Modern Hijab Styles

Modern hijab styles use nontraditional fabrics, such as denim.
Modern hijab styles use nontraditional fabrics, such as denim. (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Muslim women have recently begun wearing hijab in increasing numbers as part of a resurgence in religious sentiment. The new desire for modesty, combined with the desire to remain fashionable, gave rise to hijab fashion trends that rival anything available from Paris or New York. Muslim women's active lifestyles also gave rise to hijab styles that balance the needs for modesty with a healthy lifestyle and career.

Hijab: the Ancient Made Modern

Muslim-majority countries are culturally diverse and constantly in flux; the notion that the "Muslim world" is monolithic, mostly Arab, and static is a stereotype. The diversity and dynamic character of Muslim-majority countries is reflected in what women wear. You may see a young woman in hijab with her mother bare-headed, as the hijab as an expression of personal piety began its emergence in the 1970s. In earlier decades, women in Muslim-majority countries, especially educated urban women, often did not wear hijab. The resurgence of religious commitment, encouraged by organizations devoted to a politicized Islam and preachers calling people to greater levels of piety made hijab, mosque attendance and other signs of religious commitment more popular, especially for young people.

Modesty in High Style

Many Muslim women are fashion-conscious consumers, having access to styles from Western Europe and the United States. To meet the need for fashionable modesty, designers in Istanbul, Tehran, Cairo and other major cities in Muslim-majority countries develop fashion trends for garments to cover the head and body. Some of these trends can be controversial for conservative Muslims, as the eye-catching designs may not meet their requirements for modesty. But elaborate hijab styles, which may feature unusual shaping or embellishments, make headlines when they appear on the runway and are adopted by fashion-conscious Muslim women. European designers such as Christian Dior have designed clothing for Muslim women in the Middle East and used elements from traditional Islamic clothing for pieces for Paris shows.

Professional and Athletic Hijab

As Muslim women enter professions where previously they were poorly represented and participate in sports and exercise outside the home, new forms of hijab are needed to accommodate active lifestyles. IKEA developed a branded hijab for their Muslim factory workers, designed to prevent fabric from becoming tangled in machinery and that complies with uniform requirements. Flotillas of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary allow Muslim volunteers to wear hijab, as long as it does not pose a safety risk while at sea.

Traditional attire for Muslim women may restrict freedom of movement or simply be uncomfortable to wear during exercise. Companies such as Capsters and Shukr make hijabs designed to stay on securely during exercise. Primo Moda and Sajeda Islamic clothing offer modest athletic wear and swim wear for Muslim women.

New Shapes

Traditional hijabs often consist of rectangular or triangular scarves that are wrapped, tied and pinned in place. Since the 1990s hijabs that women simply slip on, with no need for wrapping or pinning, have become popular. These include the al-Amira two piece hijab, and the Salah Veil created by designer Marie Fareedah Ali. The Mona and Kuwaiti style combines a slip on knit scarf with an attached oblong wrap.

Hijab styling has also come into vogue, as the elaborate styles that designers introduce may be too complex for a woman to accomplish herself. Hijab styling is like a combination of hairstyling and origami. Hijab stylists manipulate scarves into folds, braids and floral shapes, and pin fabric in place and use plastic inserts and hair spray to provide holding power to voluminous hijab styles.

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