Clothes shopping as a teenager was a nightmare for me. There were the usual teen concerns about body image, budget, and whether my booty would fit in my jeans (booty hadn’t hit the mainstream in the early 2000s). But there was also the additional challenge that uniquely faced young Muslimahs (Muslim women) like me: almost nothing in stores was suitable for my hijabi needs.
This was before the days of online shopping, so my choices were disastrously limited to the local mall. Days were spent layering long-sleeved skivvies under short-sleeve tees, tights under dresses with thigh-high slits, and singlets under blouses with deep-Vs. These sartorial decisions might have been just about survivable in a cold European climate, but they were not built for Brisbane’s humid summers.
My Sudanese mother did her best to offer alternatives, repeatedly suggesting I try the airy cotton kaftans (jalabeeyas) worn by men and women up and down the Sahara. Kaftans, however, were not what a 14-year-old girl wanted to wear to school on free-dress day to impress Shane from the rugby team. So I’d sweat away in polyester layers and thick cargo pants instead.