I was first introduced to traditional Afghan costume by a friend at university. She came to a ladies' event in the most colourful and intricate ensemble I'd ever seen. Purples, greens, reds, silver, all worked into a (very hijab friendly) long-sleeved dress with matching shalwar bottoms - and all this from the country most associated with burqas. It's a shame that more people aren't aware of how beautiful traditional Afghan garments are. At the end of this post are some photos, although I'm not yet familiar with the regional differences in the costumes.
The modern Afghan fashion scene may not be as developed as that of other Muslim countries such as the UAE and Turkey, but a handful of designers are slowly emerging.
In July 2006, a fashion show was held in Kabul for the first time in decades. It was organised by designers Gabriella Ghidoni and Zolaykha Sherzad, and you can read more about it here. These are some of the designs featured:
Zolaykha launched her own company, Zarif Design in 2004. It aims to preserve traditional Afghan art and design, whilst also providing local women with training and employment opportunities. Visit the website to read more about the other philanthropic projects that Zolaykha is involved with.
Similarly, Tarsian and Blinkley, founded by Sarah Takesh, also seeks to improve the lives of Afghan women by providing them with educational and employment opportunities. Their garments are all hand-embroidered by local women, who are encouraged to come up with their own designs.
Sara Rahmani is another entrepreneur who set up her own company, Sara Afghan which you can read more about here. So far from being a frivolous pursuit, it appears that fashion in Afghanistan has taken it's own distinctive path, namely preserving the country's heritage and helping it's most vulnerable citizens at the same time.
But traditional Afghan costume has also influenced foreign designers. These photos are from a collection presented by Elizabeth Muir at Miami Fashion Week in April 2008. You can read more about what inspired her designs here.
Traditional Afghan dress: