Finding appropriate clothes can be one of the challenging issues of Muslim women. Living in modern societies necessitates its own lifestyle, including dress code and style, which is different in the four corners of the world. If a woman decides to choose Islam as her faith, what shall she wear?
Once, Imam Sadiq (AS) was wearing a nice expensive suit. A man called Sufiyan Souri saw him in The Holy Mosque and said: “O The son of Allah’s Prophet, I swear to Him that Neither Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), nor Imam Ali (AS) and none of your forefathers wore such an expensive suit!”
He answered: “They were living at a time when most of the people were poor and in need. But today is different. Most people are living a good wealthy, abundant life. This is the time when the good servants of Allah are the most deserving to take advantage of Allah’s blessings.”
Then he recited this verse of the Holy Quran:
Say," Who has forbidden the adornment of Allah which He has brought forth for His servants, and the good things of [His] provision?" Say," These are for the faithful in the life of this world, and exclusively for them on the Day of Resurrection." Thus do We elaborate on the signs for people who have knowledge. Quran (7: 32) 
Islam does not forbid us from wearing clothes in line with the society, geographical location, culture, and tradition of the age and country we are living in, but it has some considerations. First, we need to discuss them in general and then refer to the issue of Muslim women.
Standing out and attracting the attention of the people around may cause disrespect and disregard for a Muslim woman or man. Peacocking undignifies the human soul and rather values the physical attractions of the human body. A believing Muslim considers everyone, and never pretends to be rich or poor with the dress he/she wears. Muslim women are special in that field, meaning that Islam insists on their dressing in a particular way. They are believed to be worthy of their soul, their femininity, and above all, for their humanity, not their sexual attractions, which can be a cause of abuse or disrespect in society.
Peacocking is not just a matter of wearing cheap and worn-out clothes or expensive luxurious suits, but it consists of any clothing which attracts irregular attention either with its color, thickness, texture, smell, or even its design.
Imagine that you have attended a funeral in India. White is the color of mourning, and red is the color of feasts and marriage. At that funeral, you encounter a person wearing a red dress, with lots of jewelry and extravagant style. Everyone looks cross at that person. That will be a sign of disrespect for the mourners and might even cause insult and struggle in the middle of the ceremony. And this is against the Islamic culture which is against disrespect and anything counter social.
Genders are different from one another, and a healthy society needs them both, each with their definitive characteristics. So, women should look feminine, and men need to take what is masculine. However, there are clothes which both genders wear; like blouses, suits, and trousers, and nothing is wrong with those. But coloring nails or wearing makeup is pretty strange and unusual on a man, and Islam forbids that kind of peculiar look.
Wearing clothes that belong to unbelievers makes Muslims look like them; as if they are following their beliefs, commands, etc. For instance, we all know that rotated star in a circle is a sign of Satanism. They are examples of clothes that a believing Muslim is to avoid. Any sign, style, or design which might relate to the unbelieving system of thought makes that person seem to believe or appreciate that system of thinking, be it willingly or unwillingly. Here it necessitates Muslims to think and analyze the clothes they choose to wear.
The clothes that a Muslim wears must be Halal; meaning that it mustn’t belong to someone else who does not want that person to wear what belongs to him/her. The clothes of a Muslim are pure because they tidy up any sign of untidiness from that. It is neat and clean, the habit which is very much praised in Islam.
Imam Sadiq (AS) says: “wear clothes and adorn yourself. Truly, Allah is beautiful, and He likes beauty, but that has to be Halal.”
He also says: “Allah likes beauty and adornment, and dislikes looking disheveled” 
Modern fashion is becoming more and more complicated these days. The coming of new casual or formal styles might put Muslim women in dilemmas. In this case and similar occasions, they just need to remember the considerations above, besides Hijab, which is discussed in our article Hijab in Islam. Tips on the infographic of How to wear Hijab in Islam might be helpful, too.
At last, we need to remember that Islam never forbids anyone from being a person for the age he/she is living in. It just asks everyone to observe the rules of Islam and respect the community and society they are living in.
