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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, w 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.


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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, w 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.

30 review for Pious Fashion: How Muslim Women Dress

  1. 4 out of 5

    Neil

    Despite having to read this book for a class, I found myself enjoying it far more than I thought I would. It was an informative book that discussed at some length what constituted "pious fashion" in three cities in countries that were non-Arab and Muslim. She mentioned a few times how the West has a tendency to view female Muslim attire as only being that of Arab Muslims when there is actually quite a diversity to be found around the world. She focused on Tehran, Iran, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, and Despite having to read this book for a class, I found myself enjoying it far more than I thought I would. It was an informative book that discussed at some length what constituted "pious fashion" in three cities in countries that were non-Arab and Muslim. She mentioned a few times how the West has a tendency to view female Muslim attire as only being that of Arab Muslims when there is actually quite a diversity to be found around the world. She focused on Tehran, Iran, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, and Istanbul, Turkey. It had a decent flow to it and it held my interest throughout most of the book (which is somewhat remarkable, considering the topic is not one that I really care(d) about or was on my radar screen as something I wanted to know more about). It does slow down a bit when she describes what different women are wearing; I think a picture might have helped a bit when she goes into great detail. I realize she is trying to paint a picture in the reader's mind, but sometimes a picture truly is worth a thousand words. She does a nice job of presenting the historical, political, and social background that she feels is relevant to help explain why fashion styles are what they are in the three Muslim cities she selected for her "focus cities" and "groups." The back history definitely helps set the tone and present why women wear what they wear in each respective city. I know I appreciated the information given, as it helped put the current fashion choices and styles in a better context. The only "real negatives" for me were when she came across as inserting her own judgments and what felt like 'political statements' into the book; they came across as somewhat jarring and disrupted the flow of the narrative. It did not happen often; more in the introductory chapter and the "summary" chapter. For me, I drew a couple of things from the book. One, just because a Muslim woman chooses to dress "modestly" via "pious fashion" does not mean that she is repressed or oppressed; the clothing she is wearing can also be indicative of an inner desire to draw closer to her God. The second thing I drew from the book was that there was far too much diversity and far too many "reasons" why Muslim women wear the clothes and colors they wear to attempt to describe them and their lifestyles by making narrow statements about them. There can be so much more going on than what a Westerner sees on the outside; a Westerner needs to learn the local context and culture to be able to hope to better understand why Muslim women wear what they wear. I freely admit; before reading this book, I was one of "those Westerners" who assumed that ALL Muslim women were completely covered from head-to-toe a la the way Arabic Muslim women are attired. This book really did open my eyes to the diversity of attire available to women in the Muslim part of the world as well as the fact that Arab Muslims and Mecca do not dictate or control how fashion is worn in the rest of the Muslim world (or the world at large). It was interesting to learn that in each city/country, the women were looking for more "local designs" and "historical patterns" in choosing what they wore; they were rejecting the designs and styles of the Arabic Muslim world to make more personalized statements about themselves and their own country's culture. In addition, the author points out that by doing so, by rejecting the styles dictated by the Arabic world and Mecca and looking, instead, to their cultural and historical past for ideas, they were appealing to a type of authority that had more authenticity and resonance than Islam (which, in terms of the historical past, is a "recent" change within the region). I also thought it was interesting how each city/region had their own standards by which women dressed, and the Muslim women in each country also dressed themselves based on what they liked and felt was appropriate. In addition, clothing and fashion was far more than just what women wore in every day life. Fashion could also be ways for women to make various statements in public; the statements could be political, social, or even religious in nature. I also liked the point the author made that she sincerely doubted women who were deemed or judged as dressing "poorly" and "offensively" woke up that morning and made a conscious decision to dress in such a way that offended other women. Instead, she felt that those women dressed like they did as a form of self-expression, that they wanted to make some kind of statement about how they viewed themselves that was not necessarily meant to be offensive or subversive in nature. It was interesting how, in each city, the women interviewed all wanted to dress in such a way that showed good taste and honored their religious beliefs. Each woman wanted to dress in a way that was acceptable before their God; none of them wanted to be offensive in nature. It was felt that by dressing appropriately it would help their spiritual walk. That was an interesting presentation to me as it was not something I had really ever thought about. I had grown up having been taught that "man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart," so, to me, what I wore had absolutely little, if nothing, to do with my spiritual walk. Yet, for Muslim women, what they wore and how they presented themselves was quite indicative of their spiritual walk. It was also interesting how different the cities were from each other (in terms of how pious fashion started). In Tehran, today's "standards" came in with the 1979 Revolution when it was dictated that women would dress "modestly," but Khomeini never defined what made up "modest attire" (except that they cover themselves up to hide the female body). As a result, this left a lot of wiggle room for Iranian women in how they would present themselves. They started to add multiple colors and textures to create personal statements in what they wore; these statements could also have deeper meanings to them. In the end, Iranian women have been able to influence what constitutes appropriate attire in their country because there are not enough police to be able to arrest every woman who may have been deemed to have dresses inappropriately (either immodestly or with the intent to be sexually provocative). In Yogyakarta, beauty is something to be celebrated and not hidden. Indonesia is a Muslim nation with a secular form of government and women are allowed to make the choice of what they want to wear, if the want to be "veiled" or not. As the Indonesian idea of beauty used to be long hair and both the head and shoulders being uncovered, a woman who wears a veil that covers her head and shoulders is seen as "modern, progressive, and forward-moving." The most important thing, though, is that wearing a veil is a woman's choice, and many women tend to start wearing pious fashion either after entering college or after some kind of life-changing event. Clothes worn as "pious fashion" are meant to celebrate the beauty of a woman's body by highlighting that beauty; this is quite a contrast to Tehran, where a woman's body is meant to be hidden. Istanbul, Turkey was the opposite end of the spectrum from Tehran, Iran. In Istanbul, the government had historically moved away from all things Islam and tried to force the country to become more secularized as a way of appearing modern to the West. The government attempted to turn its back on its historical past and anything that might make it look "backward and primitive" in the eyes of the Europeans (and Americans, to a lesser extent). By trying to control how women dressed, the secular politicians could not foresee the backlash they would create as women chose to continue to attire themselves in a pious fashion; this became a form of political statement and "open rebellion" (despite the social costs to families as their daughters were unable to "move up in society" because of their religious choices). The complete ban on pious fashion would eventually be (temporarily) removed and allowed women to continue to express their beliefs and piety through the clothes they wore. Interestingly enough, Turkish women do not trust a woman who completely covers herself as they feel it is a form of "false piety" and the woman is trying to hide the fact that she is not as pious as her attire would purport her to be. One final "thing" I thought interesting was the author's own experiences when having to wear a veil and then not having to wear one anymore. She describes how it affected her, how she became more modest in what she wore and how she presented herself in public after her time spent in Iran. After she returned to America, little things that she never noticed before started standing out to her. She found herself missing the segregated busing and "creates spaces" found in Iran. She also more alert to when men stared at her as opposed to just looked at her, and she also noticed when men would slowly remove their hand from hers after handing her something. So, she was influenced on some level by wearing "pious fashion" and not necessarily in a negative way. It was an interesting, eye-opening book for me. As I said, I found myself enjoying it far more than I thought I would when I first glanced at the book. I would rate it 3.7 - 3.9 stars (probably 3.8), rounded up to four stars. I do not know if I will ever read it again, but it was definitely worth the read this time around.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Syahidah Sodri

