Saturday, July 26, 2008

Hijab Alternative

Instead of posting only on my inner faith and purpose struggles with hijab, I'm InshaaAllah going to also post about the joy and difficulty of finding clothes that actually cover while "expressing myself." When I was in junior high and high school, I was in the "gothic/new waver" crowd mixing up with hippy and punk styles too. I wore dark, thick black eyeliner on the bottom and top lashes. Crazy, mixed up clothes including Pakistani shalwars, which are loose, baggy pants and Pakistani jewelry, ethnic style. I wore my Dad's old clothes, I wore a chain wallet in my pocket. Corduroy jackets from Goodwill with my paperback Malcolm X Autobiography sticking out the side pocket. And again, crazy strange finds from the used clothing store, a black leather jacket with white stitching was one of my faves.

Those were the days.

I guess you could call me an "alternative" dresser back then.

Now things are different. Not only because of the hijab, but I'm now older, can't get away with cutting edge stuff. Have two kids now, gotta be comfortable. Pregnancy and staying at home has added another 30 pounds to my short 5 foot frame. I've got an "aunty" body now. A "belly" with no waist. Clothes, especially shirts, do not fit. Pants without elastic don't fit either. Then add the hijab codes to it and you got a difficult situation. Pile on the fact that I don't wanna look "foreign" to America and you got yourself a pain in the neck. Oh and don't forget the fact that it's rare to find conservative clothes in the average American shop. Oh, and did I mention that I've never gone to get anything tailored and my mom hems my pants if needed? Yeah, not so polished. And as a mom with two toddlers, I don't have time, energy, or motivation to go the mall and explore every store to find stuff, so I'm often limited to the Internet to find clothes. Not to mention that it's hard to find 100% cotton clothing for some reason. And did I mention I am, I mean, on a strict budget?!

Have I complained enough? Heheh.

Usually, I wear loose athletic pants that I got from (That is, unless I'm wearing my favorite baggy MATERNITY jeans from Motherhood Maternity--yes, gasp! I wear it though I am not currently preggers...the shame....)Anyway, back to the knit athletic pants from fashionbug: I have a pair in black, navy, and gray. The black ones are in a size small so I don't wear those as much as the navy and gray which are size medium. They are too long for me so I have to wear them with a heel, which is usually my black clogs which I also got from The pants are awesome, and I wish I could buy more of them...and they are in size petite even. But fashionbug doesn't seem to sell them anymore, nor the clogs. Here's a pic of some pants that are similar:

And I got several tunics from this Pakistani store called PASSIONS Clothing which I usually wear with an undershirt (to prevent sheerness and neck exposure). I like the tunics because they are long-sleeved and a couple of them have a high collar. I don't like them because they are very ethnic looking and while that look is cool on non-Pakistanis, it just makes me look, well, just ethnic, which is fine some days, but some days I rather look Western. I can't find a pic of the ones I have, but here is a similar one from

So on Western days, that's when I wear my cotton long sleeved tops from The site is down right now, but here is a HANES shirt that is similar:

I like the one from the site because it is long enough to cover my rear-end and the material, cotton, is soft. But it is really shapeless and the neckline is wide and low, so that stinks.

Lately I like to wear a an oblong scarf, usually over a headband, folded in half, with one half hanging from the front and one half hanging in the back. I like this because it actually feels more like a "scarf" to me, rather than the triangle scarf that looks either dowdy or like a helmet with no chest coverage when I try to where it.

Here is a pic of me on a typical outing with my husband and kids. That's one of my tunics that I prefer because the color and print is understated. Here I'm wearing my maternity jeans and black clogs. This is how I prefer to wear my scarf now, but if the shirt has a wide neck, you can see a bit of my skin showing and that's something my hubby would point out:

InshaAllah in future posts, I'll post some "hijab alternative" pieces here and there. Unlike the other hijab fashion blogs that focus on an entire outfit, I'll share the pieces that I think are cool and can be used as part of hijab. They're not always practical. Most of them are for cold climates and outdoor use only. But I like having alternative options.

Anyway, back to the usual topics of this blog....

The other day my Uncle, (Mom's brother), came over to the house. This uncle is totally like another father figure, but I knew the rules of hijab required me to wear a headscarf in front of him. I almost did not want to go because of that reason, wearing a headscarf inside is uncomfy, especially in my own house and wouldn't it be awkward?! Still, I wore it and because my husband is picky about any skin showing, I even wore in that dowdy, nerdy way with a triangle scarf with the sides hanging down because my shirt had a wide neck and the scarf wasn't big enough to tie the sides back (I hadn't expected my Uncle to be there so I had just thrown on whatever scarf was there). Anyway, after my Uncle left, I took off my scarf and my Mom said to me: "You don't have to wear hijab in front of your Uncle." "Yes, I do," I said. "You do? Hmm... well your hair looks good like that." "I know..." I wanted to say 'well, [my hubby] would insist I wear it because it's in the rules..' but I didn't say that because I thought what's the point of "blaming" it on my hubby? The rules are the rules. Just leave it at that.

