"Contemporary Muslim Fashions" Opens at De Young Museum

"Contemporary Muslim Fashions" Opens at De Young Museum

Published on Thursday, October 4, 2018.
Ensemble by Malaysia's Melinda Looi

An ensemble by Malaysia's Melinda Looi for her 2012 Sunset in Africa Collection, including a turban, earrings, rings, heels, and a tie-dye-effect long dress with gathers on front body. 

Sebastian Kim, courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

There are nearly one billion practicing Muslim women living around the world, making up roughly 12 percent of the human population. As members of a common religion, rather than a single ethnic group or culture, Muslim women represent incredible diversity. Despite this, many people still contain a monolithic idea of what they look like: veiled by a hijab (headscarf) or niqab (face veil), and perhaps wearing an abaya – a simple, loose black dress that covers the body from neck to feet.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with this picture of a Muslim woman, it is not – and cannot be – the only one people hold. Although many Muslim women do adopt “modest fashion,” intentionally covering the body in varying degrees in accordance with religious, cultural, or even political beliefs, they still wear a broad range of clothing inspired by their values and personal styles. “Contemporary Muslim Fashions,” an exhibition currently on view at the de Young Museum, showcases the diversity and complexity of Muslim fashion around the world for the first time& in a major museum.

In a gallery space designed by Iranian-American architect sisters Gisue and Mojgan Hariri, the exhibition combats stereotypes and explores many aspects of Muslim fashion, including the growing modest fashion industry, the history and cultural and political diversity of headscarves, and how high-end fashion designers have customized their designs for Muslim women.

Featuring approximately 80 ensembles from designers around the world, the exhibition showcases high-end fashion, casual streetwear, and sportswear. Photographs of streetwear worn by Muslim women around the world contextualize the garments on display. An audio tour allows visitors to listen to the designers, many of whom are Muslim, and women who wear these clothes talk about what modest fashion means to them.

"Contemporary Muslim Fashions" is on view through January 6. It will travel to Frankfurt’s Museum Angewandte Kunst next.