What Will I Wear Today? 101 to Muslim Women’s Clothing

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(Photo: Video screenshot)

Since people began wearing clothes women and men have donned distinct garbs. Islam is no different. The Quran makes that clear.

Traditional Muslim women cover themselves differently depending on the local culture. Even a specific type of clothing, such as the ubiquitous hijab, can vary in style from region to region.

Often the woman has no choice in what she must wear.

Here’s an explanation of the main items of clothing that in many ways define a Muslim woman in a Muslim environment.

  1. The hijab is perhaps the most universal item of clothing worn by the Muslim woman. Usually the hijab is akin to a scarf which covers the hair, ears, most of the neck but does not cover the face.This woman models the hijab, wearing it in multiple styles:
  2. Unless you are an expert, you won’t have heard of the jilbab. It might sound similar to a hijab but is entirely different. If the hijab covers the body from the neck up, the jilbab completes the look, covering the body from the neck down.  The jilbab is a single gown, which covers all but the hands, face and head. However, there’s an optional add-on feature to cover the head.This clothing store shows how to wear a jilbab:
  3.  The abaya is very similar to the jilbab. It’s the combination of a long dress with a head covering included. This is the official dress of women in such countries as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Yemen.
  4. The chador is a type of jilbab, while also resembling the abaya. They are easily confused by the untrained eye. The chador is most associated with Iranian women. The Persian word chador means tent in English. It’s usually a black or blue gown that covers the entire body other than the head and face. It can be worn with a hijab. It does not have openings for sleeves and so women clutch the gown to themselves with their arms on the inside. It is usually open at the front – so worn something akin to a body-length shawl.
  5. The niqab is a Muslim traditional veil that covers a woman’s entire face other than a narrow slit for the eyes. It’s usually made from black cloth. While the niqab is mostly thought of as being the face veil – a niqab can also be a full body covering but also with the eyes visible. This is often worn in Islamic State territory where the morality police judge a female’s age by her eyes.
  6. The burqa is a full body covering that even covers the eyes. Women must look through a cloth mesh in order to see. This is mainly seen in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. The burqa is available in multiple colors but in Afghanistan it is usually a light blue.This video shows women putting on a burqa for the first time:

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Ran Meir

Ran Meir is Clarion Project's Arab affairs analyst and a Shillman Fellow. He can be reached at [email protected]

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