Thursday, June 11, 2009

for Shaikha: Pompadour and Circumstance

article NOT by Pixie taken from The Looking Glass, 30 Oct 2008

If the fall catwalks were any indication, big hijab might be the Muslim girl’s answer to fashion’s current push toward ever bigger manes. On ’08 runways from Michael Kors to Thakoon and Dior to Derek Lam, the bouffant was back – and with a vengeance. Perhaps part of the allure of this highly structured silhouette lies in its participation in an international look du jour. But given that Kuwait University’s glam-abaya set began raising the bar for hijab nearly two years ago, my hunch is that the Gulf trend for big hijab goes deeper than the mere globalization of fashion. Either that, or the girls at KU have a better nose for fashion than the proverbial lovechild of Anna Wintour and Majed al-Sabah.Certainly the new silhouette is indicative of a growing desire among Kuwaiti girls for visible expressions of personal style consistent with global trends. But in the case of big hjiab, this style may be more local than global and more collective than individual. In contemporary Kuwait, truly the pearl of the Gulf, hundreds of ethnicities mingle and flow together in a cosmopolitan flux. But there’s a downside to this diversity, and the native population can feel submerged in a sea of difference. In this context, it’s not hard to understand the need for visible codes of identity that distinguish national from guest. More than anything else, big hijab may represent a reactionary need to assert the sovereignty, and by extention, the superiority, of national identity – abstracted, of course, into fashion’s unique language. But we can’t forget the purely functional either. At least some women who add shabbasas to their evening primping sessions are motivated by the desire to create an impression of fuller hair. History teaches us that in this they are not alone; thin hair was, after all, the raison d’etre of Marie Antoinette’s famous bouffants. Faced with the reality of thin hair, decidedly unregal, the young Austrian queen of France created a veritable rage for hair that was not only big, but larger than life. At parties and balls throughout Louis XVI’s France, the size and ornamentation of these flour-stiffened hairdos were playful – and powerful – embodiments of social status. In the midst of an aristocratic exuberance some say has never since been matched, bouffants became real conversation pieces: decked with extravagant baubles, even miniature ships, they went well beyond any question of function.
In the Islamic context, things are, of course, a bit different. Given a social atmosphere defined by a decorum of sexual modesty symbolized by the veil, whether worn or not, the Middle East has traditionally been a world where the imagination plays an even greater role in the game of seduction [not Islamic]. Evoking the contours of a resplendent mass of dark hair is a predictable technique of this game. But as in Marie Antoinette’s world, the increasingly dramatic proportions have taken on a life of their own, creating the impression not of fuller hair – no one would want that much hair – but of a zeitgeist of oil-fed fullness and abundance. Despite the gargantuan proportions that big hijab has achieved, the look had very humble beginnings. When the trend was still in its infancy and the market had yet to respond with the production of specialty accessories, pomp-quotients were raised using … yogurt cups. Yes, yogurt cups. If you think this sounds strange, keep in mind that smirking silently under Sarah Palin’s saucy ‘do is none other than a delicate scaffolding of plastic – a plastic cup in fact not unlike a container of Activia or al-Mara’i.

Many religious authorities have voiced their disapproval of the trend citing a hadith (saying of the Prophet Mohammed) about women in hell with camel humps on their heads. Declaring it an inappropriate innovation on the traditional veil and an affront to the very idea and intention of veiling, local shuyukh lent their voices to a growing movement of anti-pompadourism. Some went so far as to ban the new look, expressly forbidding the use of the shabbasa. Like the stiletto heel in Saudi Arabia, big hijab was painted as a dangerous agent of high-impact sexuality.One must not jump to conclusions about the true nature of this sensitivity, however, because big hijab is really nothing new. Two hundred years ago, during the Ottoman period, Kuwaiti women were wearing Turkish-style hats under their abayas and shaylas. These headdresses, cylindrical or cone-shaped, were visible markers of an elaborate class heirarchy. Composition, height and ornamentation were in proportion to the wealth of the wearer; the higher a woman’s rank, the bigger the cone she could sport. Even maids wore smaller cones to distinguish themselves – and by extension, their mistress – from the commonfolk. Interestingly, national identity was an integral component of the code, since these Turkish hat-hijabs were to be worn by Kuwaiti women alone.Nor was this sartorial means of indexing social identity limited to the Gulf. In the rapidly growing nineteenth-century cities of Iran and the Levant, female headdresses were complex communicators of religious affiliation, ethnic background, and social level. One of the most well-known is the Lebanese tantour, a silver or gold cone worn by married noblewomen and the wives of rich merchants. Most splendid were the tall gold tantours that rose as high as 30 inches and were encrusted with diamonds, pearls and precious stones. To hold it in place, a silk scarf was wound around the base, with a white veil floating from its peak. Obsolete now, it was noted by European travelers to Lebanon from the end of the 18th century. Indeed, it may be one and the same with the “tartour” described in The Thousand and One Nights, many of whose tales date back to the height of the Abbasid period (ca. 800 AD), with roots in even earlier Persian, Indian and Mesopotamian literature.