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I really enjoyed reading this - I don't think the author tried to come to any conclusion about women and pious fashion, except humanising women, their choices, and showing that the "Muslim world" isn't monolithic. Also found the author's point that while hijab is choice, it also inadvertently reinforces consumerism and the view that women's worth are tied to their appearance pretty interesting. Kind of like the cosmetics industry too. But my favourite part was seeing all the photos of women in Teh I really enjoyed reading this - I don't think the author tried to come to any conclusion about women and pious fashion, except humanising women, their choices, and showing that the "Muslim world" isn't monolithic. Also found the author's point that while hijab is choice, it also inadvertently reinforces consumerism and the view that women's worth are tied to their appearance pretty interesting. Kind of like the cosmetics industry too. But my favourite part was seeing all the photos of women in Tehran, Yogya and Istanbul in their different outfits and thinking "yaaasss get it gurlll y'all look great" haha.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Madeeha Maqbool

    This book came out just before the terms #modestfashion or #hijabi became mainstream. Divided into 3 sections, dedicated to Tehran, Istanbul and Jakarta, the book attempts to show the "underbelly" of women's lives, adopting and transgressing against "modesty" as a social concept while they attempt to redefine it for themselves. One problem that I had with the book though was that it's written by a white woman and thus reads more like an Orientalist take on our indigenous cultures. I couldn't get This book came out just before the terms #modestfashion or #hijabi became mainstream. Divided into 3 sections, dedicated to Tehran, Istanbul and Jakarta, the book attempts to show the "underbelly" of women's lives, adopting and transgressing against "modesty" as a social concept while they attempt to redefine it for themselves. One problem that I had with the book though was that it's written by a white woman and thus reads more like an Orientalist take on our indigenous cultures. I couldn't get her identity out of my head as I read this book and reading it with a pinch of salt since I couldn't trust her understanding of our cultures just ended up making my reading a little too salty. Still, it's an interesting book and I wouldn't discourage people from Muslim cultures from reading it, but I cannot say the same for those encountering these cultures for the first time.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    “The women in this book are real people trying to express their religious beliefs and look good at the same time. They are not merely symbols of something else — whether a universal form of Islamic politics or patriarchy.” There is no better quote to summarize this book than the one above. Unlike books that generalize veiling and the wearing of hijab, Bucar takes the time to explore pious dress in different locations and seek out what it really means for these women to dress the way they do. The “The women in this book are real people trying to express their religious beliefs and look good at the same time. They are not merely symbols of something else — whether a universal form of Islamic politics or patriarchy.” There is no better quote to summarize this book than the one above. Unlike books that generalize veiling and the wearing of hijab, Bucar takes the time to explore pious dress in different locations and seek out what it really means for these women to dress the way they do. There is finally a book that humanizes Muslim dress rather than generalizing or placing meaning on items where it does not belong.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Dave Allen

    I read this for a college course, and found it fascinating. I don't pay much attention to fashion - jeans and a t-shirt has been my go-to outfit for the past 55 years - but this book did a great job tying in fashion choices to culture, politics and governance. This gets my highest praise - I learned a lot from it. I read this for a college course, and found it fascinating. I don't pay much attention to fashion - jeans and a t-shirt has been my go-to outfit for the past 55 years - but this book did a great job tying in fashion choices to culture, politics and governance. This gets my highest praise - I learned a lot from it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    HIST 165 with Adeeb. actually a really cool topic

  7. 5 out of 5

    Cindy

    I highly recommend this book for a deep understanding of Muslim dress from the woman's point of view. I highly recommend this book for a deep understanding of Muslim dress from the woman's point of view.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nicole Harkin

    Interesting but lacking.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Greg Soden

    Gorgeous.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Julie Huskey

    Elizabeth Bucar describes how observant Muslim women in three cities dress, and at the same time explores why anyone, religious or not, dresses the way they do. What influences what we wear? How much does our dress affect our actions? How much interest in fashion is too much? Can "covering" be offset by ostentatiousness? Of the three cities discussed, Tehran is the one most Americans associate with Islamic dress; it is, after all, the only one of the three where it is legally enforced. Neverthel Elizabeth Bucar describes how observant Muslim women in three cities dress, and at the same time explores why anyone, religious or not, dresses the way they do. What influences what we wear? How much does our dress affect our actions? How much interest in fashion is too much? Can "covering" be offset by ostentatiousness? Of the three cities discussed, Tehran is the one most Americans associate with Islamic dress; it is, after all, the only one of the three where it is legally enforced. Nevertheless, stylish women have plenty of choices in Tehran, and ripped jeans are far more common than black abayas. In fact, the author says that of the places she studied, Tehran's fashion was the most familiar to her. Bucar's work is a fascinating reminder that fashion is a complicated mix of personal and societal issues.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Alex Riedel

