How I Use My Sense of Style to Challenge Stereotypes About My Being
My sense of style has evolved throughout the years due mainly to my increased visibility as a Muslim woman. Growing up in Canada, especially as a pre-teen and teen, I always tried to wear branded clothing that was trendy. I always saved my money from babysitting to ensure I could buy the latest style of TNA bags and Abercrombie and Fitch sweaters. This was from a time I could still fit into their ridiculously-small sizing standards, of course.
At the time, I was not wearing the hijab so I could easily pass as a fully white person. However, I always looked different than my classmates who were actually fully white. My hair was always tangled, my eyebrows were bushy, and I have a forehead that does not end. I never looked like the “popular” girls in school, no matter how much I tried to assimilate.
I made that sudden change without knowing the implications it would have on my treatment in society.
In the summer of 2013, I started wearing the hijab. Almost overnight, tmy style changed quite drastically. I went from wearing semi-modest clothing, to strictly wearing skirts for the first month and a half of my hijab journey. I made that sudden change without knowing the implications it would have on my treatment in society. I noticed right away that people would stare at me. Nobody wanted to sit beside me on public transit, and many people suddenly cut me out of their lives. After starting university six weeks after starting to wear the hijab, I realized that to maintain comfort whilst still proclaiming my identity as a visibly Muslim woman, I would have to alter my modest outfits slightly. I started wearing long tops and jeans, instead of full skirts. I figured out a way of styling my hijab that expressed who I was, and simultaneously allowed me to feel comfortable in public.
Fast forward to today, my style has definitely evolved yet again. I still wear longer tops and pants, but always ensure my hijab matches my entire outfit. The colours I wear are on-trend, and the cuts I choose don’t accentuate my curves too much. My style is also reflective in my makeup. Instead of me focusing on my body, I focus on my face. I express myself through makeup a lot of the time. I carefully choose the eye and lip colour to what my mood is like, and what I am trying to represent with my entire look. I find, as a woman who wears a U.S. size 14/16 (EU 44), staying stylish yet modest is a bit more difficult. As a result, I feel as if my style is quite unique. I would not call myself trendy by any means, as I definitely put comfort before anything; hence my love for black pants (yoga or dress style).
To me, fashion and beauty are not about if you are style-conscious, or on-trend. They are, instead, a form of self-expression.
Our patriarchal society tells women, especially racialized women, that we must look like the models we see on the runway. If women are anywhere close to the size that I wear, we are seen as inadequate, and quite frankly, worthless. Now add my Muslim identity to this, and I am truly seen as trash. People think Islam is a monolith, and everyone who identifies as Muslim looks the same. This is an outrageous assumption, and of course there’s no truth to it! Yes, some women choose to wear niqabs, hijabs, burqas, skirts, abayas — you name it! But the way we choose to express our faith is only between us and Allah.
To me, fashion and beauty are not about whether you are style-conscious, or on-trend. They are, instead, a form of self-expression. I have struggled so long with wanting to look like everyone else when, as a matter of fact, I never will. I used to obsess about having the latest fashions, but now I just want to represent me, authentically.