You may have seen the anger and upset caused to the French by Muslim women swimming in what has become known as a Burkini. An all in one outfit that looks a bit like a wetsuit so offended the French notion of secularism that for a short while the French police required women to take off their clothes or leave the beach. It was such a shocking and, it seemed to us, a completely unreasonable rule, and yet many French friends find it an outrage that women dare cover their face in public or bodies on the beach. Fortunately the powers-that-be in France saw sense and relented. It is now OK to wear what you like in Nice.
Dolce and Gabbana have done a luxury line of abayas and hijabs, for the muslim market, complete with pricey designer handbags and sunglasses.
Last week I went to Uniqlo to pick up a couple of t-shirts with Esme. And I saw a range of clothes that, initially, attracted me. Nice colours, shapes and what looked like some rather elegant full length dresses, with a range of scarves to match. Modelled here on western models, it soon became clear to me that this collection is a fairly stylish version of Islamic dress. We have a large Arabic population in our area so perhaps the shop thought it was worth featuring the range. But everything was reduced, and to my eye I am not surprised. Designed to hide a woman’s shape they are pleasant enough if your main objective is to obscure what lies beneath. And compared to a head to toe black burka they are relatively colourful and pretty. But I cannot see this collection appealing to the average Westerner.
The designer herself Hana Tajima is a “Mipster” (Muslim Hipster) of British-Japanese origin – pretty, creative and has clearly worked within limits – loose, unstructured, head to toe covering (in strict Islam just the face and hands may be revealed) – to create something intriguing. But I struggle with the idea that women have to cover everything up for fear of titillating a passing gentleman.
But please, don’t think I am having a go at one religion. Despite Jesus not caring one jot about what was on the outside fundamentalist Christians also have versions of “modest” dress. Phyllis Jean has four cute little girls who she dresses like their muslim sisters (but without the head scarves). The long-sleeved, ultra feminine blouses and traditional dresses are accompanied by bloomers. She explains that the bloomers are to “keep them covered”.
Most little girls love to play. They climb and roll, spin and fall down. Our girls love to play and imitate animals. They have no problem wearing dresses and don’t think anything of it. That being said, the girls don’t have the self-awareness yet of how they look while playing all these games. They wear their cotton bloomers to keep them very modest while they play in their dresses. We have had them wearing cotton bloomers from a very young age and it’s just part of getting dressed. It’s a good idea to start young, to keep them covered, and also because they are less likely to fight the idea of wearing them later on. If you are matter of fact about it then they will probably accept your decision to have them wear bloomers. Simply stating that little girls wear bloomers to keep them covered will probably be enough of a reason for them.
There are Jewish and Rastafarian women too who insist on wearing very specific clothes which cover the knees, or head, or other body parts. Here is some Kosher gym wear by Aqua Modest – the Skant (skirt/pant) that allows women to exercise in mixed gyms.
I wonder what you think of all this. While I am personally of the view that everyone should be able to wear what they like and what they believe in, I personally find the idea of suppressing allure somewhat pointless. Humans are sexual beings and how we look and dress enhances this, even if it is subtle. And personally I prefer a subtle look to a completely obvious flaunting. But each to his or her own, eh?