Fashion should not be the absence of religion and culture. Influencer, Nawal Sari, is redefining how Western society perceives modest clothing on Muslim women.
Nawal Sari’s love for fashion sparked at a young age. However, once she decided to begin wearing a hijab, Nawal felt that she no longer had a place in the fashion world. Nawal aspires to use her platform as a fashion and beauty influencer to stop this cycle.
Becoming the authentic big sister that young Muslim girls need, she told Marie Claire,
“I didn’t feel like I had anyone to look up to outside of my family when I was transitioning into wearing the hijab so it’s really important to me that I’m open and honest and I’m creating a little sisterhood online.”
In her younger years, the influencer once believed in the misconceptions of her religion. Which initially stopped her from pursuing her real dreams. However unable to contain her creative soul, she halted her political degree to study communication and advertising. Nawal started with a few modelling jobs and posting to Instagram for fun. Not long afterwards her audience grew.
Now, she has more than 200 thousand followers across Instagram and YouTube. Her modern street wear style is part of her mission to redefine the stigma associated with modest fashion.
She told fashion brand, Witchery,
“Modest fashion is personal to everyone. To some, its wearing longer or looser pieces and to some – like me – it means wearing a hijab and dressing modestly to reflect my connection with my religion. Modest fashion is simply like all fashion communities, yet it’s underestimated. Modest fashion is for everyone and it’s beautiful,”
Dressing modestly is a common aspect of many religions and cultures. With the right fit, any top, skirt or pants can be styled modestly. Muslim women use modest dressing to show respect and deepen the connection to their religion. Western society has a particular view on modest clothing, especially when combined with religion.
Why is there a negative depiction of Muslim women?
Despite Islam being the second biggest religion in the world, mainstream media has embedded a negative view into society. Visual media is the potential key to abolishing stereotypes. Yet the media continues to feed Islamophobia with culturally backwards, irrationally angry, or threatening characters.
The hijab is not just a veil, or a sign of oppression. But rather the hijab is sign of dedication to God. Believing that a woman who wears a hijab liberates herself from the vain desire to show off her beauty; no longer having to use her beauty to obtain recognition or acceptance.
Nawal’s mission to explore the relationship between culture, religion and fashion is no easy goal. The typical Western perception of seeing a Muslim woman wearing a hijab is an assumption that she is dominated and oppressed by her male counterparts. Nawal’s choice to wear a hijab goes against this belief. The 22 year old told Witchery that she has always been surrounded by empowering and strong women. In fact, the altered reality of online misconceptions hurt her.
As Nawal Sari reflects on her own struggles to accept her religion, many other young Muslim girls feel the same. The poor diversity in the media can cause Muslim girls to feel that their personal beliefs are wrong in Western society. Although, not every Muslim woman has the same story. The one-sided view portrayed in films and TV that says women are forced into the religion is limiting.
Often fashion brands use representation to build their audience. Nawal Sari is portraying her passion and creativity in her clothing to abolish a vicious cycle faced by Muslim women.
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