Can Women in Islam Work as Fashion Models?

Well, one way to answer this question, is to consider it by itself and regardless of any side issues. One may thus say that, Muslim women –together with the rest of the world– need clothes! women in Islam, too, deserve to wear beautiful and stylish outfits! Muslim women, too, can have a job! And if all that is acceptable, there could be no fault found with designing such clothes, or presenting them as a model.
As you know, though, Islam generally gives us the liberty to do all that is sensible, necessary, and harmless but always draws our attention to certain limits and red lines as well. Our answer to such questions, therefore, is usually like; “No problem, provided that…” 
So, let’s now have a look at those conditions for women in Islam that might concern fashion designing and modeling?

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1. Cover End

As you know, Islam has set a certain limit on women’s covering. This certain limit addresses women’s natural charm and attractions for men, and their understandable desire to expose them. So, the big idea for setting such specific measures may be that women do not make a pledge of a special extent of covering for themselves which they would never break. Since, it will end up in what we can see today, where women’s bare body is so widely used as a tool to win men’s attention and pleasure. That’s why Islam has issued special rulings for women (and of course men’s) covering. 

2. Modesty for Women in Islam

The second thing, which is even more repeated and stressed on in Islam, is modesty [1]. But what is modesty all about? Cambridge dictionary defines it [with regards to clothes and behavior] as “a quality, in women, of dressing or behaving in a way that is intended to avoid attracting sexual interest” [i]. Of course, modesty is not exclusively for women in Islam. Men, too, are bid not to dress up or behave in a way that may attract sexual interest. What’s more, the same term is also metaphorically used to imply protecting all parts of the body from trespasses, such as modesty of the eyes, modesty of the tongue, or modesty of the heart. So, in a broad sense, modesty is the quality of protecting oneself against wrong desires. And that’s exactly what we need in fashion modeling.
Now, modesty is somehow different from covering obligations. It means a person (or a woman, as concerns this article) might be well covered following the Islamic principles of covering, but her type of clothes or her manners may still leave room for provoking sexual interest.
Moreover, the realization of modesty can be culturally variable. What is considered as an acceptable level of modesty in a cultural background may not be so in another. But in every culture, I guess, women know pretty well what kind of outfit or behavior could attract sexual attention. And that will do!

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To Come to an End…

Finally, I should say that Islam is not opposed to men and women looking neat, good-looking, fashionable, or even attractive. If a woman is especially kind looking, for example, she looks particularly attractive to everybody. Does it mean that she shouldn’t look like that? No way! What Islam tries to avoid is looking SEXUALLY attractive –in the same way that Islam asks men time after time to take care of their sight and never look at any woman –other than one’s spouse- sexually. Because Islam wants all sexual pleasure and satisfaction to be concentrated within wedlock and intended for its strength and persistence, rather than its disruption!
So, yes, fashion designing and modeling are acceptable for women in Islam [ii]. And yes, Muslim fashion designers or models are not the same as others who usually intend to be seductive in their manners and their type and extent of covering. Muslim designers and models are required to cover their body (except for the face, hands, and feet) and to look modest.  In Muslim countries, therefore, fashion shows are held in segregated places when the kinds of clothes being presented do not go along with Islamic rulings on covering and modesty in public.


[ii] You can read more about whether Muslim women can have a job here.


[1] Al-kafi, vol. 3, p. 714 , Knaz al-‘Ummal, vol. 3, p. 126