Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|Barbie in Hijab? - Muslim Women's Fashion|
|03/22/01 at 13:53:56|
|Interesting what you can find surfing...|
BARBIE IN HIJAB?
Explorations in Mediated Gender, Fashion, Consumption, and the Body
By Greta Scharnweber
Annotated Bibliography done for Popular Culture in the Middle East (SOCI 470)
The field of fashion theory is a young one; academic studies of fashion have really only gained momentum
since the 1980s. Much of the material I have combined here covers a plethora of subjects that relate to my
personal interests concerning the "field" of fashion (both in the U.S. and in the Middle East). Because fashion
theory is so scattered in its neophyte state, it is difficult to point out clear trends and paradigms in the field,
but the sources I have compiled here give a rough generalization of the material available in the spectrum of
what I would consider fashion theory.
"Fashion" is a term that rustles up many different definitions, the great majority of which are personal and
generalizing. Some of the sources I include here do not even use the term; non-Western case studies often
opt instead for "dress" or "costume," and modify their terms with adjectives such as "ethnic," "national," or
"traditional." Western studies of fashion often only involve "Haute Couture," or "high fashion," and omit
ordinary people's involvements with clothing; this has begun to shift of late. Over the past decade, many
feminist theorists have started looking at women's everyday relationships with fashion and bodily adornment.
I align my own investigations with this most recent trend; I define fashion as a consumer activity engaged in
by any person who shops for, purchases, and wears clothing. Of course, there is diversity in expressions and
understandings of fashion activity; and people of varying ethnic, class, national, and religious backgrounds
undoubtedly draw different experiences from their own fashion systems. The sources I have compiled here
deal with fashion consumption in a variety of contexts, although the field is certainly dominated by Western
case studies. It is also important to note that most of my own research interests are centered around gender
roles as they are constructed through clothing, style, and fashion; therefore, much of the material approaches
fashion from a gendered (usually feminine) and feminist perspective.
I became interested in this field through my studies of hijab in Muslim cultures; I felt, and still feel, that
the available scholarly work on women and clothing in the Muslim world has been primarily centered around
the veil, and has paid little or no attention to material cultures of clothing and beauty beyond Islamic dress.
My personal experiences in Muslim cultures (Morocco, Kenya, Tanzania, Lebanon, and the United States),
have indicated that many Muslim women are not always wearing what traditionally might be considered
Islamic styles of clothing; they negotiate and maneuver within a commercial realm of style and clothing that
seems to contradict the stereotype of the religiously minded unliberated woman. While I would argue that
fashion systems in the Muslim world vary greatly from those in the West, I feel that it is dangerous to say that
commercial fashion does not exist for Muslim women. While many scholars in area studies of the Muslim
world have also noted this point, very few have specifically researched Muslim fashion beyond a superficial
acknowledgment. It is this gap in cultural studies that I wish to address here, and consider this annotated
bibliography a working database for possible subjects of my further research in Muslim women's fashion
In organizing this bibliography, I have attempted to follow every tangent I came across, and have
included those sources which seemed even peripherally relevant and interesting to the topic at hand. As
such, what follows is a somewhat sporadic account of my intellectual twists and wanderings at the library.
Having said that however, there is some rhyme and reason to this compilation. In the following sections, I
will attempt to make clear the inspirations and transitions that have brought me to the following collection of
Fashion: Western and Muslim Women's Expressions of Material Culture
I have included a section on general fashion theory; this segment deals directly with studies of fashion in
relation to culture, and does so generally through the eyes of women (and almost always in terms of gender).
This section reflects a plethora of subjects that range from Western fashion histories and museum collections
to feminist theories of liberation through the consumption and bodily display of clothing. As a part of this
section of the bibliography, I have included some specialized sections that deal with hair and hairstyles,
shoes and feet, facial beauty and makeup, breasts, and beauty pageants.
I have also compiled sources concerning fashion and clothing in the Middle East; while some of those
sources do not necessarily deal with Muslim "fashion," they do deal with conceptual "hijab," "veiling," and
modest religious dress, which has always dominated the study of Muslim women's clothing.
Media and Popular Culture: Women, Fashion, and Display
In the modern age of technology, fashion has increasingly exploited many forms of communication in
order to advertise, sell, design, create, and display fashion. This type of mass mediation is certainly not
reserved to Western involvements with fashion. The internet, mailing catalogs, international retail companies,
television, movies, and magazines all play a role in the global discourse of fashion. Of course, there are
varying levels and types of media usage according to region, class, ethnicity, etc., but consumer fashion
industries undoubtedly align themselves with at least some forms of mediated discourse in order to facilitate
the sale of their products.
