Muslim Fashion

Have you seen the Contemporary Muslim Fashions exhibition at the de Young Museum in San Francisco? If you haven’t, then you might only be picturing scarf-clad middle eastern women, rather than the complex and diverse assortment of contemporary Muslim dress styles around the world. The women’s apparel in the show is designed by seasoned and emerging fashion designers from Malaysia to Iran, Indonesia to Pakistan. We’re also talking Muslim Rapper and motorcycle fashion and the bikini a la “Burkini”!


And modest sportswear, in this case ultra-chic with that red hijab.

Realizing my utter illiteracy in Muslim clothing vocabulary I looked up the word hijab when I got home found innumerable meanings from “veil” to “curtain” to “modesty” and dozens of translations and hundreds of different applications to dress worldwide.


I do wish that the museum had invested in some mannequins whose hands had more than two positions and more than the non-descript high-fashion model faces. Nothing exotic or interesting about those. But watch the online videos to see real women moving in these creations.


After an hour and a half of standing and sketching I finally plunked myself clumsily on the floor to give the feet a rest. There were Art Institute students camped out in this fashion. Not my choice, but better than nothing! I added paint to the drawings at home.


I’m not sure why Red Rose, the most gaudy-glittery evening dress was so distinctly unadorned (immodest) on top, but the black box top on the other model makes up for it.


Now the Saudi model on the right would certainly have at least had a rich head of black hair, don’t you think? And some less “comfortable” looking shoes? But hey, no one asked me, and I still recommend the show.

I’m wondering how to work some head scarves into my wardrobe without looking like a copy cat. It would certainly solve the problem of hair that frizzes when it rains!



  1. Great sketches! However the so-called hijab — particularly in places like Egypt where I am from — is a grotesque expression of masculine domination over Muslim women. The logic is that supposedly Muslim men are so hot blooded that they cannot bear to see exposed female flesh without lapsing into some sort of sexual frenzy. This is utter bullshit, as evidence of historical photographs you can see from pre 1970s Egypt. The saddest part of this hijabi crap — which is pushed across the Arab world by a murderous backward regime in Saudi Arabia — is the Stockholm Syndrome aspect of it, where Muslim women willingly clothe themselves in the very symbol of the deeply sexist entrapment they are subjected to by their families and society at large. A better exhibit would have been an exhibit featuring the endless sexual assaults by Egyptians in today’s Egypt, which forces women of all ages (the twisted misogyny of many Egyptians knows few boundaries) to cover themselves from head to toe as a defense against rape. So perhaps that should have been the title of this exhibit: the Rape Victim Fashion Exhibit.


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