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Muslimah STYLE TIPS: Make it your own

Vintage-Urban-Grunge. Romantic. Minimalist. Maximalist. Casual-Classic Chic. Eclectic. Whatever style you prefer, SHUKR’s Head Designer Tabassum Siddiqui shows you how to put a personal spin on your basic wardrobe.

Ask yourself…

– Are you fascinated by traditional clothes from various countries? (See ECLECTIC)

– Do you always seem to find yourself digging in your mother’s or grandmother’s closet or can’t seem to pass up an afternoon window shopping at vintage stores? (See VINTAGE)


– Do delicate, detailed fabrics such as silks with fine embroidery, lace, and other embellishments attract your attention? (See ROMANTIC)


– Do you find that your look is not complete unless you have layered every colour, print, texture, and accessory that is within reach? (See MAXIMALIST)


– Do you prefer a look that is more streamlined with the focus on the cut of the garment and with just the one perfect accessory to complement it? (See MINIMALIST)


– Do you see yourself as a city warrior in a concrete jungle, craving a bit of edge, sophistication, or that avant-garde touch to your look? (See URBAN)


– Do you prefer a look that is timeless with clothes that do not ever go out of style? (See CLASSIC)


– Do you prefer a look that follows its own stream of consciousness? Do you love that carefree way of layering pieces to create a unique ensemble? (See HIPPIE CHIC)



Is this your style?

A good way to build up your wardrobe to reflect that of an ultra chic ‘global nomad’, as I prefer to call it, is to start collecting pieces from countries that have clothes that fascinate you. If you have friends or family travelling abroad, ask them to bring you back a blouse, a dress, a bag, jewellery, or even fabric. When you are on your travels, find out from the locals where you can shop to buy their traditional clothes. Whilst you are there travelling, pay attention to the street fashion to pick up on new trends that you can add to your new look at home. If travelling abroad isn’t on your agenda this year, don’t worry, you needn’t look any further than your own family tree. Where is your family from? How do they dress? Try adapting styles from your own family’s country in a modern way. Instead of wearing the same denim skirt that every sister you know is wearing right now, opt for a skirt that your aunt just sent you from India and pair it with some other pieces from your wardrobe to give it a contemporary feel. If an Eclectic style really intrigues you, then keep the ‘global nomad’ theme in mind. In other words, you don’t have to dress from head-to-toe in clothing from one culture. You can mix pieces from everywhere, regardless if one country is completely different from the other.


Adding vintage pieces to your wardrobe is like adding ‘soul’ to your look. You’re adding pieces that have a history and that are truly unique. You can start out by just adding a couple of vintage or antique items to your wardrobe like a clutch, a pair of earrings, or a scarf to complement your current look. Another way to apply this style is take a vintage piece and alter it to make it more contemporary. When you have more experience in selecting vintage pieces, you can work up to dresses, blouses, jackets, full suits, and even vintage pieces from other countries. While you’re out vintage shopping, be prepared to rummage a bit, to not always encounter your size since all pieces are unique, and to be in awe of the myriad of styles of clothes. Depending upon the age of the garment, it may need to be repaired and/or specially cleaned. The key to not taking this style overboard is to always strike a balance between the past and the present – you probably may not want to wear all of your vintage pieces at once. But if you are a big fan of the 1940s, for example, whose to say that you can’t do it?


You can really interpret this style through any of the other styles mentioned here. Adding a dose of romanticism to your current style from a subtle whisper with a soft powdery colour palette to ultra-feminine chic with fine details such as lace, minute tucks, cascades of silk ruffles, and florals all remind you of the beauty of what it means to be a woman. Even if you are not a “fan” of flowers, the colour pink, ruffles, and all things girly, you can express this style through other media such as soft, touchable textures, cuts that enhance your feminine shape, and colors that are lightly muted or full of passion. When getting dressed, think about what it is that makes you feel more like a woman. As fashion designer Diane von Fürstenberg, she says,” If you want to feel like a woman, wear a dress.”



To begin, you may even want to start at the base with your lingerie and build up from there. Splurging on one pretty set that is also functional will put you in feminine mode instantly. Having a few pieces such as skirts, tops, and dresses that are in sheer silks and chiffons, in beautifully toned colors mixed in with your current wardrobe are all you need. If you can’t part with your trousers, then make sure you have some that are in a sharp tailored cut , or with a wide leg in soft fabric, or in a soft drapey jodhpur style for a bit of edginess. Add silky camis or blouses with romantic details layered with other pieces or accessories to complete the look. And most importantly, don’t forget about the shoes!


This is for those who are more eccentric and want to take their style over the top. Adopting a maximalist style is definitely not for those who are afraid to step out of their comfort zone. But it also doesn’t mean horribly mismatching your clothes until you become a total fashion victim. What you will be doing is creating a beautiful collage of all of your favorite pieces regardless of their colour, texture, or print and following a somewhat less traditional way to put it all together. You can get started by coordinating a printed top with a contrasting printed skirt instead of a solid colour skirt. Add your favorite accessories such as shoes, jewellery, bag, and even hoisery – regardless of the colors – to complete your new look.


