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More fashiony thoughts

Posted by Robin Abrahams  June 2, 2008 07:23 AM

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Such an enjoyable comment thread on fashion no-no's last week! And the timing couldn't be better, what with fashion in the news: Dunkin' Donuts caving to pressure to pull a commercial because Rachel Ray was wearing a black and white scarf (which looked vaguely like, but was not, a Palestinian keffiyah), and the premiere of "Sex & the City."

Regarding the Dunkin' flap, um, what else is there to say? Fashion-wise, the choice was terrible: that mouse-colored t-shirt, that brown handbag, that ratty two-tone scarf. I can't believe a stylist was actually involved, as DD said; it looks like the kind of outfit I'd wear to walk Milo down to the library and return some books, not to appear on national television. Politically? Come on, people. If you can't wear a black and white scarf on television then the terrorists really have won. Ridiculous non-controversy on every level, or should have been.

I saw one episode of SATC ever, and hated it, and never watched again. My understanding is that women who like it like the portrayal of strong female friendship and enjoy the fantasy element; those who don't like it don't like the materialism and retrograde gender stereotypes. Seems a fair enough assessment. I saw the one where Aidan drags Carrie out for a rural weekend, and just didn't think it was funny; it was rehashed "Green Acres" only without the surrealism.

But I liked the Carrie Bradshaw fashion ideal, as I understood it second-hand. There's a good article in Slate about Carrie's aesthetic, and how the movie, ultimately, betrayed it by being too much about designer labels and not enough about creativity and quirkiness. Julia Turner writes:

...Carrie mixed it up, combining dime-store finds with high-end pieces, wearing fur to Yankee stadium and a white tuxedo jacket over a threadbare Mickey Mouse T on a date. Above all, she valued looks that showcased the unexpected. (That and her great legs.) Some of these were beautiful, and some were pure disasters, but, regardless, Carrie offered an admirable model of how a woman should relate to her wardrobe: She should not unthinkingly adopt the latest thing; she can admire high-end designers without worshipping them; she should use her clothes as a means to express who she is and to become who she wants to be.

I couldn't agree more. And perhaps that explains my recent blog obsession: We Love Hijab. The title sort of sums it up; it's a fashion blog for Muslim women who wear hijab and follow traditional rules of modest dress. (Not all Muslim women feel that that's necessary, and if you want to meet some Muslimahs who will rock your world and preconceived notions, check out Muslimah Media Watch.)

In an odd sort of way, We Love Hijab reminds me of PeaceBang's fashion blog, Beauty Tips for Ministers. The religion and style sense may differ, but the underlying themes are the same: that fashion and beauty are not trivial. That since our visual appearance communicates to others, we'd better take control of that message. That both style and God, as well as the devil, are in the details. That "fun" and "sacred" aren't mutually exclusive categories.

And We Love Hijab has some great taste and ideas, that are practical for ordinary women whether you'd wear the scarf over your head or around your neck. I love their outfits and profiles of "haute hijabis." Here's one of their recommended ensembles:


Isn't that pretty? Pink and brown are such a striking color combination; the of-the-moment boots and bag balance the classic trench, and the animal-print scarf punches the whole thing up a notch and keeps it from being too boringly classic. And it's dignified and pretty and professional-looking and something you could imagine an actual woman (not Carrie Bradshaw) actually wearing.

I wish there were more fashion and beauty blogs that have real content--I don't mean religious, but substantive and smart, with more cultural analysis than just "buy this, buy that, here's what Celebrity X is wearing this month." (Hmm ... while Googling "We Love Hijab" to see if it's mentioned on other blogs, I also found this great Muslim fashion site--Hijabtrendz. A quick once-over looks very promising! I'd take a wardrobe makeover from these ladies anytime. "Muslimah Eye for the Jewish Girl," anyone?)

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10 comments so far...
  1. It is a sad day in America when cameltoes are the norm and crotch shots are acceptable and bragged about but a piece of cloth that vaguely resembles the scarf worn by some Arabs is considered too risqué for the advertising world.

    Will pinning a yellow star on the chest be the next fashion requirement for Muslims?

    Posted by Moin Ansari June 2, 08 09:39 AM
  1. Finally another woman who doesn't like SATC! All of last week I was looked at like I had two heads when I told folks I hadn't watched the show. Worse is that after I admitted to not liking it they would ask "Why?" and then there was the awkward moment where I had to just say "I just didn't care for it" because it was clear the inquiring parties loved the show and would be offended if I detailed my reasons for not liking it.

    Posted by Noel June 2, 08 10:40 AM
  1. I'm glad that you liked the fashion sense of the folks at We Love Hijab. I'll still never agree that a woman is compelled to cover her hair, neck, lower legs or whatever for modesty's sake, unless the men they live with wear exactly the same thing (and then try to do all of their daily work and be pregnant in whatever heat and humidity they may live in). Anyway, the pink and brown combo IS nice, but you could see that in any fashion magazine - not exactly a new trend. They have clothes with the same color scheme in the little girls clothes department at Target - and I thought they were very cute and fashionable, too.

    I also thought the brouhaha over Rachel Ray's scarf was as absurd as anything else this country gets up in arms over. But, go figure! Americans aren't always the most astute when it comes to such details.