Due to the significance of media exploitation in realms of consumer fashion, I have included a section of
sources which deal theoretically with cultural media usage (text, hypertext, television, film, radio). Few deal
directly with the Middle East or the Muslim world, but many take a general theoretical approach that might
be useful in thinking about media in non-Western cultures. I have also included specific sections which deal
with women's and young people's involvement in mass media communications and popular culture.
Consumption: Shopping for Women's Identities
As stated earlier, I consider fashion to be a commercial form of social engagement. Articles of clothing,
fashion magazines, and body accessories are commodities, and must be shopped for and purchased. I have
included two sections here on consumer theory; the first deals with general discussions of consumer society
and material culture, and the second deals with gendered experiences in consumption (both historical and
A little more specifically, I feel that engagement with consumption, i.e. shopping, is a highly cultured and
social activity. The concepts of choice, value, and taste are all extremely important issues in thinking about
fashion in cross-cultural perspectives, as the definitions of these terms vary from culture to culture. Most of
the sources here approach these concepts from a Western point of view; I feel that it is important to develop
theory that might apply to informal and non-corporate marketplaces, to shopping places where choice is
limited, or where prices are not fixed.
Most interesting to me, perhaps, are the feminist sources which discuss women's participation in
shopping culture; these sources argue that female shoppers are not merely consumers, but rather are in
search of a playful world of fantasy and friendship, beauty and creativity.
Bodily Discourse and Crises: Eating Disorders and Body Image
Fashion is largely a discourse of the body; it is the display case of one's beauty, purchases,
hand-me-downs and heirlooms, and it is increasingly (and unfortunately) the scale with which many women
measure their aesthetic worth (no pun intended). This section deals with many social and psychological
sources dealing with body image concepts, eating disorders, obesity, and unrealistic body ideals. I feel that
these issues are key for thinking about mediated fashion, since often times the reasons for these problems
stem from the unattainable standards for the female body published in magazines or broadcasted on TV or in
My Arabic tutor in Morocco once told me that only "fat girls wear hijab." Perhaps the motivations
behind Islamic veiling have rationales beyond religion; certainly, my tutor's statements indicates at least one
issue that Muslim women might have in some environments. With modern fashion and mediated picturing of
the female body ideal come issues with body image; the Arab world certainly has no shortage of mediated
fashion discourse. As such, it would seem very likely that body image might be an issue for young Arab
women. Even so, very little work has been done on the subject of body image/eating disorders in the Middle
East; in order to develop a framework for application in Muslim communities, I have much to learn from the
Western theory that is available. I have included a limited selection of that theory here.
Child's Play: The Importance of Dolls and Toys in the Construction of Gender
What better example of unattainable female body standards in America than the Barbie doll? A toy of
impossible feminine proportions, she has nonetheless shaped innumerable girlhood conceptions of fashion,
beauty, ethnicity, love, marriage, and play. Not surprisingly, a surplus of sources deal with the history and
development of the Barbie doll; however, more interesting than Barbie history is the insight Barbie provides
into the experiences of young girls who dress her up and play with her with their friends.
Recently, Mattel has come out with a Moroccan Barbie doll that wears a floral head scarf. Interestingly,
some Islamic organizations have attempted to counteract what they feel is a negative and anti-religious toy
have created and marketed Barbie knockoffs. These Muslim dolls wear jilbabs and head scarves, and
clearly make a statement about the potential eroticism of the doll. Despite the lack of textual sources on the
subject, this discourse is an interesting one, and worthy of more study.
Perhaps the most interesting theme that presents itself in this section deals with the construction of gender
through play. The concept of the doll, a most interesting toy, shapes and creates several ideals for the
females that play with them; they are practice for motherhood, dressing up, having relationships and playing
house. Their impact and popularity is undeniable, and I feel we have much to learn from their history,
commerce, and contemporary role in the lives of young girls.
I have few concrete conclusions to draw from such an eclectic collection of material. However, I do feel
that much can be gained from the application of this radical theory to Muslim cultures. Rarely do scholars
consider the Muslim world as one that is used to dealing with technology, commerce, and commodity
consumption, let alone fashion. And yet my experiences and readings tell me that Muslims engage with
varied media often and with great expertise. This compilation asks questions and pushes the limits of what
we normally think of when we discuss Muslim women; I would like us to shift our questions into new and
more creative arenas.
.....end of excerpt
|Re: Barbie in Hijab? - Muslim Women's Fashion|
|03/22/01 at 14:10:03|
|Another one from CNN:|
Islamic women meld fashion trends, religious
September 18, 2000
Web posted at: 12:11 p.m. EDT (1611
In this story:
Dress codes vary
Women in the work force
RELATED STORIES, SITES
ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) -- Two young women stroll arm-in-arm along the
Bosporus waterway that separates Asia from Europe. Head scarves signal their
Muslim faith, but short- sleeved blouses and leg-revealing dress slits show a
greater allegiance to Western fashion.
