D&G gained a fair bit of attention back in January with their collection of abayahs aimed at Muslim women; opinions were divided on not just how D&G perceive Muslim women, but also on the style of the clothing itself. For the contemporary Muslim woman, wearing a designer abayah with a generally black undertone to it doesn’t appeal very much, especially if we take our busy lifestyles into account where women are doing the school run and working as well as shopping and socialising.
This is why Mango’s ‘modestwear’ collection is so refreshing. The popular high street shop has created a range of loose jackets, flowing dresses and oversized sweaters as well as long-sleeved tunics and shirts to allow Muslim women to dress modestly and yet be able to express their personal taste through their choice of clothing. The unfortunate news is, however, that this selection of clothes is aimed at the Arab market for the month of Ramadan and will be stocked in Mango’s 109 stores across the Middle East.
In retrospect, this range of clothing needn’t be available only in that region. Many women across the world, both Muslim and non-Muslim, choose these styles as part of personal choice; in short, these clothes are in vogue in the mainstream. It then seems rather preposterous that such a range be aimed solely at Muslim women, in particular for those living in the Middle East. The same range could be stocked in Western countries and we would still see Muslim women choosing to wear from Mango’s collection.
The question then arises as to whether a ‘Muslim-only’ clothing collection is even necessary. For the regular shoppers at Mango and similar other stores, modestwear is widely available and worn throughout the year. The insistence on having clothing labelled as suitable for Muslim women seems rather ludicrous when it’s already available and in fashion. Furthermore, in a BBC Woman’s Hour interview with the co-founder of modestwear fashion-tech website, Amaliah, Jane Garvey stated that most of their collations of mainstream modest clothing are styles that she would willingly choose to wear.
Indeed, there are many Muslim women who wouldn’t classify such ranges as suitable or within the remit of Islam, and such opinions are to be respected. But for the vast majority of Muslim women who are looking for a middle ground within the mainstream stores, the current trend of maxi dresses and loose cardigans are very ideal as well as widely available to them without the need for a tag that says ‘suitable for Muslim women’. The bottom line is that Muslim women are perfectly capable of choosing what they should wear within the boundaries set out by their religion. To have a certain range aimed at us feels rather insulting as well as belittling our ability to choose appropriate clothing. Moreover, if such collections are additionally appealing to the tastes of non-Muslim women and appear in mainstream shops, it might be worth rethinking as to whether an assortment of clothing aimed purely at Muslim women is even necessary. Maybe they should just call them ‘clothes’ instead.