For today’s Hijab Friday post, I want to share with you all something a little bit more personal, in the hopes that it can benefit someone else out there going through the same thing.
I have alluded to my “personal style” crisis a few times in the past, but never fully went into what exactly that entailed, and how exactly I figured it out.
So, before I converted, I loved, loved, loved a cute little dress, either vintage drop waist, or fitted right at the natural waist, tights, cute shoes, and a cardigan. It was my go-to thing. Obviously, after converting and committing to practising hijab, I had some things I had to figure out. Namely, how to make my wardrobe a bit more “hijab compliant.”
This took a number of shapes in the beginning: I bought a couple of maxi dresses, a couple of longer cardigans. I began a month long search for the perfect, loose pair of boyfriend jeans that I could wear under my dresses and cardigans. I picked up cute scarves that matched my outfits and tried to make sure I tied them in a way that they could cover up any exposed chest-area from low-necked dresses and tops.
Beyond just the logistics of creating a whole new wardrobe, the other big issue was that of style: I saw all of these “hijabi” fashion bloggers out there doing their thing, and tried to make myself stylish like them. Needless to say, that didn’t work and I just felt silly and not very modest. Then I tried to wear looser clothes and dresses and phase pants out of my life forever, but in doing this I ended up feeling frumpy and blehhhh.
I tried to take inspiration from the sisters around me, but I didn’t have the money to shop like they did, and I certainly couldn’t afford anything from any of those upscale Islamic clothing lines.
To add the icing on the struggle cake, was the fact that since I had gotten sick right before I converted, I had also begun to gain a bit of weight. This, and having to shift away from my habitual style, really had an impact on my self-image and self-confidence (where beauty is concerned at least).
I never felt as pretty or as stylish as the women around me (or the me in the photos from before I converted), but I also didn’t feel as modest as the women I always saw walking around in expensive abayas and all black. I was just stuck somewhere in the middle.
This tug-of-war kept up until just recently, more than two years after I converted. I continued to gain a bit more weight living in Algeria, because who can say no to your mother-in-law’s delicious cooking, and I continued to see how other women dress and not feel pretty or stylish enough. To top it all off, I was still struggling with the very basic logistics—how to get my scarf to stay put when it was windy, how to deal with wearing 500 layers even in the summer, just so I could make sure I was still modest…how to deal with wearing layers at all because I hate layers. And now that I was living with my husband, trying to figure out the difference between my “home” clothes and my “outside” clothes.
One day it hit me like a ton of bricks, and I finally realised exactly what I needed. You can read about that story when you’ve got time.
But the result of that transition was completely amazing: for the first time since I converted, I not only feel properly modest in my two-piece jilbabs, but I also feel feminine and beautiful, which I hadn’t expected at all. But some way, somehow, the jilbab makes me feel like a “proper” Muslim woman; like if Khajida (ra) or Aisha (ra) was to walk into a room where I was sitting, they would choose to come talk to me out of all the women in the room, if they were just judging by dress.
And please do note that that is my personal feeling, not a comment on anyone else’s covering style!
And that makes me feel far prettier than the latest fashion or a fitted dress. Plus, I love the way I look in them, especially when it’s windy and all the fabric billows around, I feel kind of epic. And they come in so many lovely colours, I can still really express myself in a perfectly appropriate way.
To get back to the point though-I struggled for two years before figuring this out. So to all the converts or women who are just starting out with the hijab: you’re gonna struggle. Sometimes you will figure it out in a month, sometimes it will take years. You will have awkward transition times, you will sometimes feel ugly, you will sometimes regret a dress because it’s not actually that modest but you like it because it was pretty.
And you will have people gripe and you and judge you all day long, if you are not dressed to exactly fit their definition of modesty.
The important thing is to not give up. Don’t throw it all away because of one bad outfit or one windy day, remember Who you are doing it for. And remember that there are others out there struggling just like you, and even that gorgeous woman in the niqab and all black jilbab whose piety you envy probably didn’t just wake up one morning and pop that on without a second thought. It takes time, it takes iman, it takes money to completely change your wardrobe, and everyone has to start somewhere.
It is the journey that matters; as long as you are not stagnating wherever you are, in shaa Allah He sees your effort and your struggle, and He is rewarding you along the way.