Thursday, May 15, 2008

Amy vs. the Jilbab

I try, I do really try to dress more modestly. I try not to wear jeans every day, I try to wear shirts and coats long enough to cover my butt. I try to find shirts with sleeves long enough to reach my wrists. And I even try to wear jilbabs...

They just don't look right on me.

What? They don't!

It never fails--if I do wear a jilbab, I inevitably get compliments on my appearance. I've been described as not just looking nice, but "dolled up!" despite the absence of even an ounce of make-up or any attempt to beautify myself. One sister even offered me "Mabrook!" the first time she saw me wear one, which confused me so much I had to ask her "for what?" with a bizarre facial expression of puzzled shock. And the compliments are good... it makes it easier for me to wear the funny-looking jilbab instead of jeans, and is subtle encouragement even though I think I look dumb.

But I have these problems. First of all, I have practically zero budget to spend on clothes. The last items I have bought were underwear, socks (both out of necessity), a pair of pants, and two shirts. The last three items totaled about $10--and I didn't buy them all at once, either. Most recently it was just a shirt that I found for $1. One dollar. I say that to emphasize that I don't really buy clothes that often. And jilbabs are expensive--$30-60. So if in two months I have spent a combined total of maybe $20 (all the aforementioned items) on clothes... that means it would take me about 6 months of saving to be able to afford a jilbab, new.

Another problem with buying a jilbab, is that it's a little difficult to come by my size. Any jilbab I find is always a few inches to short at the hem, and at the sleeves, assuming that it's even big enough around. So if I can find my size, that means it is on the upper end of the price spectrum. And I don't want to wear something that is cheap and poor quality--especially if it is a jilbab which covers everything, shoulders to toes. It should look nice, shouldn't it?

JilbabI can't say that it's hard to find jilbabs around here--it is hard to find them in my size--but with how easy it is to buy clothes online, that isn't really excuse. Although, that does add to the expense sometimes, and makes it difficult to be assured of the fit until it arrives.

Now despite all of that, I do own a handful of jilbabs--hand-me-downs, mostly, plus a gift, and one I bought myself at a convention--and that one, of course, is my favorite, and the only one I think actually looks good on me. After all, that's why I bought it! But among the others that I own, none fit particularly well, all are too short at the hem and most in the sleeves as well. A couple are the button-up style which I really don't like, but I wear them anyway, sometimes.

Usually when I wear them, though, it's because I'm going to the masjid, and my other "modest" clothes are dirty. I don't like wearing jilbabs to work, or out in public, I feel like I never can match it with a scarf, but I do sometimes wear them anyway--and get compliments, so strange. When I am wearing these jilbabs I have, I feel uncomfortable and I feel like I am dressed lazily, and not very put-together. I don't really like that feeling, I would rather look neat and professional, but the jilbabs just don't make me feel that way at all--mostly because of the bad fit (and often, the fabric color.)

So while I do try to dress modestly, and I honestly feel more comfortable wearing a dress or skirt over top of my jeans that just a shirt, the jilbab is a style I prefer to stay far away from--since most of those I own makes me very uncomfortable and self-conscious about my appearance. I just wish it weren't such a fight for me.


Malak said...

AA Amy,

I'm right there with you! I love jilbabs and abayas, but they are expensive!! I mean plain ones are over my budget, never mind one with a litte decor! My advice is to just do the best you can with what you have. Your intention and your pocketbook aren't on the same playing field and Allah knows this. ;-)

I love the dress over jeans or skirt over jeans look anyway. I have a hard time matching under shirts and scarves!

Hang in there girl!


Taiyyaba said...

Don't make yourself feel bad about not wearing jilbaab. I think a Muslimah can be just as modestly dressed in other styles of clothing, especially because a lot of jilbaabs nowadays are tailored to be form-fitting anyway. And, in my opinion, the "what not to wear" rules in Islam aren't there to make you feel not-pretty. If you're not comfortable with wearing jilbaab, there's tons more you can wear and still be properly dressed and feel beautiful. I'm with you!

jana z. said...

oh sister how i know what you mean. i dont like wearing jilbab too much. i do like pantsuits though. there are some really pretty ones but a good deal of them are homely. and no im not out trying to look gorgeous (which is an impossibility anyway) but i dont want to feel frumpy either. i feel more comfy in loose clothing with long shirts.

inshallah youll get finished with school, get a great job and have money galore!! then you can dress yourself the way you want sis.

Anonymous said...

I can't relate to any of the commenters on here. I wear proper jilbabs with matching hijabs and feel pretty put together. They are expensive though i agree. Alot of mine are from my mom who bought fabric and sewed up 'em nice and decent and plain, the way I like mine.

