The way women dress has always been a big topic of discussion, however, in the realm of Islamic womenswear the matter has been dramatically policed and politicized.
The burkini had become a trigger for Islamophobia in 2016 when it was banned from beaches in the city of Cannes after the mayor said the suit was a symbol of “Islamic extremism.” Police began forcing women to remove their swimwear on a French beach and later that same year Europe’s top court banned headscarves at work!
It was refreshing to find out about the opening of a new exhibition, Contemporary Muslim Fashions at Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco whose goal was to reflect the variety of Muslim women’s wardrobes around the world. From streetwear to sportswear it’s the first exhibition to take a deep dive into Muslim women dress code. This exhibition calls for celebration as it comes during a time when Muslim women are always fighting for reassurance in their roles in the fashion industry after a long time of misrepresentation and underrepresentation for that matter.
Entire rooms at the Contemporary Muslim Fashion are dedicated to local dress in Muslim majority countries in the Middle East without a burqa section anywhere to be seen. It focuses on highlighting Halima Aden’s two-piece burkini instead and the Nike pro-Hijab that was worn in W Magazine. The exhibition finally allows Muslim women to be heard and seen on their terms. However, the inclusion of high-end labels can sometimes leave an acid test in your mouth; the fashion industry has only recently begun to cater to Muslim consumers finally recognizing that Islamic wear can be fashionable. At some point this can feel exploitative, the 2014-2015 State of the Global Islamic Economy report found that Muslims spent $266 billion on clothes in 2013 and it will increase by $484 billion next year. This kind of makes you think, is Islam is only acceptable when it can be monetized?