    I also disliked Sex and the City the first couple of times I watched it. I couldn't understand why people liked it. Then I saw it several more times and became quite a fan of the show. It's unusual, quirky, very over-the-top sexually (I'm still trying to convince my fiance that not all women sit around having the kind of sexual discussions that the women on the show had) and, frankly, quite realistic in a lot of ways. Although I live in a very casual, non-fashion-oriented part of the country, I could relate very much to the relationship (though certainly not the massive numbers of lovers) and professional issues these women went through. That may be what a lot of women liked about the show.

    Robin says: I don't agree with modesty rules either; my religion has 'em, too, and I don't follow them. Part of what I like about WLH--and BTFM and hijabtrendz--is that they're by actual women, not marketers trying to sell us things.

    Posted by Elizabeth June 2, 08 12:20 PM
  1. I agree with you 100%, on all points! Truly, the terrorists have won. We can't even wear shoes or carry shampoo onto airplanes, or , apparently, wear scarves in commercials.

    I'm also not a fan of S&TC, finding it mostly shallow drivel. I have better things to do with that hour every week.

    I believe in style, not fashion. One's personal style says a lot about you, where blindly following the latest fashion only says that you're a sheep.

    Posted by Elizabeth June 2, 08 01:29 PM
  1. The SATC episode that you watched (SJP looking like Daisy Duke in the cabin) was just not a good one. There is so much Miss Conducty stuff going on that I think you would like it. One of my favorite episodes was when Carrie goes to a cocktail party at a friend who is now a new mom to twins. When she arrives she is ordered to take off her shoes ($400 Manolos of course) since the hosts have a no-shoe policy. She reluctantly does so (I feel her pain - I'm short too) and she finds that they are missing at the end of the night. It is a great episode that explores a whole bunch of issues that we've discussed on your chats: the no-shoe thing, gifts for engagement, marriage, kid #1, kid#2, baptism etc when you are single, kids vs. no kids, what is the right course of action when you've lost your $400 shoes. I never saw the HBO series, but my husband (!) and I watched it on TBS together & loved it. It is so far away from the life we live now and maybe that's why I liked it so much. It is definitely fantasy. Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte & Samantha eat out all the time and never get fat. Miranda gets to go out to dinner far more than any other working mother I know. But I do think that it is a thinking person's show.

    Robin says: Maybe I'll give it another chance sometime. Even before I became Miss Conduct, I liked shows that dealt with etiquette dilemmas--"Seinfeld," for example.

    Posted by Mansfield Mom June 2, 08 01:32 PM
  1. Hey! Thanks for the link love, both to us and to our sisters in scarves!

    Robin says: You're welcome! I found you guys when one of your writers HILARIOUSLY misread a quote of mine on Shapely Prose. She was very nice when the SP ladies pointed out to her that I hadn't said what she thought I did ... and a lot of Shapelies went to check out MMW as a result.

    Posted by Muslimah Media Watch June 2, 08 05:19 PM
  1. (laugh) Yeah...I...uh, wonder who that could've been...(clearing throat) SO embarrassing for her.
    I also wanted to refer you to Muslim Girl Magazine (, which is a great magazine for younger Muslim women. A number of their pages are devoted to modest (with or w/o scarves) fashion.

    Robin says: Excellent! Thanks for the tip.

    Posted by Muslimah Media Watch June 3, 08 12:50 AM
  1. Thanks for mentioning my blog hijabtrendz. I actually started it because I noticed a lot of Muslim women had no idea how to put together a decent outfit and most of them looked like they belonged on "What Not To Wear". I was also frustrated by the lack of professionalism that Muslim clothing designers display on their websites so I wanted an alternative.

    Some girls just don't have time to search for an outfit that follows their particular dress code.

    However, this site isn't just for women who cover their hair. I never mention anything religious on the site or judge people, because I believe it's up to each person to decide what they feel comfortable with wearing, I merely lay out the options.

    Thanks again for the mention!


    Posted by Mariam Sobh June 5, 08 08:05 AM
  1. Nice post!

    While it's not exclusively a fashion blog, Organic Muslimah at puts together some fantastic ensembles as well. She covers professional and seasonal attire, and all outfits work without the scarf. It's worth a look.

    Posted by Shawna June 6, 08 08:58 AM
  1. A gentleman left a comment here that was deleted because of a link in it, so I'm replacing what he wrote. My apologies! He's got an interesting (though slightly obscure on first glance--he's more visual than verbal, and I'm the reverse) blog, and some nice pictures of stylish hijabis here:

    He also links to a fascinating-sounding conference on contemporary Muslim consumer culture at which he will be presenting research:

    Posted by Robin Abrahams June 13, 08 08:21 AM
About Miss Conduct
Welcome to Miss Conduct’s blog, a place where the popular Boston Globe Magazine columnist Robin Abrahams and her readers share etiquette tips, unravel social conundrums, and gossip about social behavior in pop culture and the news. Have a question of your own? Ask Robin using this form or by emailing her at

Who is Miss Conduct?

Robin Abrahamswrites the weekly "Miss Conduct" column for The Boston Globe Magazine and is the author of Miss Conduct's Mind over Manners. Robin has a PhD in psychology from Boston University and also works as a research associate at Harvard Business School. Her column is informed by her experience as a theater publicist, organizational-change communications manager, editor, stand-up comedian, and professor of psychology and English. She lives in Cambridge with her husband Marc Abrahams, the founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes, and their socially challenged but charismatic dog, Milo.

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