In Cairo, a woman walks briskly to work in a tapered blouse, elegant pants,
sunglasses and chrome bracelet. She looks European -- except for her dark blue
Across the Islamic world, fashion aficionados are finding ways to meld religious
morality with a modern style that expresses their individuality.
From westernized Bosnia to conservative Iran, the head scarf is the emblem of
faith, but the rest of a woman's outfit can vary widely.
The clash between haute couture and religion is deepest in overwhelmingly
Muslim but staunchly secular Turkey, which aspires to join the European Union.
Turkish women who seek to be fashionable and religious don head scarves, but
also watch Paris fashion shows on television and leaf through fashion magazines.
"They want to be as chic as French women while preserving their religious
values," said Mustafa Karaduman, founding director of the most successful
Islamic fashion house in Turkey.
Dress codes vary
Islam's holy book, the Quran, doesn't specify what a woman should wear, but
says clothing should "cover all her body except the face and palms," according
to Souad Ibrahim Saleh, Egypt's only female cleric and a professor at Cairo's
Al-Azhar religious university, the most respected institution for Islam's majority
However, degrees of adherence differ sharply.
In Iran, a dress code was enacted after the 1979 Islamic revolution requiring
women to wear head scarves and long coats even at the height of summer.
But fashion crept in, taking off after the moderate Mohammad Khatami became
president in 1997. Many women now buy coats that follow the body's curves.
Typical is Shahla, 23, of Teheran, who is proud of her Japanese style coat,
called Model Kimono. "We have to wear a coat, so we have to be fashionable
with the style," Shahla said, declining to give her last name.
Flashier Turkey, for its part, helped spawn the Islamic chic market, which was
spotted by Karaduman more than two decades ago.
His Istanbul-based company, Tekbir,
grew from a workshop with two
sewing machines making 100 garments
a week to a business that produces
10,500 garments a week and owns 10
stores in Turkey and one in Saudi
Today, Tekbir and its sister brand D-8
are the leading names in Islamic
fashion, with sales in outlets throughout
Turkey and Europe.
Islamic fashion appeals mostly to
traditional village women who flooded
into the largely Westernized cities of Turkey in recent years. They felt that city
residents looked down on them as unsophisticated newcomers.
With Islamic chic, "you both retain your morality and build a modern image for
yourself," said Ayse Saktamber, professor of sociology at Middle East Technical
University in Ankara.
Women in the work force
Islamic chic makes it easier for women from traditional homes to work in the
modern sector. The fashionable cut to their clothes lets them feel comfortable in
a secular office, while head scarves, long sleeves and skirts let them retain their
The launch of Tekbir shops in 1984 coincided with a Turkish government that
encouraged traditional women to enter the work force.
Such women got a further boost during the 1996-97 Islamic government of
Necmettin Erbakan, who relaxed a law that banned female civil servants from
wearing headscarves at work.
Tekbir's sales increased by about 35 percent during the reign of Erbakan, who
himself was fond of Versace ties, Karaduman said. The former premier was
forced from power by the military in 1997 and civil servants are now again
banned from wearing head scarves at work.
Karaduman is quick to exploit political events. He named one of his suits after
Merve Kavakci, a Turkish legislator forced from parliament last year after she
tried to take the oath of office wearing a headscarf. Another Tekbir suit is named
Virtue after Kavakci's Islamic Virtue Party.
Karaduman also exploits what is chic, even at the expense of what is Islamic.
In Tekbir fashion shows, models wearing head scarves and suits tapered at the
waist saunter down a catwalk, swaying their hips and thrusting them forward.
Unlike women in more conservative Muslim countries, they wear makeup, look
male spectators in the eye and greet applause with a smile.
Karaduman admits he would not allow his wife or daughter to wear makeup, but
he says it is necessary in fashion shows and publicity brochures.
"I am personally against this trend, but the model pictures would not work
without makeup," he said.
|Re: Barbie in Hijab? - Muslim Women's Fashion|
|03/22/01 at 14:44:38|
|Assalaamu-Alaikum Jannah |
are you trying to comete with Abu Khaleds long mesages?
P.s. Has barbie taken Shahaada?
|Re: Barbie in Hijab? - Muslim Women's Fashion|
|03/22/01 at 16:02:04|
Nazir, I don't think anyone can compete with the lengthy messages of Abu Khaled :) All the "long" posts that are posted by Jannah (and Arshad) are not their original works, but copied and pasted from some other source. Abu Khaled's posts are written by him specifically for this board!
I wonder how fast his typing speed is ...
But then again, I wonder many things about him since he has never *cough*introduced*cough himself to his so-called brothers and sisters on this board :-/
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