(Un)Veiled: Finding Myself Through My Hijab by Zainab
I need to be at the bus stop in twenty minutes. My lunch is packed and my backpack is by the front door. Everything is ready to go…except I’m still in my pajamas. Various shirts, dresses, and shawls surround me. My closet doors are flung wide open and there is a full rack of clothes before me, yet I feel as if I have nothing to wear. This scene of frustration was one of many that I found myself in during my first year of high school. However, my feelings about clothing and physical appearance were not as superficial as they seemed.
Backtrack to the winter of eighth grade: I recently committed to wearing the hijab full time and this deeply personal choice meant adhering to modesty across all aspects of my life, including what I wore. During this time, I was also developing an interest in fashion. I prioritized details such as color harmony and put more care into my outfit planning. Unfortunately, these two important parts of my life would clash as I transitioned into the more complex social environment of high school.
As I began ninth grade, I developed an increased awareness of my self-image. I convinced myself that I could achieve acceptance from my new peers by adopting a more mature, sophisticated look. I pored over the advice I found in fashion blogs. Mom jeans and graphic tees were in, but If I wanted to pair a dress with pants I’d have to consider the silhouette. One question I constantly faced was how my hijab fit into the equation. Color matching was difficult due to my limited collection of scarves. Layering cardigans over my beloved short sleeve tees made me feel frumpy.
The results were a mess. Every article of clothing became an impassable obstacle to achieving the style and increased self-esteem I wanted. In the process, I had also lost the meaning of the hijab which is meant to highlight actions and character over appearance. In the battle between my love of fashion and my faith, neither had won and I was the biggest loser.
Enter Leena Snoubar, a modest fashion vlogger I had stumbled upon while browsing Youtube. She was a hijabi and her channel was devoted to fashion, beauty, and modesty. She was the picture of the confidence and she wasn’t afraid to explain the struggles she had gone through to get there. As I watched more and more of the content she and other modest fashion influencers shared, I realized that I had been looking for answers in the wrong places.
Within the world of modest fashion, I found a space where I could practice self-expression while embracing my values. I learned to put what made me comfortable first. By letting go of the trends and magazines with rules that weren’t one size fits all, I found the inner confidence that I needed. Maxi dresses and skirts weren’t limited to special events and there were elegant ways to layer cardigans. There was the aspect of diversity as well. Modest fashion, I found, was not limited to one religion or gender and it was welcoming to all body types and backgrounds. For the first time in a while, I found myself looking forward to getting dressed in the morning.
My modest fashion journey is still ongoing, but its impacts on me have already taken hold. I’ve realized that people like me for who I am rather than what I wear. My choice to wear the hijab, one that I made so many years ago, has also been reinforced as I continue to reflect on its true purpose and meaning. Modest fashion, an interest that seems material on the surface, has been anything but that and I look forward to exploring what it has to offer for me in the years to come.
About the Author
My name is Zainab Adamou-Mohamed, I am 18 years old and live in central North Carolina. This fall, I will attend UNC-Greensboro to study art and graphic design. I have an interest in all aspects of storytelling, so I’m really excited about this opportunity to share my story with you.