    I had to read this for what OSU calls RELSTDS 3972 - Theory and Method for Studying Religion. This book was one of 5 or so books that we had to read for this class, this one receiving the smallest amount of attention mostly because the semester came to an end quicker than any of us (including my professor) had realized. Toward the end of my time as a teacher this past year, I read a few pages here and there when I was done preparing for the day's lessons, and I am pretty sure this really made my I had to read this for what OSU calls RELSTDS 3972 - Theory and Method for Studying Religion. This book was one of 5 or so books that we had to read for this class, this one receiving the smallest amount of attention mostly because the semester came to an end quicker than any of us (including my professor) had realized. Toward the end of my time as a teacher this past year, I read a few pages here and there when I was done preparing for the day's lessons, and I am pretty sure this really made my boss mad. In my defense, I felt I was fully prepared to teach. Anyways... I remember basically nothing about this book, and so have very little to say. Just a general reflection on this book: basically this book investigates further into how Muslim women's dress reflect their own unique expressions of religion as well as how they relate to the culture and environment around them. Coming into this book, I knew nothing about how much variance in fashion there exists within this population of women that this book is worried about, and so that's certainly a takeaway. I thought hijabs were worn a specific way and most, if not all, were black and maybe dark blue here and there if someone were specifically feeling colorful that day! Well, Alex, you were wrong. In fact, there are several ways of wearing a hijab, all with their unique exclamations and declarations of what is being said about the woman wearing it, who they are as a person, and how they practice and actualize their own religion and therefore their relationship to Allah. Furthermore, Alex, you were wrong about the colors. You brought in assumptions about only a few and inductively attributed their characteristics to the whole population! The colors are specifically important here. More so than how a woman wears her hijab, the color she wears more intently and more boldly exclaims who she is as a person. Of course, we must keep in mind to "not always judge a book by its cover," but the whole point of this book is to show that, although that statement is true, Muslim women's dress says many more intimate things about them than we realize. Truly the way we all dress in our day-to-day activities says at least something about who we are, or at least what we like in terms of colors or different fashions or cultural trends. But me, walking into the local Kroger (a grocery store for those who don't know what Kroger is...) in my flip-flops, athletic shorts, my ripped button up shirt that I totally should have thrown away a long time ago, and a hat - well, this doesn't externally tell anyone that I'm a Christian, in which I am. This differs from the Muslim woman who goes here to OSU walking around campus. By seeing with my own eyes that she is wearing a hijab, I am then able to delineate within my mind that she intently put that on this morning, and because she intently put this on this morning, she must have done it mindfully and must fully be aware what wearing a hijab means for Muslim women like her. From this, she must know her own religion and might even know a few other pieces of dogma about the other monotheistic religions out there. The Muslim woman who wears the hijab walks through the sidewalks and streets of the world exclaiming all around her that she is a practicing Muslim. That's a lot of information. And so, this is what the book is really trying to say. I’m sure there’s much that I’m missing, but this’ll be it for the time being.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sophia Jones

    Read this for a class in anticipation of the author's visit to my school. Interesting and accessibly written. I liked the section on Yogyakarta best since I knew the least about Indonesia and its relationship with Islam. The full color pictures were a wonderful addition as well. Read this for a class in anticipation of the author's visit to my school. Interesting and accessibly written. I liked the section on Yogyakarta best since I knew the least about Indonesia and its relationship with Islam. The full color pictures were a wonderful addition as well.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Farzana

  14. 4 out of 5

    Shirley

  15. 4 out of 5

    Katherine Spivey

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nursheila Muez

  17. 5 out of 5

    Viivi

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jess W

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kristi

  20. 5 out of 5

    Reem

  21. 5 out of 5

    Dawn

  22. 5 out of 5

    Evonne

  23. 5 out of 5

    Susan

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mills College Library

    297.576 B9181 2017

  25. 4 out of 5

    Heather

  26. 4 out of 5

    Asya

  27. 5 out of 5

    Daniela Serrano

  28. 4 out of 5

    Harris

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jaylani Adam

  30. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

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