Friday, 17 July 2009

Life is not a dress rehearsal

I came across this article in The National which discusses the differences in how much time and effort people put into their appearance. I thought it would make an interesting topic of discussion, as Muslimahs in hijab often feel that they are 'flag bearers' of their religion, and hence must always look and behave impeccably. How much do you feel this applies to you, and how important is it to you to always look well groomed? Share your thoughts...

Fatima al Shamsi
April 18. 2009

After I spent a week in London with my best friend from the Emirates, she came to visit me for a week in New York. One of the first things she pointed out while walking around my university campus with me was how casually everyone was dressed. My friend pointed out that this generation seems to have somehow lost a sense of pride in their appearance: what happened to glamorous women and dapper gentlemen?

Although it initially threw me off, I have become accustomed to the uniform of Columbia University tracksuit bottoms, sweatshirts and trainers. Although casual dress at university is common everywhere, it is much more visible in the United States. In my first year at university, I remember being absolutely amazed at people showing up for morning classes in pyjama bottoms and flip-flops. Even in the Emirates, where closed abayas come in handy for early morning classes, there is still a noticeable difference in the level of care and time that people spend on their appearance before going out and facing the world.

Read the rest here.


caraboska said...

It is a very fine line to tread indeed, this matter of appearance. I suppose the ideal is to dress only to please ourselves and our Creator, but at the same time take a certain pride in our appearance, without becoming so extravagant as to turn heads for all the wrong reasons.

And yes, it is true: anytime people know what religion we confess, they are going to pay a certain attention to our manner of dress and behavior that they would not otherwise.

Speaking from experience, I think the only way to live comfortably with that is to have our lifestyle be so ingrained that we are living exactly the same way regardless of whether anyone is looking or not.

Coffee Catholic said...

I've been thinking about this same thing since moving here to Orkney where the older men and women tend to dress nice while out and about. Even my husband wears a pair of decent slacks and a button-up shirt when we go out. And a hat too!

I can't help but think of going out into public while dressed in tidy clothes as a type of respect shown to others. Something that says, "I respect you enough to at least look somewhat decent while in your company." Even if we are just at the store or walking down the main street.

As we can all see, there's been a lot of respect lost in our society. So this sloppy dressing while in public really is no surprise.

I've been trying to dress more respectfully ~ without becoming vain. It's a hard balance to achieve!

Organica said...

I love the article! I can absolutely relate. And my recent visit to London has made me make the same observations. People in London were way more fashionable. But in America, people simply don't care! Only when you start going into the wealthier areas of the city, you'll find more effort.

Anonymous said...

Assalamu Alaikum,

Yes I would like to comment here. It is not just in New York that people dress as if no one else could see them. I live on the west coast of the US, after living for years in Europe, and I see pepole in the local mall in pajama bottoms and flip-flops. Many of my co-workers have taken "business casual" to new lows of "casual".
I like to look good, as a Muslima and as a person. I try to dress appropriate to the situation, but probably on the higher end of appropriate. I think I owe it to myself, and I also think that to many Americans I am a walking representation of my religion and need to "make a good impression" as my grandmother would say. I would guess, from what I see here, that most local Mulsimas seem to feel the same way, although I haven't actually asked anyone.

Candice said...

I love dressing for me and no one else. I never went to class in PJs, but I often wore a huge sweater with jeans. Something comfy and "normal".

I like to look put together, but sometimes I don't care and I wear whatever seems comfortable, whether it looks good or not. I like that I feel no pressure to dress nicely but I mostly try to have a put together appearance.

Farah said...

Great article, I definitely agree with it, and feel that in general.. hijabi's always look more "dressed up" even if others that don't wear the hijab are.
Just by wearing a pretty coloured/embroided hijab makes a casual outfit look more glamourous and elegant. I luv it!

Anonymous said...

Nice article. I definitly love the casual-chic lifestyle, I would rather take that extra 30mins or so in the morning to sleep in our go for a breif jog before heading for work then spend it getting ready for work.

I remember in University there were these girls from the UAE who always mashaAllah looked extra good. While I enjoyed watching their outfits, I have to admit at times I felt embarrassed for them because you could smell them from a mile away (most public places in North America discourage strong scents are there are ppl with scent sensitivites) and they wore soo much make up.

TehBoogieMonsterMan ^___^ said...

I live in the Emirates-- and lemme tell you, if I go to U.S.-- it'll be a breath of fresh air. Everyone takes just TOO Much pride in their dressing here and it gets tiring after a while because it's so freakin' superficial. No one will say anything to you if you dress down in a mall-- but you will be looked down upon =/
I think not this is what life is about =/

Holly said...

Assalamu Alaikum! I am always amazed at how sloppy people can dress - I know it is hot here in Florida but please! I do feel you have to look your best - you do represent Muslims even if you don't want to! Speaking of looking good - I just found a site that is selling those gorgeous Armine scarves - Think I will treat myself before Ramadan!

Fwaheed said...

As long as we keep some perspective on the whole thing we should be fine. I think as we try to constantly re-invent ourselves we can get a bit carried away. Nothing wrong with taking the extra time to find a matching outfit but exactly how long will you waste trying to find the exact shade of black to match your hijab?? lol (speaking from exeperience!)

nihad said...

I like to look decent when I go out but also dont like to spend a lot of time on looking good so I would really love the anonymity that NY offers especially coming from a country where every female young, old, pretty, not so pretty, hijabi or not, gets stared at by men of all sizes n age.

Madiha M.K said...

That's so true! I notice people here can be very conscious about their wardrobe in Egypt, not like it was when I was back in California.But the girls here have this strong obsession with "Matching" entirely at least two things in an outfit. I've learned that colors don't need to match completely but at least compliment each other. but if you show up to school here not matching colors or where people speak their minds, they'll tell you how your outfit makes no sense! :S

Maryam Hajar said...

Masha Allah, now that i am Muslimah i can't believe the clothing i used to wear before I reverted last year...t-shirts and jeans! sweatsuits to the mall! I now see the wonderful way Allah ta ala has given us to clothe ourselves with dignity and self respect as Muslimahs. I too recently saw young women dressed in pajama bottoms, tiny tank tops, and flip flops at a 5 star hotel I was at recently for a business trip/conference. The anti-dress code is in full force here in the U.S.

sina said...

I think this article is missing the whole point abt dress code in Islam, its seeing the whole concept through the spectacles of western mindset.

How can we possibly compare the two complete different lifestyles, as muslims we have to look well groomed at all times as our noble Prophet SAW told us to but that does not mean we have to be flashy or showy or bathed in perfume? It is haram for us muslim women anyway to put perfume on when we are out in public and the whole concept of Tabbrruj meaning dazzling display is seemed to have been forgotten by many of our muslim sisters when they wear Hijab.

On the other hand Non muslims do not have this criteria and that’s why they can dress as they please. But to me this whole article suggests how much we as muslim sisters are affected by the fashion industry.

Arab-esque said...

This article is too true! In the US, people are overly casual, with their sweatpants flip flops and wifebeaters, whereas in the UK, everyone is so stylish. I loved it and got inspired a lot by just walking down the street!


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