Forging Contemporary Muslim Styles Across Intersecting Fashion Systems
LCF, University of the Arts, UK
Reina Lewis is Artscom Centenary Professor of Cultural Studies at the London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London. She is author of Rethinking Orientalism: Women, Travel and the Ottoman Harem, (2004) and Gendering Orientalism: Race, Femininity and Representation (1996). Her edited books include: Modest Fashion: Styling Bodies, Mediating Faith (2013); and, with Zeynep Inankur and Mary Roberts, The Poetics and Politics of Place: Ottoman Istanbul and British Orientalism (2011); with Nancy Micklewright, Gender, Modernity and Liberty: Middle Eastern and Western Women’s Writings: A Critical Reader (2006); with Sara Mills, Feminist Postcolonial Theory: A Reader (2003); and, with Peter Horne, Outlooks: Lesbian and Gay Visual Cultures (1996).
This paper focuses on the development of hijabi fashions among young Muslim women in Britain and North America as a form of youth subculture, examining how generational and micro-generational distinction is developed and expressed through participation in overlapping mainstream and ‘ethnic’ fashion systems. In Britain, hijabi fashionistas often assert their style as part of their British multicultural heritage despite that they are generally disregarded by the mainstream fashion industry. Supported and guided by the now well-established hijabi fashion mediation in Muslim lifestyle print magazines and online blogs and social media, hijab wearers engage in creative bricolage with high street offerings to forge modest styles. At the same time as wanting to assert the contemporaneity of religiously inspired dressing to the mainstream fashion industry and observer, for the majority South Asian Muslim population in Britain the products and styles of ‘ethnic’ fashion remain important wardrobe components. This paper examines how the increase in religiosity among young Muslims in Britain is producing trends for head covering that disrupt the conventions of South Asian dress but that can often be accommodated within the co-production typical of South Asian diaspora fashion retail, building on practices of fusion fashion developed since the 1990s. In a context where diaspora fashion consumption is embedded in forms of community sociality and regulation, the increasing style autonomy of second and third generation young women shoppers indicates changes in women’s social and economic status. Forging new versions of modest dressing that combine ‘traditional’ dress with contemporary hijabi modesty requirements styled in conjunction with global fashion, new trends in Muslim style refashion cultural heritages for of religion, ethnicity, region, and nation.