Designing for the best of both worlds

Being a fashion-conscious observant woman isn't as difficult as it used to be with so many designers now working with the hijab.

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I had been dreading the day for months, the day I had to go shopping for something to wear to my uncle's wedding. "I'm never going to find anything," I complained to my mother as we drove to the store.

At the age of 14, I was already on edge most of the time as it was; wearing the hijab and trying to dress fashionably just added to my frustration level.

The search for the right thing to wear took three long nerve-racking days. My poor mother!

"It should not take me three days to find a dress I can wear with a hijab," I thought.

A week ago, I found myself in the same situation, trying to find a dress for a friend's wedding. It was nowhere near as hard. This is because the hijab fashion industry has grown rapidly in a short period and many local and regional designers have become known worldwide for clothing lines that experiment with different styles of hijab, making it look less old-fashioned.

One of the most famous hijab fashion designers of today, Rabia Z, was living in the US during the tragedy of September 11, 2001. She came to realise the challenge Muslim women face fitting in with western society, particularly in regard to the way they look and dress. With her designs, she has sought to help women around the world follow international styles but adding touches of Islamic and Arab traditions. Rabia Z and many European designers, including Yves Saint-Laurent and Jean Paul Gaultier, are introducing hijab designs into their collections. It makes shopping easier and a more pleasant experience for the women who choose to wear it.

The dress I bought for my friend's wedding was not from a store that sells clothes for the hijab, it was a normal store that sells fancy dresses for occasions. The solution I have found - along with many other Muslim women my age - is to know how to take a dress and add our own touches to be able to wear it with a hijab and still look in style.

Designers have helped us develop a different perspective about the hijab to echo modernity, modesty and elegance in our wardrobes while combining western fashions that everyone else wears.

At the wedding, I did not feel like a fashion outcast. I was very confident and received many compliments about my dress and the way I wore the hijab. It made me proud of who I am, my religion and what I believe in.

So go out there and give it a shot; see what works best for you. Remember the principles of why we wear the hijab: keep it simple, modest and unrevealing. Then try to work that into your modern, western wardrobe and get the best of both worlds.