Posted on May 03, 2014
Our guest blogger Jinan Deena is a Palestinian American who has used writing as a tool to express herself. Growing up with two cultures, it was always hard to balance being Arab and American, as well as Muslim. Through her writing, she was allowed to create a safe space for expression and dialogue. Over the years, she has written for local newspapers, online magazines, and currently hosts her own blog, www.jdeena.com. The subjects she writes about may be considered taboo for some, but Jinan feels that these topics need to be discussed no matter how much people shy away from them. Usual topics include love, marriage, gender roles and cultural bias. In her free time, Jinan is an avid reader, seasoned foodie, and amateur fashionista. She currently lives in Toledo, Ohio and you can follow her on Instagram @jdeena.
Growing up in America and juggling two cultures was hard enough without worrying about appearances. Having a non-American name made me stand out like a thorn in a bed of roses, and so when I started wearing hijab at the age of 14, the spotlight was really turned on me. All of a sudden, it didn't matter that I was wearing jeans and an Abercrombie sweatshirt; I had this THING on my head and it made me stand out. The more people noticed it, the more I tried to hide in my sweatshirts. It was like my hijab was this blinking red light atop my head screaming out "hey look at me!"when I had believed it would detract attention from me.
I spent the next few years fading in and out of high school society, wearing clothes that were too big, too plain, and with custom made hijabs since at that time (late 90s) the only access I had to them was from trips overseas. I had a dream that one day I'd be able to blend fashion and my faith, and I could see it....but wasn't sure how I could achieve it. I started shopping for cuter clothes but layering them to achieve the proper coverage. I had the right idea, but I just felt- and looked- frumpy.
Jinan in high school
I wished that there were Muslim clothing brands to help me out. I hated having to wear long sleeve shirts under dresses, or having a jacket made to cover the skinny straps. I always felt so uncomfortable tugging my hijab down over my chest, fearful that some skin would show every time I moved my head. I went through a period of time (as you can see from the pictures) where I bought dresses from the stores at the mall and just LAYERED. Didn't matter if it looked good; I was covered so I assumed it was fine.
Fast forward to about ten years later. Everyone's body goes through changes, and when I turned 27 my body became susceptible to weight gain. All of a sudden, layering just didn't feel right. Especially in the summer! And I was past the stage where I wanted everything to be baggy. I was a woman and wanted to be seen as such. I love to read, so as an avid reader I scoured every magazine and blog article on how to dress for your body type. I started asking the women in the stores selling me my clothes how it looked when I tried outfits on. I stopped feeling scared of some criticism and asked close family and friends how I looked at events. And then.... I'm not sure what happened, but suddenly my eyes sought out flattering pieces in clothing stores. I began to appreciate the curves of my body and learned to dress well enough to hide them properly. I stopped looking at other people and their styles and began to cultivate a style all my own. It still wasn't easy to find full coverage dresses, but I found a seamstress to help me build the tops on ones that I found in stores. I stopped fighting with my hijab and the quest for modest clothing, and worked with it to achieve a modest, yet fashionable look.
Jinan's style today
Today, I couldn't be more confident in who I am and how I dress. While before I had disregarded my body and looked to others to emulate, I now realize that it is perfectly acceptable to be yourself. Fashion bloggers have risen in droves, and each one can teach you something. At first, I tried to copy their styles but quickly realized that their purpose was not to create thousands of mini-me's; rather it was to inspire creative ways to dress modestly. I can observe their styles and use it to suit my taste. We each have different body types and different occupations; what works for one may not work for another. But my best friend throughout this process has been trial and error, and as I have experimented I've found some things that worked and others that most definitely have not. And that's okay; because at the end of the day, all that matters is that you feel confident that you have achieved that perfect blend of fashion and faith.
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