I personally feel like wearing jeans with a long shirt is still form fitting because most of the time, jeans will still show your shape.

If i see a sister in the masjid in jeans and a shirt, chances are I'd know what size to buy her if i went shopping for her, but if a sister is wearing a loose-fitting jilbab, I normally won't be able to tell what size to get her. u know what i mean?

I also sort of don't understand the huge dilemma of matching up clothes.

leme give an example:
-I have a nice maroon very classy plain jilbab, I have a plain maroon hijab to match w/ it, and I have these burgundy clogs/slipon that go w/ it. So if i wana look formal , but still modest, that is one of the outfits I pull out.

I actually used to find it a super major waste of time trying to find a skirt in regular stores that was not too flashy, loose enough and long enough. I found it alot more convenient to either go get fabric to be sewn up, or to just buy a jilbab.

Some of the colors I like in my jilbabs are: beige, caramel, maroon, black, blue, green.

I tend not to wear really light or flashy decorated stuff. I wear plain stuff and I don't think anyone would call me frumpy if they saw me.

I think a person can look really un put together in jeans, a skirt or a jilbab. I think its about how its put together.

Also, I think our definiton of what is 'loose' is really heavily influenced by the culture we live in.

A shirt that was not very fitted and tight on me used to be 'loose' to me. but not anymore. Loose to me now means something that doesn't outline my shape and figure.

Amy said...

Salaam Marcelle...

Girl, I have to admit it's really impressive to see how put together YOU are. MaashaaAllah, I don't think you have any trouble matching. :-P

Thanks for the comment!

Amy said...

Salaam, Taiyyaba

Thanks for the comment. I feel okay if, instead of a jilbab, I am wearing something that is long (i.e., a dress down to my knees), and feel the worst if I have to worry about my shirt going up too far during sujood (gasp! am I still in that stage!?). I think it is possible to look nice in modest clothes, but I always feel that with my figure and my budget I have an extra challenge... lol.

Thanks again. :-)

Amy said...

Salaam, Jana!

Frumpy is the word I was looking for... that is how I feel a lot of times with a jilbab. I usually don't button it all the way down so my jeans will show (some color contrast there), the sleeves stop halfway to my wrists and I leave them unbuttoned because if I button them, they slide up during sujood and I've had them bust off--not fun! Never know where they'll go...

But inshaaAllah it won't be a problem I have to deal with forever. Thanks for the comment!

Amy said...

Salaam, Anonymous!!

Thanks for posting your perspective! I know many sisters who look very nice, very professional, very put-together and still very modest who wear jilbabs. And no doubt you fit in that category.

I certainly think that jilbabs can (and often DO) look very professional and neat.

I just don't think they look that way on me... lol

I'm also not one who likes to wear a matching (by matching I mean same color) top (shirt/dress/jilbab) as scarf. I prefer contrast.

And of the jilbabs I do own and can wear in public, I have one that is black, one that is brown, and two that are an odd brownish-greenish color--the color of vomit. They didn't come with matching scarves. The other two jilbabs have matching scarves--black, with an embroidery pattern that is also on the jilbab, and the brown one with a contrasting off-white color scarf.

And actually I agree with you--I think jilbabs are much more convenient. And comfortable!! They (usually) breathe, are loose and airy, and don't require so many layers as other styles I wear, for example. I've thought about sewing my own jilbabs but I really don't sew. But a jilbab definitely saves the hassle of trying to sort through racks upon racks in various different stores just to find a skirt or a long blouse.

Anyway, I think you made a great point--thanks for commenting!! :-)

jana z. said...

amy i wrote somewhere about a sister who actually leaned to me in prayer to tell me to start wearing jilbab.

thats the things though, loose modest clothing is the answer. it doesnt have to be jilbab and abaya. im not putting anyone down for choosing to wear that all the time. to each his own. but why should one wear something that they dont feel comforfortable in. and i dont mean comfort as in being able to move around in it. oh yeah jilbab is very comfortable. and yes there are some pretty ones. i mean comfort as in what you do or do not prefer to wear.

Anonymous said...

I have a small comment here regarding the clothes. We need to keep in mind the very basic requirements for islamic dress then it does not matter if it's jilbab or any other clothes. 1-The dress should be covering all the body. 2- it should not be transparent. 3- it should not be tight to show the details of the body. 4- it should not be so weird to the point it attracts the eyes.
Now whatever dress can comply with these conditions would be islamic dress. JAK

MedGirl said...


I agree with what the anonymous person said. I wear stuff that falls into Islamic guidelines, even if its loose shirts and pants/jeans, or anything else.

One thing I never wear is a jilbab/abaya, or long skirts. I just don't like them at all. I'm not really a skirt person..

