence is about a new sense of “chastity” in fashion. He affirms that the trend is not all new after all. “Women wore headscarves in medieval times to maintain their modesty,” he explains.

Is the wearing of hijab the sole indicator of modesty? What about women who do not wear the hijab, both Muslim and non-Muslim? Are they immodest? Isn’t modesty also related to our attitude? I don’t think hijabis who look down upon non-hijabis to be the most modest people around. Arrogance isn’t modesty at all. This isn’t to say that hijabis necessarily look down upon non-hijabis but it is to point out that modesty is about much than headscarves. Also, women who don’t wear headscarves are not necessarily immodest. Modesty is a complicated thing and I’m never happy when it’s reduced to our appearance.

That being said, I can’t deny that I do try to look nice and that it is rather cool for people, Muslim and non-Muslim, to realize that dressing in hijab does not mean dressing “Umar the tent maker’s daughter” (as my mother put it). Dressing in hijab does not mean that we don’t put any care into how we dress. So when I read articles like the one referenced, in a weird way I do feel a little happy.