Why Dolce & Gabbana's Hijab and Abaya Line Is so Important

January 8th 2016

Marwa Balkar

This week, Dolce & Gabbana released their very first line of hijabs and abayas. And their decision to design and distribute these garments is gaining attention. And as a Muslim woman, this is larger than just a fashion line, it is acknowledgement.

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A hijab is a head cover worn by Muslim women, and an abaya is a loose outer garment that is floor length and long sleeved. The abaya is far more culturally based than it is based in religion. (I personally wear an abaya when I feel too fat for my skinny jeans or just have zero ambition to put on real clothing.) Abayas are usually worn in the Gulf States, which is why it is no surprise that Gabbana’s targets are the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

The designers released an assortment of attention-grabbing abayas in muted colors: some with bold designs and intricate patterns, and others that are sheer black with delicate lace detailing. The purpose of the abaya is to cloak the curvature of a women’s body, so the sheer options may not be a popular choice.

However, it is still a step in the right direction. It is recognition that a hijabi woman has the same craving to express herself through her clothing as any other woman. These women are falsely viewed as oppressed, but what is really repressive is the near, mainstream neglect to this market.

There is an enormous, untapped desire that fashion designers are overlooking — and companies like Dolce & Gabbana and H&M are opening their creative lenses to diverse opportunities. H&M recently broke barriers by featuring their first model wearing a hijab in one of their ads. Mariah Idrissi, the model featured in the photo, wears a basic tee and skirt, layered with an oversized coat. This is an exciting breakthrough for the Muslim world, because it shows that the modesty respected by Islam can be fashionable.

In the meantime, Muslim women from around the world are taking matters into their hands, developing their own fashion identities on social media. Twenty-five-year-old hijabi Dina Tokio is an internet personality, who created a name for herself through Instagram. She uploads photos of outfits made of popular brands as a source of inspiration for other hijabis. Her style is colorful, modern, and shows that being modest doesn’t have to be boring. Habiba Da Silva is another hijabi fashion vlogger with a huge following of 364,000 people. Her style differs from Tokio’s, as her photos provide a more chic, sophisticated look for a modest woman.

Fashion, whether exhibitionist or reserved, is a woman's choice. And there is a vast, untapped market that is constantly seeking clothes that can accommodate their styles. Lucky for Muslim women around the world, now companies like Dolce & Gabbana and H&M are beginning to highlight these women’s need for fashion forward, demure apparel.

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