Its always pants/shirts/jeans for me and if I feel like it, some of my cultural clothes that are modest (some aren't modest).

I liked that word 'frumpy'

But to the ladies who like wearing jilbab, that's cool, I guess it just comes down to personal choice.

Jamilah said...

Asalamu Alaikum Amy

I have a feeling you are tall like me, and yes it is hard to find things long enough, but I've managed to do it. I suggest looking on Ebay too, that is where I find a lot of mine, just find one of yours that is long enough and measure and you are good to go.

I used to wear Jeans with a dress all the time, but once I started wearing niqab I thought it just looked a bit strange so now its all abayas and skirts for me. I also used to make sure that the Jeans were like REALLY wide leg so there was no outline of my leg at all... I've seen sisters that really don't do that and their jeans are not lose at all.

I actually like wearing an abaya to work because I can wear my PJ's under it if I want... no one can tell.

the crazy jogger said...

personally I dont c what's wrong with jeans? My sister's n cousins n friends sis's wear thenm but they are not tight sometimes baggy. They wear long kameez type clothes so we can c tht htey are wearing jeans just at the knee and whn going out they try to keep them inside the 3baya

and it sorta hit me to read tht they are expensive over there! TIP: if u have someone visiting from the MidEast. ask them they are cheaper here

Amy said...

Salaam Jana!

That's an interesting thing to say while a person should be in the middle of a passionate conversation with her Lord. An entirely inappropriate diversion, I would think.

I for one do not subscribe to the philosophy that a jilbab is the only way to dress modestly. It is one way, a way which I think is relatively convenient and comfortable (especially in summer, because it is loose and breathable without having to wear layers underneath.)

But for me, managing to wear something loose and modest everyday is a challenge--be it jilbab or not.

Amy said...

To the second anonymous--

JAK for your reminder. I'm not sure I understand the 4th point though.

Amy said...

Salaam, Medgirl

Like you, I'm not one who can go without pants. Even when I wear a skirt I always, ALWAYS will wear at least leggings underneath. I went to a private school early in life with a dresscode that the girls weren't allowed to wear pants--EVER. And I hated it so much, to the extent that I went to another extreme, and now have difficulty even now going out in public without some kind of pants.

The problem with pants, though, is that while pants can be loose, and can be modest... mine typically aren't either. I just wear "normal" jeans, which are, in my opinion, a little more snug than is appropriate for a Muslimah. So I prefer to wear, with my jeans, a shirt or dress that extends well past my behind, preferably to my knees. Anything that doesn't, seems to me to not be quite appropriate, but I still wear clothes like that, despite finding them not appropriate. And part of that is just I don't have enough options regarding clothing anyway--jilbabs would simplify the problem tremendously, as would any kind of modest dress (literally, a dress) I could wear over pants without having to wear a long-sleeve top underneath or a jacket on top. If I could find long tunics, that would suit. I just can't. Poor me. :P

Amy said...

Salaam Jamilah--

My jeans aren't loose enough, really, so I prefer to wear something that goes down at least to my knees so that you can't see everything, you know?

I'd like to wear a jilbab over my jeans, with a tanktop maybe--that would be so easy if I could just get myself into one!

And you're right about Ebay, except that I'm still not ready to commit a significant part of my paycheck to a full-body piece of clothing that I haven't had the opportunity to try on...

Anonymous said...

shukr on-line is having a great sale...$20.00 tunics

Anonymous said...

Salaams all

I have just started wearing jilbab and it is a challenge for me for various reasons such as getting used to seeing myself in a long dress when I never even used to wear skirts! and learning to walk in it without tripping up! (must shorten my stride pattern) But I have now realised through trial and error that the button up ones would be better for me and would make me feel more comfortable. Times like this I wish I knew how to sew then I could make them just the way I want them. I think sometimes the way that the jilbab is made i.e. fabric/cut/colour puts us of as well as the price. I've seen really elegant modest looking ones and others that dont do anything for me. It is difficult and I'm sure some people think I look like Im wearing a sack but I consider this to be my jihad. And I guess like most things it will get easier with time insha'Allah.

Amy said...

