November 07, 2005
I recently read about a special event "Interpreting Hot Trends for Veiled and Conservative Women," hosted by Nordstrom, a leading apparel designer brand, in McLean, Virginia. This event was indeed unique because it showcased the latest trends in 'hijabs' and 'scarves', and was perhaps the first high-fashion 'hijab' event sponsored by corporate America. It targeted the moneyed Muslim women living in the suburbs of Northern Virginia, where mansions and mosques are home to an affluent immigrant population. Obviously, the event generated a multitude of response, mostly critical, regarding its religious appropriateness and also because of it's low profitability at the end of the day.
However, it wasn't the vagaries of the show's religious appropriateness or its financial blundering that was bothering me. There was another chain of thought that was gathering momentum and sizzling in my mind. How come women's fashion seems to be driven by a predominantly male definition of what looks beautiful on the female form? Or else why would high fashion in a woman's world entail revealing a belly button, showing of leg, or flashing of cleavage. Why did female voluptousness in the '90s suddenly become unattractive, and bolemia induced emaciatedness become a benchmark to achieve.
Over the years the female body has had to endure extremes of makeover in order to be fashionable, to live up to every changed expectation of the male mind. This is no generalization; in fact a harsh truth, hard to palate and difficult to accept. An endurance test is what it is for the female of the species; pulling out body hair with hot wax to give a smooth appearance, adopting a 500 calorie diet to keep that girlish figure, injecting cortizone to defy the aging process, getting breast implants to generate oomph, and the list goes on. A list far more torturesome for the woman than donning a 'hijab', the mere mention of which generates feelings of outrage.
A thought: How much simpler it would be for a woman to live on her own terms!