Iconic Hijarbie in the Fashion Limelight
2016 was an eventful year for Barbie.
After more than five decades, Mattel gave a huge makeover to Barbie in the name of diversity and inclusivity. This new line of body-positive Barbies includes Barbies in all shapes, sizes and skin colour; in short, they were intentionally made to look like you and me.
While this new line was welcomed and highly anticipated, one particular Barbie took the fashion limelight by storm: Hijarbie.
Hijarbie is the creation of Haneefah Adam who started an Instagram account featuring a hijab-wearing Barbie. The fashion-loving medical scientist gave Barbie a Muslimah makeover by designing, cutting, sewing and styling her in gorgeous maxi dresses, abayas and headscarves to create chic modest looks. Thanks to Haneefah’s fashion flair, Hijarbie was able to gain social media popularity within a few short weeks---making her one of the latest fashion icons in the Islamic fashion world.
Is a toy merely a plaything?
When Haneefa started dressing up Barbie in hijabs and modest clothing items, she thought it was important to “offer Muslim girls a relatable role model” that dresses like they would---and she is not wrong. While most people would think that a doll is just another plaything, researchers have found that positive representation in their toys---as well as books, TV and films---matters to children.
For the young Muslim girls that the Hijarbie are representing, she can help them build their self-esteem and develop a sense of pride in their cultural and religious backgrounds. For their peers, Hijarbie can help them gain a “more robust and healthy sense of the world and of themselves” by nurturing their compassion.
While it is great that hijab-wearing Muslim girls have a Barbie to represent them, it is also important to note that Hijarbie does not represent all Muslim girls. Not all Muslim girls will find Hijarbie relatable either because they wear a different kind of hijab or they choose not to veil themselves---and there is nothing wrong with this. They are not less of a Muslim just like how most hijab-wearing Muslim women are not oppressed by their culture and religion.
Hijarbie: the next top model
Islam and modern fashion have been coexisting well for the past few years. However, there is still a debate whether “model” is an appropriate or not appropriate career option for a Muslim woman. Modest modelling is still in a grey area for me; although I believe a woman should be able to choose any career that she feels does not contradict her faith, I am a little concerned by how some designers interpret the requirements of Islamic dress in their collections.
In this argument, I do believe that Hijarbie is the right solution.
Like many other iconic fashionistas, Hijarbie has been able to communicate and teaching different modest modern looks to its followers; she even showed how Muslim and other modest women can wear the off-shoulder trend! She is also slowly, but surely, showcasing different styles and interpretation of the hijabs from around the globe. Not only does this educate Muslim women about other Muslim women, but also helps them find a style that would suit them best.
Love her or hate her
Haneefa and Hijarbie has a great synergy going on. Haneefa has proven herself to be a talented designer and meticulous seamstress---you can see that she puts in a lot of passion, patience and work to all of Hijarbie’s intricate outfits. Hijarbie, on the other hand, is a great clothes horse---she carries herself well in all of Haneefa’s creations. I would not be surprised should Haneefa have her own fashion line in the future, she will use Hijarbie as her model.
Like many other celebrities, Hijarbie has her own fans and haters from both the Muslim and non-Muslim communities. Love her or hate her, I think Hijarbie will be around for a very long time to help others with their fashion conundrums and teach children about the diversity that exists in the world.