In addition, when I am out alone, if I know I'm just going to be out for a short while, like from my apartment door to my car or some days on a short trip to the library where no one will "see me displayed" in one place for long, I usually wear my oblong scarf on my head, ends wrapped around and loose-- often with my hair on top and some of my neck showing. So there. That's what I do now. It's a bit like this pic from the Vermont Store, but the scarf I wear is not as wide as this one:

Instead of chucking the whole thing or forcing myself to do it the strict way, that's the way I do it now. For now. I guess I am officially a "half hijabi." Don't tell my husband. Or the other hijabi sheriffs in town. I'll send them a memo later.

Peace out.

P.S. As a former Writing tutor, I must admit that I have many run-on sentences here. I just hate to add commas all the time.

Yup Yup.

CORRECTION: Thanks to the comment from a reader, I did some research and found that the rule of hijab does not need to be applied to one's mother's brother afterall. So my mother was right. I did not need to wear the headscarf in front of my Uncle afterall! Thanks again to the reader who left the comment. More info can be found here:


Anonymous said...


I enjoy your blog. Just wanted to say that I'm quite sure your mom's brother is your mahram and you don't need to wear hijab when he's around. You could google this to double check.

Basbousa said...

Habibty, I understand your struggle with the hijab, I felt like that just after I started it too. I wonder how all people that said it was really not a problem for them could feel that way..

Anyway, if you want to look less ethnic, why not wear turtleneck under tunics/other long tops, and wear a "turban" or "spanish hijab" wrap? Good luck :)

Scarf Ace said...

anon: thank you for the information! i will definitely check. i thought that only your mother's father was mahram but not her brothers. i shall check. thank you :-)

basbousa: thank u for ur comment! i would love to wear a turtleneck except that the weather here in texas does not allow that option very often! but i will try the spanish wrap if i can :-)

Scarf Ace said...

thanks anon, u are correct!

light and good order said...

Hello, I enjoy your blog ... I just started a Headcoverings group on Flickr:

Inviting you to join if you like.



Scarf Ace said...

kristin, thank you! i'll check it out :-)

Aisha La Estudiante said...

Sallams Sis,

Kristin and others have great ideas about headcovers, I enjoy her ideas. We're part of the web ring "thoseheadcovers". Pretty cute stuff. I enjoy alternate options... somedays I just don't feel like wearing the "traditional" hijab. There are also hijab caps and wearing slacks or jeans under shalwar khamees seems less "ethnic" on me anyways.

Thanks for your posts, you often say what I have felt at times.


Journey said...


It's the first anon. I didn't mean to post anonymously - just was in a rush.

I'm glad you looked that info up. It's no use making hijab more difficult unnecessarily. Like when I realized I didn't have to wear hijab in front of my father-in-law and that he was just like a father to me - I found that so odd initially because I thought I had my list of mahrams, but obviously it makes home life so much simpler.

Anyway, thank you for the honesty in your writing. I've been wearing hijab for quite a while and I'm sure if you were somewhere else with lots of hijabis near you, you would have had a much easier time. I've been fortunate in having that. When I started wearing hijab, it was surprising to my friends and immediate family, but my husband thought it was great and always told me he thought I looked beautiful.

Yes, initially I felt that I looked frumpy and old-fashioned, but as I became more confident in wearing it, I think I projected my ease to others. Now I can't imagine not wearing my hijab as a proud indication of my religion. I look at it like this - I have chosen to live my life as a Muslim because I believe in the message, so I need to follow Allah's commands as much as I am able.

I'll tell you what works for me. I shop for a few fashionable items at the beginning of the season to wear at home and keep my hair looking good by visiting the hairdresser regularly (just ask if they have a private area - most hairdressers are very pleasant about it).

Oops, long comment. I just wanted to reassure you that once you relax into wearing hijab, it becomes much easier and then becomes natural and then you start liking having a public and a private persona :)

Have a great day!

Anonymous said...

Assalamu alaikom,
One time my nephew-in-law walked in on me and I tried in vain to remember "the list" and could not. LOL I excused myself to go cover up just in case. (I was not at home so I couldn't just go look it up in the Qur'an.) And why is it that men will walk in on you when you look like crap, but when you're all beautiful, nobody does? (I've been walked in on sans hijab a few times, can you tell?) So everyone who has walked in on me thinks, dang, why does she have to wear that scarf? Do all the Muslim women look this bad under their scarves? It's actually an improvement! LOL ;)

Anyway... I wear some maternity clothes still, but because they are fuller through the hips and usually longer, to boot! Score! LOL

You know, I guess I'm feeling the aging thing, too, when it comes to fashion. I see the most fabulously neon sparkling glittery makeup at Sephora and I think... Oh, to be fifteen again! LOL I see the cutesy clothes that the teenagers are wearing and I think, oh to be able to slap together such weird things and make it look amazing and artsy! Oh well... I mean, it can still be done, but frankly, I just can't make the effort to be funky anymore.

Scarf Ace said...

dear aisha, journey, and eyes serene, thanks so much for your comments! i love the long comments because it feels like having a conversation with you! i appreciate you sharing your experience and your tips about finding clothes and stylin' :-)