Wa alaikum as-salaam

And thanks for sharing your experience. :-)

Anonymous said...

assalamu alaikum
the Iranian coat is a nice dress to wear,it looks good and is a modest dress,even the salwars that Indians and Pakistanis have look good,but,maybe other people don't wear it,skirts too look good,they shouldn't be too tight,long shirts and pants would also look good.

samina said...

aslamalykum sister,
i completly understand how you feel.its hard to spend money on somthing you might not wear alot.I think its like a journey to the jilbab, you have to take baby steps at the pace your comfortable with because otherwise like me you might end up taking it off,you should start with what you feel comfortable with(as long as it covers) and gradualy with time it becomes easier to slowly make your way closer to the jilbab.i think its alot harder when you live and have been bought up in a western country.You feel odd in what your wearing partly bacause of the people around you and the fact that you moght not have worn a scarf wen growing up.Im always trying to fusion the clothing(modestly) ,it is difficult ,but hey make your own way of wearing it.because at the end of the day,everytime some1 looks at you like your dressed wierd,think to yourself,what is fashion and style, its jus a group of people that decide put it everywhere in2 dont feel odd because your not follwing like the rest of the sheep,your an indivudual,muslim woman,and you'll get rewarded for your hardship inshalla.

samina said...
.....this wesite has alot of ideas you can use...

Anonymous said...

Salam Allekum, I am a male, non-Mulim living in the Middle East.

After reading all of your informative comments, I think the one main thing to remember, is as long as you are staying true to your faith in your heart, then it doesnt matter that you look like on the outside.

I do not presume to know what Allah would say, however, I would hope that he doesnt judge a persons loyalty and faith to Islam based upon what they can afford to wear.

Also, this is not a conversation that anyone need to seek approval from anyone else, but is a conversation that should be between you and God.

Nobody has the right to judge anyone based upon their dress. As long as the persons intentions are good, with honesty and sincerety and they treat other people around them with respect that is all that matters.

All religions should focus on the basics of why they exist in the first place. To respect other people around them and to live a healthy respectful life.

Anonymous said...


There is nothing in the Quran or hadith that say one must wear jilbab. Some people have issues with American style clothing which is wrong. It's as if your supposed to shed anything reminisent of your American identity. I'm an American Muslimah and I love my loose fitting jeans and button down tops with hijab. I am adhering to the rules of modesty and I don't need a jilbab imported from the mideast to qualify.

Anonymous said...

I've been having the hardest time with dressing, too. Ok, so after Ramadan, all my jeans are 2 sizes too big, so they don't show anything anymore -- but now they slip down and I can't bend right for sujud.

Funny -- six months ago, I was out looking for clothes to show off my butt and cleavage because I wanted to look good. Now, I am looking for just the opposite. Funny how the same stores couldn't satisfy either effort.

The thrift store has been my saving grace -- second-hand floor-length skirts are out there and I found 2 of them.

What I don't understand, is that in Catholic Churches, there are always groups of old ladies who sew things for the church to sell to raise money for various events and charities. Usually, they sew tacky things like vacuume cleaner covers that look like Raggedy Ann (not in hijab), but if you ask them, they can sew almost anything. Aren't there old ladies in the masjid that sew? Would be "sew" nice if they could be convinced to make jilbab.

Anonymous said...

Maa shaa'Allah. Keep up the good work. Jilbaab is a part of our identity.
There is no choice over whether we can or cant wear the Jilbaab. It has been mentioned in the Qur'aan. Pls have a look at the following link:

may Allaah increase us all in more and more knowledge and implementation. aameen

Lubana said...

Assalamu Alaikum Sister Amy,

I enjoy reading your blogging. I think it's amazing how you're trying to wear jilbab and it's not as easy as some would say. It can be difficult for us to go from wearing jeans to dresses lol (especially if you were a tomboy like me). So a slow transition is a good idea. I started to wear long shirts with jeans at first. Then I wore blazers with long skirts (cuz of my job) then I started to wear dresses with blazers and now I wear abaya's with blazers and it looks quite elegant and chic.If you're choosing abaya or jilbab I recommend Abaya since it comes with a matching shayla (hijab but longer). But it can be difficult to wear that in Canada or America. Too much stereotype against a black only garment, so accent it with a blazer. As for the finances, ya it can be hard, but it's good to slowly build your wardrobe. I hope you continue to write amazing posts. BTW Allah sees your heart so no worries. Like sister Taiyyaba said "I'm with you!"

Lubana said...

Assalamu Alaikum Sister Amy,

I enjoy reading your blog. I think it's amazing how you're trying to wear jilbab and it's not as easy as some would say. It can be difficult for us to go from wearing jeans to dresses lol (especially if you were a tomboy like me). So a slow transition is a good idea. I started to wear long shirts with jeans at first. Then I wore blazers with long skirts (cuz of my job) then I started to wear dresses with blazers and now I wear abaya's with blazers and it looks quite elegant and chic. If you're choosing abaya or jilbab I recommend Abaya since it comes with a matching shayla (hijab but longer). But it can be difficult to wear that in Canada or America. Too much stereotype against a black only garment, so accent it with a blazer. As for the finances, ya it can be hard, but it's good to slowly build your wardrobe. BTW Allah sees your heart so no worries. Like sister Taiyyaba said "I'm with you!"