The public policy conversation about headscarf bans is so loud that it obscures the fact that Muslim women who want to be stylish and religiously observant face a lot of other challenges, ranging from the predominance of sleeveless tops and dresses to a tendency by designers to make compliant garments in drab colors. So it was cool to read this NPR profile of designer Nailah Lymus:
They are full of color: blues, purples, prints and tapestry woven pieces. Lymus is determined to break down many of the stereotypes about Muslim women — like the assumption that all Muslim women are docile and wear black.
“I like colors and I like flowers, and I like head pieces with feathers coming off of them, and all I do is just put it on top of my hijab instead of putting it on my hair,” Lymus says. “I am a woman — I am attracted to those things, so I really want to break down that stereotype.”
Amirah Creations takes its inspiration from the 1920s-1950s. The dresses have a lot of flow, “a lot of pouf,” and there are “a lot of very playful kind of pieces.”
“I’m inspired by that era,” she says, “but also, Islamically, it is pretty modest.”
The 1950s, Lymus says, was a period where you could be feminine, but you also could be covered. As an African-American designer who lives in Brooklyn and grew up Muslim, Lymus herself wears bright prints and colors, but her head and arms are always covered.
I really love her metallic color palate in her most recent show, and the ’50s silhouettes on her day dresses, the space age Betty Draper-ness of it all. The clothes are a reminder that, just like in movie or television storytelling, constraint can be a useful spur to creativity in fashion. Goodness knows that having absolutely no limitations whatsoever on what you can afford to do or on your sense of what’s too sexy doesn’t mean you’ll produce a collection with interesting ideas or that actual women could, or would, wear.