Fashion, Beauty, Lookbook

Where are all the plus-size hijabi fashion influencers?

It’s pretty stressful on a good day for thin people to find hijab-friendly clothing, but for plus-size women, it's a nightmare.

A couple of days ago I Googled “modest hijabi fashion”.  As a Muslim woman who wears the hijab, I was looking to switch my wardrobe up a little.

My search yielded very little results as far as fashion for plus-size women is concerned.

[bctt tweet=”The images that my search show that, as far as fashion for plus-size women is concerned, the Muslim community has a long way to go.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Modest fashion is a booming industry right now – and Muslim designers and influencers are looking to make a mark. Muslim women with their bodies fully covered and their hair tucked under the hijab have been the face of ad campaigns for popular fashion brands.  They have walked the ramp at beauty contests, and have thriving blogs.

Yet, a lot of these successful women who have carved out a place for themselves in the public eye have one thing in common: they are thin.

I want to be very clear: these girls have worked extremely hard to get where they are. Mainstreaming modesty in a culture that centers the male gaze is not easy.

Kudos to them, and to the much-needed representation that they provide for young Muslim girls.

But the fact that so many Muslimah fashion influencers fit a specific ideal of female beauty, shows that the Muslim community needs to step up its diversity game.

For example, Haute Hijab’s list of “28 Most Influential Hijabi Bloggers You Should Be Following in 2017” and Harper’s Bazaar’s “12 Modest Fashion Influencers To Follow on Instagram” both have no plus-size women on their lists.

When Indonesian designer Anniesa Hasibuan made history at New York Fashion Week in 2016 by presenting an all-hijab collection, her models were all thin, a trend that continued in London Modest Fashion Week. Fashion, in general, is increasingly making space for people of different sizes, skin colors and abilities.

[bctt tweet=”The fact that so many Muslimah fashion influencers fit a specific ideal of female beauty shows that the Muslim community needs to step up its diversity game.” username=”wearethetempest”]

But modest fashion seems to be catering to only one body type.

The hijab is never easy.

It’s difficult to find clothes that fit just right – clothes that are not too tight and not so baggy as to be ugly. It’s difficult to deal with slippery scarves, restrictive skirts, and find breathable fabric for hot days. The list of things to worry about as a woman who covers her head and body is never-ending. It’s pretty stressful on a good day for anyone to find affordable hijab-friendly clothing, but for plus-size or curvy women it can be a downright nightmare.

Plus-size women face greater scrutiny in the Muslim community. A curvy body means more to cover up and more to worry about.

What is ‘modest’ for one body-type may not necessarily be so for another. Having a hard time finding clothes that seem religiously appropriate can be stressful – especially if you have to choose between style, comfort, and modesty.

It’s a battle.

There’s a word for the restrictive choices that plus-size people have to deal with: fatphobia.

Fatphobia can be defined as a fear or dislike of overweight people. Over time it has become so much more than just a personal aversion. Fatphobia often leads to institutionalized discrimination. It includes things like professional discrimination and neglect in the healthcare industry and, in this case, a lack of clothing options. It seems that many fashion designers are reluctant to design clothes for people with bigger bodies, even if those people happen to be very talented celebrities.

[bctt tweet=”It’s pretty stressful on a good day for thin people to find affordable hijab-friendly clothing options, but for plus-size or curvy women it can be a downright nightmare.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Fatphobia has been shown to have adverse mental effects too. It often leads to anxiety, depression, eating disorders and a host of other problems.

Plus-size women deserve more representation in the modest fashion industry. While there are some incredible fashion bloggers out there like Leah Vernon and Intan Kemala Sari, Muslim fashion is still predominantly catering to one type of female body.

One very recent example of this is the Fall 2018 Fashion Week. It was great that many plus-size models were included. There were also many hijab-wearing models.

Not so great? There didn’t seem to be any impactful overlap in these categories. The hijab-wearing models seemed to be size 6 or under and 68% of American women are size 14 and over.

View this post on Instagram

I am disadvantaged in more ways than one. I didn’t derive from trust funds or a strong family unit. I was insecure and unstable, and found stability in micromanaging what I ate and trying to be as less Black and less Muslim as possible. Squeezing myself into small spaces in order to fit in and to be accepted. I was the mentally ill girl who never patted herself on the back for small wins and only looked out for the major wins but when I reached it, I was never satisfied. Never happy. I belong to three intersections that are ignored or made to feel inferior. I’m big. I’m African-American. And, I’m Muslim. I hate it when people say, oh, she’s just a model. I’m not just a model, I am a work of art. A piece of clay that’s been shaped and reshaped to perfection. A performance artist. An activist. I use my body to tell a story. To convey a message. To start the conversation about identity and what that means and why it’s so important to identify with who the hell you are. I just came across this photo in NYC with @refinery29 where even though I was intimidated and afraid and doubtful, I did it anyway. Because I had reclaimed my disadvantages and instead spun gold. And so my disadvantages had become only words and not walls, barriers. All of my little accomplishments had brought me to this bigger one. Little strides matter in the larger scheme. What are some small goals you’ve achieved recently? What ones are you looking to accomplish soon? This is your chance to gas yourself ?? ?@beththechick #detroitblogger #psootd #plussize #instafashion #bodypositive #bgki #highfashion #honormycurves #effyourbeautystandards #pizzasisters4lyfe #blackgirlswhoblog #fashion #londonblogger #psfashion #detroit #blackgirlmagic #muslimgirl #naturalhair #plusmodel #70sfashion #wiw #intersectionalfeminism #turbanista #bodydysmorphia #fatacceptance #selflove #streetstyle #hijabi #refinery29 #motivationalspeaker

A post shared by Leah V (@lvernon2000) on

The lack of plus-size representation means that brands can get away with giving plus size women less clothing options. There is also the phenomena of plus size clothing being modeled by thin women. All of these can send the message that certain types of bodies are just ‘wrong’.

This means that people in bigger bodies can feel like they don’t deserve clothes that make them feel comfortable and beautiful.

We need better representations and better options. Plus-size Muslim girls deserve to look and feel good too.

  • Saira Mahmood

    Saira Mahmood is currently a student of English at the University of Karachi. Her first love is reading, though she has been writing to make sense of the world for a long time. Saira is deeply interested in amplifying the uncensored voices and stories of Muslim women — with all the intricacies of gender, faith, mental health, sexuality, and the like preserved.