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May 6, 2010 | 12:00 a.m. CST
For more information on the hijab, click here.
Fashion in America has a quick expiration date and is often sexualized. People typically switch to the latest fad and never look back. However, in some parts of the world, the same styles have been circulating for centuries. Both the sari and hijab transcend trends and are still worn by women today to express older beliefs, traditions and ideas about sexuality.
The sari has links to Hinduism, but Indian women of all religious faiths wear it, and it has strong ties to Indian culture. In India and parts of America that have large Indian communities, the sari is worn on a regular basis. However, in places such as Columbia, the sari is used for visits to the temple and other religious and social events such as birthdays and anniversaries — not for everyday wear.
Imagine Fashion Week in New York with women walking down the runway wrapped in bright fabrics covered with beads and crystals. This happens in India; fabrics, colors, patterns and even the ways of wrapping the sari change with seasons. “People in India follow the trends very religiously,” says Alagu Visvanathan, a practicing Hindu.
The color red has always been traditional dress for women wearing saris at their wedding because it represents vitality. Although the sari can be expensive (ranging from $200-500), it can be worn no matter a woman’s size because the wrapping makes it one-size-fits-all. “It’s part of the appeal,” Visvanathan says. “I can share with my mom and my sister and my mother-in-law.”
A sari refers to the whole piece of clothing while hijab can refer to both the head covering and the way a woman should act and how she should cover herself. This excludes the face, hands and feet. Zahra Rasool, a practicing Muslim and MU international student from India, says she wears a hijab so people will judge her based on her capabilities as a person rather than looks.
A common misconception about the hijab is that Muslim women are forced to wear it. “You can’t force anyone to do the hijab,” Rasool says. “You do it by choice because it doesn’t make sense doing it without understanding — it defeats the purpose.” Roya Firozi, also a practicing Muslim and MU student, only wears the hijab when praying. She believes each woman should choose if she should wear the hijab based on her belief in the Quran. “I respect those who do wear hijab, and I don’t have any problem with those who don’t,” she says.
Muslim women who wear a hijab choose from any clothing style as long as it covers properly and is loose-fitting. “Just like any other girl, I enjoy dressing up, too,” Rasool says. The head covering even gives an added fashion statement. American women usually wear trendy scarves in specific seasons, but Muslim women wear them year-round as a head scarf. But Arwa Mohammad, another practicing Muslim, says fashion should always come second to the purpose of hijab. “I have to adapt my fashion sense within the parameters of what I’ve learned the religion to be,” she says.
The hijab and sari might serve different purposes, but they both stand out as unique attire. Both articles of clothing have endured centuries with only minor adjustments. “A lot of the older people are concerned with comfort, and so a lot of women wear the overall covering,” Rasool says of the hijab. “The younger generation is a lot more fashion conscious because they want to stay up-to-date and dress up fashionably. I think the younger generation is more in tune with the current trends.”