While the world was busy obsessing over New York Fashion Week, Muslim women in the tri-state area were preparing for their very own runway extravaganza: HijabFest 2015. This annual fashion show is held specifically for Muslim women, by Muslim women. Hosted by our very own Sara Zayed, the Rutgers Chapter president of MuslimGirl, some of the inspiring women present included Linda Sarsour, civil rights activisit; Sobia Masood, Muslim Girl fashion extraordinaire; and Amanda Saab, a contestant on season 6 of MasterChef. Models strut down the runway showing off fashion designers’ latest creations, ladies shop ’til they drop at the bazaar, speakers inspire the crowd, and the hijab salon makes sure everyone’s hijabs are on point.
After modeling last year and this year, I can proudly say that my experience as a volunteer model at HijabFest has been incredible. I mean, it’s not every day that you can get your makeup done and play dress up, all while thinking #outfitgoals all day. Ladies modeling with me came from a variety of backgrounds and ethnicities, which meant our conversations were never boring. And the Lord knows that I do not have the size nor height for a model, but that was okay — because HijabFest models are of all types of beautiful human shapes.
Models and volunteers’ experiences at HijabFest were slightly different from that of the guests. While the guests watched the show – we were a part of the show. Zayed’s speech about body image resonated with almost every person in the room, and she was the perfect reflection of MuslimGirl on stage. While the front line ran smoothly, backstage was chaotic as models, designers, and makeup artists were running around to get ready in time for the next show – all with a common purpose in mind: Make the clothes and models look good.
But, HijabFest is so much more than a fashion show – it’s a movement. So often our Muslim community forgets that it’s not always a walk in the park being hijabi in this society. Magazines plaster gorgeous models on the covers that capture the world’s attention, and as much as we don’t want it to, that affects us. Events like HijabFest give us the ability to love and appreciate our headscarves – showing us that we can be fashionable while remaining faithful. It’s a reminder to all of our strong, hijabi ladies that they are beautiful and that they can make an effort to look good for themselves. Most importantly though, it conveys the same message that we hope to spread through through MuslimGirl: to empower the Muslim woman so she can aspire to be and become anything she wants to without letting mainstream media and stereotypes get in the way.
Beyond the deeper meaning of HijabFest, it’s refreshing and a lot of fun. We all had our awkward days as young girls who didn’t know how to dress. I was one of them, and I would never want the younger generation of Muslim girls to go through the same struggle of trying to find fashionable, modest things to wear. With so many resources available to us now, all I can say is thank god for HijabFest.
So, to our amazing #Muslimgirlarmy, whether or not you’re a hijabi – remember that you are a beautiful, strong Muslim Girl.
Written by Safaa Khan
Images by Hijabfest volunteers / Fatima Iqbal