For many Westerners, the Islamic veil is the ultimate sign of women’s oppression. But Liz Bucar’s take on clothing worn by Muslim women is a far cry from this older feminist attitude toward veiling. She argues that modest clothing represents much more than social control or religious orthodoxy. Today, headscarves are styled to frame the head and face in interesting ways, while colors and textures express individual tastes and challenge aesthetic preconceptions. Brand-name clothing and accessories serve as conveyances of social distinction and are part of a multimillion-dollar ready-to-wear industry. Even mainstream international chains are offering lines especially for hijabis. More than just a veil, this is pious fashion from head to toe, which engages with a range of aesthetic values related to moral authority, consumption, and selfhood.
Writing in an appealing style based on first-hand accounts, Bucar invites readers to join her in three Muslim-majority nations as she surveys how women approach the question “What to wear?” By looking at fashion trends in the bustling cities of Tehran, Yogyakarta, and Istanbul—and at the many ways clerics, designers, politicians, and bloggers try to influence Muslim women’s choices—she concludes that pious fashion depends to a large extent on local aesthetic and moral values, rather than the dictates of religious doctrine.
Pious Fashion defines modesty in Islamic dress as an ever-changing social practice among Muslim women who—much like non-Muslim women—create from a range of available clothing items and accessories styles they think will look both appropriate and attractive.
Pious Fashion is a look at contemporary dress and how it can help us see the ‘Muslim community’ as a vast array of individuals rather than an inscrutable monolith… Bucar disabuses readers of any preconceived ideas that women who adhere to an aesthetic of modesty are unfashionable or frumpy.
I defy anyone not to be beguiled by [Bucar's] generous-hearted yet penetrating observation of pious fashion in Indonesia, Turkey and Iran…Outlining how young Muslim women in Tehran, Yogyakarta and Istanbul shape urban cultures of modest dress, Bucar uses interviews with consumers, designers, retailers and journalists alongside ethnographic vignettes of outfits to examine the presumptions that modest dressing can’t be fashionable, and fashion can’t be faithful.
The brilliance of Bucar’s book is that she goes beyond the hijab, showing how seamlessly (pun unintended) an entire outfit can carry multiple resonances, simultaneously revealing truths about piety, the body, gender, and politics. She shows how women’s sartorial choices within Islamic norms—and their interpretations of those choices—reflect and shape the values of a faith tradition, create spaces for agency and judgment, indicate or obscure economic status, secure or foreclose access to political power, and allow for individual expression…She blends history, anthropology, personal experience, interviews, and stunning photographs from fashion blogs to present a vivid cross-cultural picture of the complex relationship between clothing, faith, and beauty.
In Pious Fashion Elizabeth Bucar adds her voice to a growing body of literature that seeks to move beyond simplistic and polemical arguments for or against ‘the veil’ towards an exploration of the complex and thriving world of Islamic fashion…[Pious Fashion] manages to be informative, ethnographically rich and highly readable, and to those unfamiliar with the topic, it provides an engaging introduction…[Bucar] brings out both the sensuality and pleasure of sartorial experimentation and also its politics.
[Bucar] comes across as warm, engaging and funny. The women she studies trust her and she has an eye for minute details: the book is packed with them, and this is where Bucar comes into her own. Amid the descriptions of fabrics, colors and styles, she really gets under the skin of how [Muslim] women like to dress…There are fascinating insights too.
It's thrilling to learn of the often extraordinarily complex meanings accompanying different varieties of dress…Truly an eye-opening book.
At a time when Muslim women’s clothing is discussed in terms of freedom, oppression, and piety, Bucar…explains that modest clothing in Muslim cultures means much more than religious authority and social conformity…Bucar reveals an underexplored segment of the fashion industry and excellently exhibits the ways in which Muslim women engage with their faith and the world of fashion by choosing head coverings, clothing, and accessories that are both reverent and in vogue. Featuring street style photos of fashionable women, this book adds some much-needed frills to debates surrounding the hijab.
A smart, eye-opening guide to the creative sartorial practices of young Muslim women who live in Tehran, Istanbul, and Yogyakarta. Bucar’s lively narrative illuminates fashion choices, moral aspirations, and social struggles that will unsettle those who prefer to stereotype rather than inform themselves about women’s everyday lives in the fast-changing, diverse, and historically specific societies that constitute the Muslim world.
Islamic dress is in the news. Either as a symbol of female oppression or as a new, colorful statement on the global fashion stage, Islamic dress can be misunderstood because it seems singular and monolithic. This book offers first-person observations from the stores and streets of three cities in Muslim-majority countries. Through vivid descriptions of styles and shoppers, readers realize that Muslim women dress in as many varied ways as non-Muslim women do.
[Bucar] argues in this fascinating read that pious fashion is much more than modest dress standards imposed on women. It is a way that Muslim women claim their identity and express their faith in a world that is rapidly westernizing.
[A] persuasive case for taking fashion seriously in religious studies…An ethnographic project vast in scope as it introduces the diversity and complexity of pious fashion among Muslim women…Bucar’s expansive understanding of piety is helpful as she applies it to nationalism, cultural fidelity, religious sincerity, and class as the means and expertise to participate in aesthetic-making activities.
Throughout this informative addition to literature about Muslim women, the author reminds her readers that hijab—as worn on the head or other parts of a woman’s body or called by another name—is open to limitless interpretations and is bound by meanings that are socially constructed and sufficiently fluid for further evolution.
- 2018, Winner of the Millia Davenport Publication Award
- 248 pages
- 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
From this author
Sorry, there was an error adding the item to your shopping bag.
Sorry, your session has expired. Please refresh your browser's tab.