Fashioning Faith

In a short documentary Yasmin Moll focuses on the intersections of faith and fashion, and how designers explore what it means to be young, female and Muslim in today’s America.

Muslim clothing designers in New York City struggle to combine high fashion with a high sense of piety. Their designs aim to stay true to Islamic principles of feminine modesty while attempting to break into a fashion scene marked more by exposed shoulders than covered hair. In the process these young women designers are redefining what it means to be a modern Muslim in contemporary America.

The video shows how women appeal to and engage with an Islamic ideal of modesty that is an important part of the debates on the nature of Islam in the transnational public space. At the same time this ideal is highly personal which allows women in New York City to combine their sense of what modesty is with stylish and youthful clothes. Most, but not all, women in the video regard wearing the veil as important in their attempt to be pious; the varieties of Islamic veiling in the documentary again show how women attach their own meaning and practices to the ideals of piety and modesty.

At the same time these women claim that their veil does not change them; this may seem contradictory but that is not necessarily so. When women in the documentary claim that the veil changes them, they refer to feelings of belonging and of being stylish. When they state it did not change them they refer to the debate on Islam and Muslim women that, according to them, frames Muslim women with veils as backward and oppressed; they do not suddenly go from being emancipated and liberated to being backward or oppressed only by wearing a hijab. In their attempt to redefine modesty and fashion they refer both to Islamic traditions and perceptions and debates on the position of women as well as to the debates on Islam in wider US society. Their Islam therefore is shaped both by US local circumstances and debates as well as by local and transnational debates among Muslims on women in Islam.

Fashioning Faith: a documentary by Yasmin Moll from Yasmin Moll on Vimeo.

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