To avoid the risk of looking dowdy and to play it safe, pay attention to the cut of the garment and make sure the garments are either modern or classic. If you will be layering to acheive your look, it is best to layer with lightweight fabrics. If you are a plus size, you may want to limit your use of prints and play more with contrasting colours and textures. Even though you will be doing a lot of mixing and layering, always stay true to your personal colour palette, fit, and silhouette because the idea is to create interest, but not an eyesore.


This is about fine tuning your wardrobe, cutting the fat off your current look, and boiling down your style to its essence. It is about a no-nonsense, unfussed approach to dressing. This is not to say that a minimalist style is boring or without embellishments. Embellishments are allowed, but they speak quietly and they let your personality do the talking. Minimalist style can be an effortless mono-colour look or one that is composed of pieces that are borderline architectural. Since your look will be pared down in this style, it is even more important to focus on quality and details. Don’t feel intimidated by this style and think that it is totally avant-garde and unaccessible. Try a dress or top that has a modern cut or interesting detail and let that be the only point of interest in your look.

URBAN Style:
From New York to Johannesburg, and all of the major style cities of the world in between; global street style is constantly changing and redefining itself by the minute. From the completely eccentric to a bit of avant-garde edge, to ultra sophistication and sleekness, the looks are always fresh, imaginative, and compelling, taking direct influence from the city, its inhabitants, and society. You could live in Malaysia and yet love the street style of Stockholm and, even if you come from a town with the population of 50, it doesn’t mean that you can’t incorporate a unique urban style into your look.



Remember that an urban style is the opposite of being trendy and more about being a trendsetter. You will be looking out for pieces and putting together ensembles that no one has seen or has ever thought to do. This will definitely be a creative exercise and an exhaustive search for modern cult brands or even resurrecting vintage labels that very few people know about. The key is to stand apart from the crowds and to follow your own inspiration and tastes.


Having a classic sensibility has nothing to do with being matronly or dull, nor overly prim and proper and preppy. It has a very clean, polished and refined quality to it that, at the same time, mixes very well with any other style. In this style you will be looking for pieces that have stood the test of time and that look as fresh and modern as the first day they were designed. Classic pieces such as the cotton khaki trenchcoat have infinite possibilities, not to mention longevity. Even if you don’t want to fully embrace this style, owning a few classic pieces will make an excellent foundation for your wardrobe. There is nothing more refreshing than a crisp, white button-down shirt. Other items to look out for are tailored trousers; the perfect 2-piece suit; a pleated, pencil, or A-Line skirt; flats; pieces in cashmere, tweed, and cotton khaki. Add your own touch and accessories to personalise.


Nowadays, there is a fine line between hippie and bohemian chic as, in both styles, being natural, feminine and more free-spirited are key to achieving these looks. Being hippie in style obviously comes from the 1970s and images of maxi-length floral dresses, flowers in the hair, natural jewellery, leather fringe bags, skinny or super wide-leg jeans, sandals, printed tops from India, and lots of voluminous diaphanous dresses and tops all spring to mind. If you want to add a bit of Hippie Chic to your look, try a maxi-length cotton voile dress with lots of volume (floral prints are optional); and sandals in simple leather, gold, strappy, or studded or Gladiator style. Add a soft, light peasant style blouse to a pair of trousers and some wooden bangles for a more carefree look.



The ‘Bohemian’ style takes it roots from the way the Gyspy people of Bohemia in the Czech Republic lived. This also influenced a subculture in Europe, primarily in 19th century Paris, of artists and intellectuals who dressed in their own style, following neither style rules, nor high-fashion. What comes to mind is a style that has a Gyspy quality to it, with heavy layering of pieces regardless of texture, color, or print; and some pieces with embroidery and with a slightly dishevelled and effortless elegance.


The key to this style is the emphasis on lots of accessories and finding some of your pieces in vintage or secondhand stores. Although this style is somewhat glamourized now, your pieces do not have to be expensive because originally this subculture was not about being materialistic, but unique. This is good news for you and your wallet! If you plan to go Hippie Chic, start out with a clean base such as a plain basic dress, or in a vintage print, or a embroidered djellaba tunic and start layering from there with a vest, belts, jewellery, scarves, stockings, etc.



Bear in mind that, as always, my style notes are primarily intended for your look in private settings. And when you are in these private settings, I encourage you to really express your style, experiment, and go all out. On the other hand, when you are in public settings, be wise about your style choices and reinterpet your style so that it is appropriate. Maintaining this balance, in my opinion, can help curb desire that we might have to dress in a way that is not pleasing to Allah (SWT).