But more than any trend or tradition that’s come before, the Khaleeji silhouette pushes the envelope of hijab’s very purpose as an instrument of veiling. In figuring as one of a number of vamping techniques like tight clothing, dramatic makeup and, yes, cheap stilettos, it tests the limits of acceptable public display in a Muslim environment, renewing for the twenty-first century the dialogue between the social and religious functions of the veil. The Islamic bouffant reveals a contemporary Gulf where conspicuous displays of wealth compete with a genuine desire for continuity with core cultural values. Poised as we are at the start of a new century in an old land, the paradox of ostentatious modesty is alive and well, even as women unconsciously tap into the pre-Islamic origins of veiling as a complex communicator of prestige.
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Pixie here again: for myself, since the context of the big headdress was always to express prestige (not necessarily seduction cuz I personally know men don't find it sexy) and define classes, I am not a fan of the clips, but I have seen them worn in a manner that isn't vulgar or too noticeable.
Oh and Sheikha, here is another completely seperate article, that confirms the use of yogurt cups. http://muslimmedianetwork.com/mmn/?p=2436

16 comments:

Ayan said...

Intresting artcle I was wondered the history behind this style.

Personally, I dislike this style. I don't find it stylish nor practical. Plus, it's extra weight I just don't need.

NeverEver said...

I think the last picture looks a bit like the coneheads.

To each their own I guess...

TurkishGiRL said...

Guess it's hard not have a 'camel bump' when you have long hair such as myself.

Amina said...

Camel hump...thats all i gotta say

Pixie said...

Turkish Girl: Any of us with hair (myself included) get a bit of a bump when we hair our hair in buns or don't tuck it into our clothes. That's not the hijab-bump for vanity or social status bump, that's for sure:d That's a reason we shouldn't judge. I remember sisters accused Aalia from chasing jannah of wearing clips (and she never had---you can't get them in Canada) and I got to see under her hijab all the time. It was just her long hair. My hair is getting long enough now it is starting to make a bump. But it isn't the same KIND of bump as the clip bump worn on top of the hair bump.

Aalia said...

them girlies just be jealous *lol*

im not ashamed to say that i wear a flower puff over here in UAE -- it's the "in" thing and as long as it's not one of those nasty-looking "Brain" puffs that are on the market, why not?

plus, i'd like to remind everyone that the hadith describes the clothed-yet-naked women in hell with heads leaning to the one SIDE of their heads...

i honestly do not see the harm or haraam in wearing a flower puff :-)

Pixie said...

Aalia: LOL, you know me, I'm not jealous. The style is meant to identify a national from a non-national so yes, it is still a status symbol (aren't non-national likes maids and workers still treated like lesser beings at times?) so I'll avoid it, but the way you wear it (you didn't wear clip in Vic), lower and not high and cone shaped, just makes your gashwa drape with more air for the neck, it isn't all about the bump. I'm sure it is halal.

Um, and sorry, but do you mind telling me HOW the hadith says to the side of the head? Just email me the hadith in arabic and I'll get Y to read it to me, lol, then you'll have me convinced. No translation says that, so I would like to be certain.

Stacy aka Fahiima said...

Some of those really high bumps are just ridiculous looking. It seems like you would always be misjudging the height of your head and bumping into doorways and such. The things women do for style.

Aalia said...

Asalaamu `alaikum :-)

I am gonna do a post about the issue, and I did find the hadith but I have to wait for M. to come home and look up the Arabic version, including Hadith # inshaa'Allah...

BTW I also found daleel that says we *can* wear kohl!!

G2G, my son is acting crazy lol

Pixie said...

Aalia: yay! Please do. You know mroe on the subject of kohl than me:D

Madiha M.K said...

As a Hijab Stylist, I've become aware of the one amazing benefit of this style, is having a high pony tail. I'm not talking about how they wrap extra fabric around on top, but some gulf women wear really high pony tails and i think it lifts the face and makes you look balances, given it's not above the level on your crown.

High pony tail = Restoring volume to your hair once you've let it down after taking the scarf off.

I've tried it many times. Always works for me. Great for a wife who feels down about her flat hair after coming home to her husband! :)

caraboska said...

I've actually wondered what to do if you have really long hair, to conceal it under a hijab. Seems to me these hats are a good way to do that...

Zainab said...

Salam girlies
Aalia - i have to say im a non- arab living in the UK. I adopted the flower puff, because it looks great and it keeps me cool in the summer days, it also just gives the abaya a much dressier look than a frumpy covered up women as the west so often imagine us to be like. However i have to ask what do u mean by brain puffs?

And do get back to us on the khol issue?

Me said...

I do think they look very silly. I mean even Amy Winehouse looks silly with her crazy beehive. All it does is draw attention which (for me)is counter to what hijab should do. I had a woman come into work the other day who I had to do a height and weight check for, her Hijab was nearly six inches higher than her head!

MrsN said...

Salaam, considering all the comments, i was wondering if hair dos like the following are permissble??

http://www.taylorgifts.com/item/hair_bumpits/30101

Anonymous said...

Assalamualaikum!

I think it's also important to consider what a persons intention is; if you're making your head look big in order to give the impression that you have more hair, than this is wrong. However, if you're intentions are absolutely innocent (I wrap 2 scarf's around my head because it keeps my hair in place, stops my bun from sliding down; so, consequently, stops me nipping to the ladies room 3 times a day to tie it all up again, and was completely dumbfounded when someone brought to light the hadith and suggested that I might want to create the illusion that I have more hair! [I have enough! if I had more i'd have a mane!:P]) I don't see anything wrong with adding a little volume. The hadith talks about women with their heads leaning to one side and naked... surely this means women that dress immodestly and create for themselves hairstyles that resemble camel humps? Surely there's more important things that we could be perfecting in our deen? Anyway, this "camel hump" issue is really ambiguous and it's been playing on my mind quite abit, I'd really appreciate it if someone could shed some light, if there is any more light to be shed on this issue :)

Vanilla.
xxx