The more I thought about the beautiful Muslim ladies that veil or wear burqas, the more intrigued I was. I wasn’t even sure where exactly to start obtaining authentic clothing for this project. Did many hours of searching the internet but ended up as many people do when in search of something out of their comfort realm, on Ebay.
What I found on Ebay astounded me, fed my need for beauty, for color. The Abayas worn beneath the Niqab, Hijab or Burqa could be some of the most beautifully decorated garments I’d seen. It was difficult to chose so I picked a solid black Abaya and Niqab and a teal green Abaya embroidered in gold, red, green and caramel colored threads plus a tapestry-like Hijab in dark reds and golden beiges that contrasts with the Abaya. At the same time I ordered a traditional Burqa in blue.
Once all the garments arrived from Egypt I couldn’t get over how well made, comfortable and how very pretty and feminine they were. Tried everything on. But once I put the black Abaya and Hijab on and looked in the mirror I had a moment or two of shock, not entirely recognizing myself immured in layers or black polyester-like chiffon. What looked back at me wasn’t what at all I expected. The black veil over the Hijab made it difficult to see. It was a very claustrophobic feeling for awhile, until I started to feel comfortably hidden.
Personally I’ve always liked hanging back and observing people much more than being outgoing and social so starting to ‘cover’ myself took on a feeling I had not anticipated at all, it felt as familiarly comfortable as my old baggy cotton jumpers and blouses I’d worn as a properly submissive Quiverfull Evangelical Christian woman. I’d dressed for modesty during the years I’d been most immersed in the culture of Fundamentalist Evangelical Christianity, dressing in a way that disguised my body and didn’t draw attention to myself.
But I know in wearing these garments of modesty I will stick out much more than I did in those days. It’s a disconcerting knowing I might be facing rude looks and words, singled out merely for dress and treated poorly. I’m not sure if I’ll be amused or manage to be clinically detached.