- Bihar al-Anvar, Vol. 40, p 336, Hadith 18
- Sheikh Tousi, Amaali, Vol.1, p. 275
The term Hijab literally means a cover, curtain, or screen , and is generally associated with the Islamic rule regarding women covering certain parts of their body [i]. Considering this matter, one might face many questions and misunderstandings. Perhaps some of the fundamental and mostly asked questions are: “Is the concept of Hijab and the law of covering certain parts of the body for women limited to Islam?” and “Did such a concept make sense in the Abrahamic religions which existed before Islam?” One way of gaining a better understanding and a broader insight into this issue is through a detailed and accurate historical investigation of the characteristics and the treatment of Hijab in the Abrahamic religions of Judaism and Christianity.
It seems that covering certain parts of the body and maintaining a modest demeanor for women in society was of much importance in Judaism. The manner of Shuaib [ii]’s daughters toward Moses, explicitly mentioned in the Holy Quran, can best illustrate the necessity of acting modestly in the society for women:
“When he arrived at the well of Midian, he found there a throng of people watering [their flocks], and he found, besides them, two women holding back [their flock]. He said, ‘What is your business?’ They said, ‘We do not water [our flock] until the shepherds have driven out [their flocks], and our father is an aged man.’ So he watered [their flock] for them. Then he withdrew toward the shade and said, ‘My Lord! I am indeed in need of any good You may send down to me!’ Then one of the two women approached him, walking bashfully [modestly]. She said, ‘Indeed my father invites you to pay you the wages for watering [our flock] for us.’ So when he came to him and recounted the story to him, he said, ‘Do not be afraid. You have been delivered from the wrongdoing lot’” (28:23-25).
Based on this account, it can be argued that at the time of Prophet Moses, women’s modest and demure behavior was regarded as praiseworthy and respectful and a sign of their high status and distinguished personality in the society.
Moreover, there are some verses in Torah that name different kinds of clothing -Burqa or a veil covering one’s face- used by women as a kind of Hijab. In the book of Genesis, for instance, as addressed to Judah’s bride we read:
“And she put off from her the garments of her widowhood, and covered herself with her veil, and wrapped herself, and sat in the entrance of Enaim, which is by the way to Timnah; for she saw that Shelah was grown up, and she was not given unto him to wife. When Judah saw her, he thought her to be a harlot; for she had covered her face” [38:14-15].
As Will Durant [iii] puts, a common tradition for women among Jewish tribes was to attend public places with head-covers. This practice had to be followed as a rule and transgression from it would bring some consequences including divorcing the woman without paying her marriage portion .
Appearing bare-headed and without any cover for women, in some societies -e.g., the Far East and Mesopotamia- was considered as the symbol of inferiority and the characteristics of lower social standings. Moreover, women regarded the act of uncovering their hair in front of public eyes as a huge humiliation, to the extent that this act was performed in punishing the women who were guilty of a crime. Also, according to some Rabbis, women’s attendance without a kind of Hijab in the religious ceremonies and rituals was strictly forbidden .
From the chosen and highly respected women named in Islam, the Holy Quran directly mentions Blessed Mary, mother of Jesus Christ, the messenger of Christianity, as the embodiment of a chaste, modest, pure woman and a true believer in God. Her status is so high in Islam that one of the chapters of the Holy Quran has been given her name.
In addition, in many of the Christian paintings and portraits, the figure of the Virgin Mary has been depicted with a complete head-cover as well as a long loose dress. So, Christian women who follow their prophet’s mother and the laws of Christianity, have attempted to observe modesty and chastity in their social interactions. As Jurji Zaydan [iv] states: “If by Hijab we mean covering body, this practice was common before Islam and even before the emergence of Christianity and its effects still remain in the European societies.”
Furthermore, there is some textual evidence in the Bible that refers to this tradition and its necessity among Christian communities. In the Old Testament, the book of Genesis, it has been said:
“For she had said unto the servant, What man is this that walketh in the field to meet us? And the servant had said, It is my master: therefore she took a veil, and covered herself” [24:65].
And the need for head-covering in religious ceremonies has been emphasized by Saint Paul in the New Testament:
“Every man praying or prophesying with anything down over his head dishonors his head, but every woman praying or prophesying with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a woman will not be covered, then let her be shorn! But since it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. … Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?” [Corinthians 11:2-16].
