It’s rare to meet a woman who wears hijab who didn’t struggle to adjust to the change from being uncovered to being veiled. In an instance, not only does your style and approach change, but the way you’re viewed is radicalized: the first thing they see is your scarf. The first few months wearing hijab were hard. I was 25, had spent the past ten years carving out some kind of style and had finally navigated my way through hippified pink flares, punkesque tights with jeans and daytime burlesque to reach a point where my wardrobe reflected how I felt: a woman in control of her destiny – the heels gave me confidence, pencil skirts defined a sense of comfort in my body and the tops expressed a more extrovert side. Yet suddenly, much as my wardrobe had come to reflect this person I’d constructed, had grown with her to what it now was, it now didn’t fit, didn’t suit her new purpose, defined her as someone I no longer knew. There was little in my wardrobe appropriate for pairing with hijab – jeans were too tight, skirts too short, tops were low-cut or sleeveless and jumpers mostly finished way above hips. Hijab having called to me during a time when pennies were few at the end of the month, I had no choice but to do things piece mile for the first couple of months and the going was tough. Many days I would stand in front of the mirror and scream with frustration at the cut of a dress or the extra fold in a scarf, but never once did I want to change my mind, never once did I want to take this hijab off: For me it isn’t the Qur’an which prohibits the loose flowing of my hair when outside, it’s me; hijab is my reminder to me of the path I have chosen, of the Muslim I long to be one day inshAllah and in those first tempered months, it was this reason I clung hold to as I learnt to pin one-handed or re-tie after a sudden gust of wind. And it’s this reason I cling hold to now, when I’m pregnant, when wearing hijab is hard, because it’s not really the hijab – that’s only a light scarf after all – it’s the inner being of hijab in a yummy mummy world.
Turkey has to be one of the worst places on the planet for a pregnant woman, let alone hijabi to find clothes. Maternity stores are few and far between, and those that are range from uber expensive or designed for comfort more than flare. A few high street stores have begun selling a (limited) maternity range, but the clothes they stock are rarely suitable for me. Leggings and a t-shirt doesn’t provide the coverage I demand; jersey dresses are the bain of my shopping woes. A dream maternity wardrobe would house a couple of long floaty dresses, a few oversized, lightweight and loose cardigans to pull over the top and a mid-thigh length hoodie to just throw on and be. I’d reflect the ethereal earth mother as my hijab loosely blew in the wind or a carefree mummy-to-be enjoying her toddler, dressed to have fun. In reality, my wardrobe consists of a couple of pairs of trousers, one maternity jeans, too many tops which don’t work quite and are oversized sizes and a plethora of layering tools which never quite pull anything together in the way that they should.
Being pregnant I’ve found I struggle with hijab on an almost weekly basis – again not in the meaning of, or in a questioning my wearing – but from the point that right now, wearing hijab does nothing but make me look fat. Not pregnant. Not ethereal. Not Mummy-having-fun. Just fat and overfrumpy and way above my still relatively young years.
I have three dresses in my wardrobe which I don’t get to wear. Two labelled maternity, one which works just as well; all three of them long. In these dresses, I look at my body in the mirror and am able to reflect with pride in the life which I’m growing within, am able to accept the slight thickening of my thighs in return for the cute shape of the tummy as Bump grows. The cut of the dress doesn’t pull the material too tight across the back as the front stretches out, but is just just slightly ‘off’ so the bum area stays the same. Material doesn’t rise up in front exposing ankles as regular full length non-maternity cuts do, and in the bust I didn’t have to choose super low or bulky with excess material. These dresses just work, as they’re designed to, to emphasise in the best ways the changes pregnancy brings to a womans natural shape, and in these too-tight-for-hijab dresses, I feel motherly, yet cute; I feel free and comfortable, and I feel confident in the way that I look.
If you look in the shops, the approach to pregnancy dress right now seems to be sexy mama all the way. I get it, I do – you have the best cleavage of your life and no worries about nipple leakage for a couple more months, your butt’s smaller in proportion to the bump and your curves are just way off the scales. It’s ok to be heavier and it’s the one time in your life where you don’t feel the need to breathe in that tum. I understand the desire to flaunt this feeling of body confidence hard to maintain in post-partum months, but it doesn’t help my cause. Instead of feeling this confidence surge, I spend months 4-10 feeling frumpier than ever, because if tight clothes balance out the bump and the bum, loose clothes make the tent even wider. And now it’s summer in Istanbul..well, at least the benefit of limited travel means fewer days when navigating the wardrobe is necessary because really it’s too hot out there.
I’m not aiming for beauty when I step out of the house, I’m not asking for attention or admiring looks; but I would love to look classy, to feel the beauty we all should channel within ourselves. It’s not a beauty to be gained from makeup, the clothes you wear don’t give it you either, but the combination of the two can help you feel it, to help you believe it. And as my hijab is part of my toolbox for staying focused on my inner purpose in life, beauty – conventional or unique, reflected or held in the mind – beauty is many a womans confidence tool.
I’m blessed to be pregnant, not a day passes without me realising this, and I’m blessed too to have found a deeper meaning to life than the creating the outfits to fit into a definition of being in pretty, I just wish it was possible to somehow combine the three right now – to be pregnant, and pretty and me.