Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Dearborn Prep: Dress Code

When I used to think Isalm, I used to think hijab. Maybe it's the feminist in me, or maybe it's just my lack of trans-cultural exposure, but head coverings were always synonymous with the term Muslims. (Until I got educated. Then I only partially associated hijabs with Islam.)

Still, when I signed up to work with the largest Yemeni population outside of Yemen, the thought of a dress code didn't cross my mind. The standard STM dress code was always very easy for me to fit: long shorts, high necklines, no tank tops. Standard stuff. And when the word from the higher-ups came that flip-flops would be allows, I thought for sure that the attire required in Dearborn would be standard fare.

But it turned out to be a little more complicated than that.

All in all, the situation is a lot better than it could have been: the dress code for the mosque is of course floor-length skirt, long sleeves, and a head scarf, but everywhere else we're allowed to wear generally whatever we want, so long as it's A) not jeans, B) below the knee, C) below the elbow, and D) reasonably baggy, and E) covers the collarbone. And friends, isn't it oh-so convenient that cargo pants are making a comeback this summer?! I might even actually be able to make sure my clothes match.

So this is what I've learned. When dressing for Muslim-ministry in the heat of summer, go for layers. Button-up blouses with crew-neck tee-shirts underneath. Broomstick skirts! Yes, and those cargo pant capris. I only spent $30 supplementing my wardrobe for this trip, and I think that's quite reasonable. My thrifty and practical side is satisfied. The side of me that watches Project Runway . . . that side of me is a little bummed out, but oh well. My friend spent a few weeks in Malaysia for band tour, and her host family was Malay. She said that even though she wore long pants the whole time, she still felt comparatively exposed next to their Muslim standards. (These floosy Westerners! Letting it all hang out!) So, I don't know what to expect!

But I should say, I really like wearing a head scarf. I'm thinking about making it a thing. Just saying!

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