The rule of celibacy for Christian priests and nuns -approached slightly different in the three main Christian denominations including Catholicism, Protestantism, and Orthodoxy [v]- though not accepted in Islam, is primarily and originally established to avoid worldly temptations and practicing self-restraint and modesty.
Also, the special kind of dress worn by nuns in churches which covers most parts of their body shows the emphasis of Christianity on the necessity of appearing with appropriate and non-provocative clothing in society.
Moreover, considering the paintings that portray western aristocratic females, as well as the literature of the pre-twentieth-century, it can be realized that wearing a suitable and modest dress by women represented their higher social standing and evoked the respect of other members of the society.
Up until the end of the nineteenth century, wearing hats and using long and decent clothing was common for women. However, with the passage of time, this tradition went through changes, and gradually the religious beliefs, and divine teachings of Jesus Christ faded away from their lives .
Nevertheless, in some eastern catholic and orthodox churches such as the Russian Orthodox Church, women are required to wear a head-cover when entering the church for attending religious ceremonies . In addition, in Continental Europe and North America, most women of the Christian denominations including Anglican , Baptist , Methodist , and Roman Catholic  use a kind of head-cover when participating the religious rituals inside the church.
With a brief look at what has been said so far, it becomes evident that the religion of Islam was not the inventor of the Hijab, rather this tradition had existed and practiced in different forms among the followers of the two Abrahamic religions of Judaism and Christianity.
The parallels that one can find in the characteristics of the Hijab and the philosophy behind it in these three religions reveal the fact that in a way Islam has only modified and continued this tradition. According to Islam, also, the practice of wearing a Hijab is essentially aimed to preserve the human value and dignity of women when interacting with men outside the family circle and to provide a secure environment where everyone, man or woman, can perform their tasks effectively and morally.
Moreover, the kind of Hijab that Islam defines for women is covering all parts of their body except their faces and hands [from wrists to fingers] through wearing a modest dress, similarly, as we have seen in the previous paragraphs, Jewish and Christian women covered their head and were encouraged to wear non-provocative clothes. So, Islam, the last and most perfect religion, revised the rules of the preceding religions and completed the teachings of the previous prophets by providing thorough and applicable instructions.
[i] Originally, the Quranic term used for this rule is “satr or satir—الستر، الساتر”
[ii] An ancient Midianite Prophet, sometimes identified with the Biblical Jethro. His name is mentioned in the Quran a total of 11 times.
[iii] William James Durant (November 5, 1885 – November 7, 1981) was an American writer, historian, and philosopher. He is best known for The Story of Civilization.
[iv] Jurji Zaydan was a prolific Lebanese novelist, journalist, editor, and teacher most noted for his creation of the magazine al-Hilal, which he used to serialize his 23 historical novels.
[v] In Orthodox Christianity “Priests and deacons may marry before ordination but not after. Bishops, on the other hand, must be celibate. While “the majority of Protestants do not require celibacy as a condition of election to the clergy.” Catholics, on the other hand, believe that “Priests and Bishops must be celibate, with the exception of Eastern Rite Catholics and Anglican married clergy who subsequently convert to Catholicism. These groups are allowed to have married priests” .
- Rizvi, Sayyid Muhammad. n.d. Hijab, The Muslim Women's Dress, Islamic or Cultural? Ja‘fari Islamic Centre (Tabligh Committee) Canada.
- Durant, Will. n.d. The History of Civilization. Vol. XII.
- HIjab in Abrahamic religion
- for more information about the changes in British women’s costume through ages visit: link
- Gdaniec, Cordula Cultural Diversity in Russian Cities: The Urban Landscape in the Post-Soviet Era.
- Muir, Edward (18 August 2005). Ritual in Early Modern Europe. Cambridge University Press. p. 31.
- Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches 2012. Abingdon Press. 2012-04-01. p. 131
- Morgan, Sue (2010-06-23). Women, Gender and Religious Cultures in Britain, 1800-1940.
- Henold, Mary J. 2008. Catholic and Feminist: The Surprising History of the American Catholic Feminist
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?
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.
The second thing, which is even more repeated and stressed on in Islam, is modesty . 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!
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.
- Al-kafi, vol. 3, p. 714 , Knaz al-‘Ummal, vol. 3, p. 126