The Muslim veil: modesty has its own style

Hijabs du jour and hijab don'ts: Whether the Muslim veil takes the gentle Pakistani drape or the face-hugging Saudi wrap, it is a style statement.

For many Muslims the question isn’t “Should I veil?”

It’s “How should I veil today to match my outfit?”

As the trend of wearing hijab spreads, so, too, have hijab fashions. Women from New Jersey to Jakarta are trying new ways of wearing wraps taught on YouTube or showcased on runways. They’re wearing silk print scarves and scarves from The Gap, sheer scarves with sequins and hot-pink frilly scarves, scarves awash with the Fendi logo.

Whatever the look, hijabistas share one style principle: This is not their mother’s head scarf – conservative, plain, a little too formless.

“It looks kind of like a tent,” JoKima Hamidullah says of her mother’s veil. “Like a burqa,” but shorter.

The New Jersey housewife, who offers hijab du jours and hijab don’ts on her Islamic fashion blog, one of hundreds filling the Internet, gets her ideas from mainstream trends.

Looks vary by country but blend across borders. Pakistanis, known for draping a scarf (or dupetta) lightly over their hair, are seeing more women envelop their faces Saudi-style. In Egypt and Europe more women are wearing the “Spanish style,” tying their veil like a bandanna, then sweeping its strands into a graceful side ponytail.

In Dubai many locals wrap their signature black hijab (or shayla) around a high bun, giving the air of an elegant updo. Trendy Emiratis simply drape their scarf like a dupetta or lay it over their shoulders. They match their hijab with their abaya, a black robe worn over clothing, or buy the two as a set, the trim on the robe’s sleeves also lining the veil.

Also in vogue are designer scarves, say, a dusty pink Valentino whose wavy layers swirl into a rose: $350 at one boutique here. A more popular Valentino – black lace, $1,000 – has sold out.

Some women prefer a busy look, accessorizing the head scarf with flower pins and headbands. They pile on layers for a wedding cake of color – a blue underscarf (a stretchy cap), then a brown one, then a white chiffon scarf with blue sequins. For holidays some pair festive colors, like orange and black for Halloween. Hala Osman, a development worker in Cairo, mixes and matches one scarf over her hair and another around her neck.

She and others, through their fashion choices, are embracing a broad view of Islam’s mandate for modesty. “I know our rules,” says Ms. Hamidullah. Within them, “the styles are endless.”

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