Remember when…? Hejab in the 90′s!


So, yes…I’m an old-school hejabi.
I’ve worn hejab since I graduated from High School in the late-90’s. I had wanted to wear it in High School but unfortunately my mom was a no-go on that one.

So I figure, why not take a trip down memory lane…

I split my experiences with hejab in 2 groups…pre 9-11 and post 9-11.

Pre 9-11, I rarely had outright hostility towards covering. Most people on the street were just curious and would stare (not in a hostile manner) and I remember usually people would ask simple questions like…why do you wear that? etc?
I also remember when there was a lot of members of NOI around and anytime I was downtown they would be on the corners vending incense and their newspaper and they would give me a free pack of incense. I never considered them Muslims in the orthodox, authentic sense but some of my closest friends came from families that were orig. NOI before converting to mainstream, orthodox Islam and so it was kind of nice there being that sense of similarity that went past racial lines.

Anyway, At the time hejab wasn’t very fashionable or “popular” for fashions sake. The majority of women/girls who covered did so for purely religious reasons…because again, you really could not look chic in hijab.
Forget Shukr, Forget the fashionable styles in Dubai or Egypt or Jordan, forget the ubiquity of the sheila and abayah.

Instead there were…*for the most part, and this dept. a lot on where you lived in the US*
jilbabs…(nice baggy, pleated ones 🙂
square or triangular hijabs.
um…thats it.

I still deep down prefer the saggy, baggy jilbab style because they just cover everything, are simple and no-nonsense and are insanely comfortable, one downside was they turned you into a walking potato sack.

My very first jilbab was actually a gift from a sister I knew through the SisNet list (when it was in it’s heyday).
It was huge, black and white checkered and had fluffy black lace frilly cuffs & was from Kuwait. I’m sure I looked like a 16th century musketeer in it as can be imagined my mother at the time was *not* very thrilled with that jilbab.
Abayahs were very new and very very rare, I don’t recall even seeing one until about 2000 when a sister from KSA brought me one. I think you could just get the shoulder closing abayah at the time, but really no other styles were available here in the US.

By way of hejab availability here in the US… as I mentioned it was almost exclusively, squares and triangles… duppatas were pretty easy to obtain. The Al-Ameera became popular around 1999 and I have several issues of the short-lived Sisters magazine, the precursor to Azizah that contained ads for a type of “pull-over” scarf made of a cotton/lycra material made by a women here in the US or a company in Syria, who knows? Sheilas also started to pop up here around 1999. My very first one was in burgundy Georgette material and was from Al-Mujalbaba in Jamaica, Queens.
No one I knew had ever seen one before…and forget about any sheila styling instructions online.
At first I just laid it over my head and pinned it behind my head, bringing the ends around, back around to my front and back again to the back; knotting behind the head. I knew no other way to wear one. A few months later the infamous hijab styling book published by Laila Baroon in South Africa came out and I finally saw some sheila styles I could work with. Namely the wrap and tuck method.

Oh and forget underscarves…everyone I knew used bandannas…

At the time as far as ‘net shops went…the biggies were;
AlHediya, CaravanXpress & Al-Mujalbaba. Modesty catalog was still a catalog and Caravan Xpress had both a video and a catalog before getting a website. I remember several sisters sleep overs where a friend would bring the latest CX catalog and we would all huddle around her drooling at the latest jilbabs styles.

Yup, those were the days.

Now if you preferred to not wear jilbabs…there were at the time these really wide leg jeans favored by Skater boys and palazzo pants from the early 90’s were still around in some incarnations. Since jilbabs were expensive and fairly hard to get I only really ever had 1 or 2. My favorite way of dressing when I was a late teen-early 20’s was…I’d go to Goodwill, get oversized, tall mens dress shirts like oxfords and wear them with the really wide leg skater jeans and of course a hijab. It was the easiest way of finding modest clothing and a good many sisters I knew also enjoyed raiding the mens shirt area of Goodwill. You really just couldn’t find long womens shirts anywhere. Nor was there the popular style of layering long dresses with long sleeved undershirts or cardigans.