Under cover

Muslim fashions the dazzle

Now at the De Young Museum until January 6, 2019, a look at contemporary Muslim fashions is the first major museum exhibition to explore the complex and diverse nature of Muslim dress codes worldwide. Organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, this exhibition examines how Muslim women—those who cover and those who do not—have become arbiters of style within and beyond their communities and, in so doing, have drawn attention to the variations and nuances of their daily lives.

In recent years, there has been increased awareness of Muslim consumers as an important segment of the global fashion industry. With more than 1.8 billion practicing Muslims worldwide—among them, 250,000 in the Bay Area alone—the complexity of this topic is both wide and highly nuanced. In the West, however, the image of Muslim women is often monochromatic.

“There are those who believe that there is no fashion at all among Muslim women, but the opposite is true, with modern, vibrant, and extraordinary fashion scenes, particularly in many Muslim-majority countries,” said Max Hollein, former Director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco as noted in the museum’s press materials. “Contemporary Muslim Fashions is an overdue, much-needed exploration of a multifaceted topic as yet largely unexplored by museums. This exhibition stands out in our long history of outstanding fashion exhibitions and will shed light onto larger political, social, and cultural understandings and misunderstandings.”

The exhibition focuses on clothing that responds to individual and collective interpretations of modesty. It considers how Muslim women define themselves and are defined by their dress, providing a snapshot of the current moment in Muslim modest fashion. As Islam is a multicultural faith, the dress of its practitioners is shaped not only by religious traditions but also by local customs and global trends. Contemporary Muslim Fashions looks at parts of the globe where designers are creating and consumers are wearing highly fashionable garments, with a specific focus on the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and diasporic communities throughout Europe and the United States.

“Fashion is at its best when it both adapts to the needs of society and reflects its social and political undercurrents,” says Jill D’Alessandro, Curator in Charge of Costume and Textile Arts. “It is in this transformative moment where we now find modest fashion.”

In addition to approximately 80 ensembles drawn from established and emerging designers in high-end fashion, streetwear, sportswear, and couture, the exhibition includes about 40 photographs that will contextualize the garments on view. Using social media as primary source material, Contemporary Muslim Fashions credits much of the recent, popular awareness of this sector to bloggers and influencers who took to social media when they could not find accurate representations of themselves in traditional media.

For more information visit https://www.famsf.org

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