How I Wear my Headscarf: Narratives about Dress and Styling from Young Muslim Women in Copenhagen

Else Skjold, Marie Louise Bech Nosch

Publikation: Bidrag til bog/antologi/rapportBidrag til bog/antologiForskningpeer review


The female body is covered for reasons of modesty and spirituality or social norms, but the covering can also be a marker of a geographical region and diverse terminology: the Turkish carşaf or Turkish mantel pardesü, the Iranian tschador, Malay Malaysian tudung, the Arabic abaya, sheyla and hijab.1

Female clothing is a contested field of opinions, much more than male clothing. Female Muslim modest and religious clothing has generated debate and mobilised opinions. This has lately culminated in a series of legal actions, which primarily target the Muslim head covering of the burka or niquab.2 In Denmark, since August 1st, 2018, face cover is illegal. Scholars from the University of Copenhagen surveyed the situation in 2009 and found that 100-200 Muslim women in DK regularly wear niquab or burka.3 They are mainly young women and about half of them are Danish converts. The new legislation ignited the debates on female Muslin dress in Denmark, a debate led primarily by Danes and mainly men.

However, at the same time, the number of autonomous fashion weeks for modest fashion is on the rise, paving the way for women to form their own dress identity. The emergence of modest fashion bloggers on social media can be viewed as empowering young Muslim women through displays of styling, trends and peer-to-peer advice on appropriate dressing. Modest fashion increasingly influences young women of other non-Muslim cultural backgrounds, too, and this suggests multiple meanings and values embedded in the veil/head scarf. As such, our paper will address how the concept of ‘modest fashion’ seems increasingly to influence the Western fashion system, as it has emerged as a hybrid style in the entanglement of Western and Muslim dress.

Based on this, we wish to go beyond the political and religious, and explore the fashionable aspects, the commercialization, qualities and styles, and the tactile, bodily and aesthetic aspects of veils. Our analysis is based on wardrobe studies with Muslim women in Kolding, a series of interviews with young women in Copenhagen, as well as on podcasts recorded on the theme of our emotional attachment to clothing. We use a template questionnaire, circulated by email or with voice-recorded interviews based on the questionnaire. Through showcasing how the use of head-covering might be seen as a highly creative process of styling, and of adaptation between Western and Muslim dress practices, we uncover alternative sides of the veiling practice in contemporary western societies. Furthermore, we showcase how dress practices of Muslim women are changing accordingly and offer potential for display of individual empowerment.
Ancestry and legacy are asserted for both traditional European and modest Muslim dress but each has been questioned by researchers. Dress, also the ‘traditional’ dress, changes much over time, follows fashion trends in some ways, yet eventually freezes or fossilises, which testifies to specific historical periods. These effects can be charted for most types of dress, particularly in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Titel(Re-)Claiming Bodies through Fashion and Style : Gendered Configurations in Muslim Contexts
Antal sider10
StatusUnder udarbejdelse - 30 jul. 2020


  • modest fashion
  • dress practice

Kunstnerisk udviklingsvirksomhed (KUV)

  • Nej