Clothes and High Horses

I have a male friend whose taste in women leaves a lot to be desired. I have girlfriends who married complete arseholes. Still, I babysit their children. I listen to their problems. I have them over and cook meals for them. I try to be a good friend. Despite their not so better halves.
In the same way, I dare not think about what my better half’s friends must think of me. But as long as they remain friends with him, I leave it at that.

At times it is not about me or about us, but about them. At times, our judgement and preferences need to be put in their right place. Sometimes that place is ‘aside’.
If we continuously walk through life principled, our chips visible on our shoulders, we risk severe exhaustion. Not to mention sore wrists. Virtuous and righteous, we need to know when to stand down. No need to be irksome. Repetitive. Tedious. Boring. Inconsistent.
Sometimes it is better to go with the flow, to allow the benefit of the doubt its moment and to choose your battles wisely.

Save your rants for when they are important.

I will therefore not mention the Primark shop that recently opened in my neighbourhood even though prices at said shop are suspicious and bring to mind images of certain practices I would rather see abolished. But if you are a low wage family with children that need to be dressed, who am I to judge?
Nor will I mention, on the other side of the scale, how Dolce & Gabbana, so avant-garde, so sexy, so extravagant, have released a collection of hijabs and abayas. Nothing wrong with that. D&G dress women, gays, transgenders, catholics, anglicans, atheists, even men (wink). They shoe Mrs. Theresa May. (as in to shoe: tr. V. shod, shodden shoeing, shoes: to furnish or fit with a shoe or shoes). Muslimahs are fashionistas too. Very much so.

Primark, D&G, Mango, Net-a-Porter, Moda Operandi, H&M, … let’s face it. We all know which side our bread is buttered.

Do we? We do, but the principled minority, from time to time, doesn’t. Sticks out its neck. And snubs. Where it hurts the least.

Sophie Theallet. Largely unknown clothes designer, known to have dressed Michelle Obama on occasion. What she lacks in international fame she makes up for with inflated ego. In an open letter posted on Twitter she explains that she will not dress the next FLOTUS Melania Trump. And urges other designers to do the same.
Ms. Theallet refers to her noble principles. Diversity, freedom, respect for all lifestyles, and integrity. Sadly, Mrs. Trump misses out. She married the wrong guy.

Following Ms. Theallet’s logic, many other people should go naked through life. Maybe stay hungry? Walk and not take the bus. Stay out of our schools.

Ring a

bell

Not serving or helping people based on beliefs, religion, colour or gender is segregational, segregationist and racist. It reminds us of those episodes in the past, now identified as backward, shortsighted, and based on the wrong principles.

Not our finest hour. A time and place we should not return to.

As for Melania, she could sew her own clothes, wear her old stuff, start her own clothes line, MyFLOTUS.com. She could buy out her adversaries. But she will probably ignore the whole business. As should we and the Theallets of the world.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me, ….

It all starts somewhere.

Fashion Forward

The inaccuracies of cultural representations, whether in academic or popular discourse, remain rooted not only in prejudice but also in what Edward Said in his 1978 publication “Orientalism” calls the essentializing of foreign societies as static and undeveloped. This attitude naturally implies the idea that the ‘native’ society is flexible and developed and thus superior.

Despite its Eurocentric origins, justification for its colonial and imperialist past and ambitions, Edward Said’s Orientalism can be modified and remodeled, reversed to suit any and every cultural elite, expressing its opinion on particular forms of behaviour and convictions.
Language, culinary products and preparations, daily, mundane customs such as ways of greeting, the treatment of ailments and prevalent dress codes are, as common expressions of self, easily misunderstood issues, often prone to inexact or imprecise portrayal.
All conduct is conditioned. Whether by tradition or conviction, as a result of rebellion or complacency. Human actions, qualities, manners and behaviour are traceable, explicable and involve cultural discretion. Kindness towards the old and the sick. Violence towards those who disagree. Understanding. Pity. Modesty.

Grounded in both secular and religious tradition, modesty surpasses the mere notion of what we wear but involves the way we act, communicate and relate to others.
Currently however, modesty has become synonym for biblical modesty, limiting itself to motivation rather than behaviour.

There is no consensus regarding modesty. Biblical modesty refers to sacred texts such as the Bible or the Quran and is thus vulnerable with regard to its interpretation and translation. Modesty in its broadest sense is turned into objectification when it makes women responsible for the behaviour of men. Modesty is synonym for objectification when it is defined against one simple cross-cultural standard. Modesty is objectification when it becomes the benchmark of shame.

The veil controversy.
At the crossroads of fears and ideas regarding suppression, disempowerment, tradition, nationality and religion and the separation thereof, the wearing of the veil has become a political affair with the scarf as such an innocent component in a wide debate.
The wearing of the veil is but part of the sartorial modesty debate. What about the abaya or long cloak, hiding body contours? Or the Malay tuduk? Jewish women wearing wigs?

 

President Kennedy and Jackie

 Style icon or bad hair day?

Fashion restrictions are not the prerogative of Muslim women. Everywhere in the world, at certain times, at certain occasions, dress code is norm. And what needs to remain hidden in one society can be freely exposed in another.

0e12b8aabfafdb6551ff7eb4de092e8b

In ancient Japan, the back of a woman’s neck was seen as very attractive by men since it was one of the few places not covered by clothing.

The London College of Fashion have in the past researched ‘Modest Dressing’, referring to women who “dress in a way that satisfies their spiritual and stylistic requirements for reasons of faith, religion or personal preference”. And it is clear that ‘modest dressing’ produces new and inspiring looks, following and surpassing religious and cultural borders.

Modest Dressing. Modest Fashion. Fashion Forward. 

Hijab Couture. Hijab Style. Hijab High. Scarfsweethoney. Hijab with glasses. Hijab with jewelry. Simple hijab. Crisscross hijab. Beehive hijab. How to use shabasa hairclips. The Amish Clothesline. Fresh modesty. Modern modesty. Blogs and tutorials and online shops.
Fashion online has been steadily growing, exploding even, yet most of us remain in our own comfort zone. Part of the Orientalist’s narrative? Ignorance?
World Hijab Day came and went yet Michelle Obama’s ‘sans headscarf’-gate, merely an assumed faux pas, grabbed headlines.

Fashion forward, not only reflecting but also anticipating trends, does not mean the abolition of modesty. Nor is it a plea for modesty. It is not a religious or social cultural debate. Rather, it is a lively aspect of a problematic, held captive in the hands of many. Zealots, traditionalists, mums, dads, politicians and a well-thinking elite. And those not knowledgeable or ill-informed.

Man will be inventive. Man will be fashionable. Man must be pragmatic. And surpass the inaccuracies of cultural representations.

Never underestimate the allure of beauty.