Muslim Fashion Finds Its Flow

By: Sylviana Hamdani

Source: The Jakarta Globe

Wearing quality Muslim attire that covers the entire head and body is a must for many Muslim women. However, some women, especially those who are of average height and built rather than tall and slim, might find themselves at loss at how to maintain a chic look in the attire.

It’s a challenge that fashion designer Tuty Adib has experienced herself.

“I started wearing Muslim attire in 1997 and I often got confused when attending formal functions,” Tuty said. “I want to look ystylish and trend, without disregarding Islamic stipulations [of proper Muslim attire] and without feeling hot and stifled.”

To solve the problem, Tuty decided to design Muslim evening dresses in Solo, her hometown. She mainly used light, translucent chiffon fabric to create fashionable Muslim dresses.

“Chiffon is feminine and romantic,” she said. “The material is light, flowing and not easily crinkled.”

Tuty’s gowns attracted the attention of her friends and colleagues. Before long, many of them were placing orders with her for dresses of their own.

With the success of the amateur venture, Tuty decided to go pro in 2000 with the launch of her Muslim fashion label. She called it Bilqis, after the ancient Queen of Sheba.

“I believe almost all women dream of becoming queens and princesses,” Tuti said. “And I want to convince them that they can look like one even when they wear Muslim attire.”

Tuti’s elegant designs have caught on, earning for Bilqis a following of loyal customers. The brand is now available in exclusive boutiques in Solo, Jakarta, Surabaya and Banjarmasin.

Tuty’s success inspired her to create a book about Muslim fashion for Indonesian, titled “Flowing by Tuty Adib.” It launched recently at the Ambhara Hotel in South Jakarta.

“I want to continuously challenge myself as a Muslim fashion designer,” Tuti said. “In making the book, I had to come up with more creative styles.”

Tuti undertook that project in conjunction with freelance fashion writer Amelia Prihanto.

“Personally, I’ve always liked Tuty’s designs,” Amelia said. “I think her dresses are very feminine, elegant and proper for Muslim women. That’s why I was so delighted when she offered me the job.”

In the month they worked together, Tuty and Amelia conceptualized content, wrote outlines and took hundreds of photos.

Publishing company Dian Rakyat signed off on what the two women created and printed it in full color.

“We believe the book will give a fresh perspective on Muslim attire and become a source of inspiration for a lot of Muslim women when dressing up for formal events,” Dian Rakyat managing editor Nining Suryadi said.

The book is concerned with Tuty’s most recent designs, made mostly from chiffon. It explains the characteristics of the fabric and how best to care for it.

Chiffon is generally made from either silk or polyester. The silk kind is shimmery and probably more beautiful, but it’s also fragile and tears easily. Silk chiffon is dry-clean only, too, whereas polyester can be washed in warm water with mild detergent.

The main advantage of using chiffon for Muslim dresses is the rich variety of cuts and styles that can be created with them.

“Muslim dresses shouldn’t highlight the wearer’s body curves,” Tuty said. “Therefore, to make the dresses look chic and unique, we, Muslim fashion designers, usually layer the materials. The layers create a beautiful flowing effect when the wearer is moving.”

The light and airy fabric also allows the wearer to stay comfortable and cool.

“Moreover, chiffon will hardly add any bulk to your figure,” Tuty said.

The book offers useful tips and tricks for women of all body shapes for how best to dress in Muslim attire. Women with bulky figures and average heights, for example, should wear outfits in similar tone from head to toe to create a taller, slimmer impression.

The book also gives ample suggestions about jilbabs (Muslim headdresses for women).

“Jilbabs should be easy to put on without dozens of pins, and comfortable to wear all day long,” Tuty said.

In the book, Tuty combines many different materials in vibrant colors to create attractive jilbabs. Some look like turbans and some look like stylish hats that conceal women’s hair.

The book also offers a lot of mix-and-match suggestions between the dresses, accessories and headdresses.

“Less is more,” Tuty said. “Going to parties or formal events doesn’t mean that you have to wear a lot of dazzling accessories. A small attractive detail on the jilbab or the dress should be enough to draw attention to your presence.”

In the book, Tuty pairs her soft pastel-hued dresses with long necklaces made of textile scraps. While they do not sparkle like crystals or beads, their interesting designs and colors definitely highlight the look of the dress.

According to Tuty, all the dresses and jilbabs in the book are quite simple to wear.

“You can put them on within five to 10 minutes,” Tuty said.

It seems to be a practical solution for today’s busy women.

Taruna K. Kusmayadi, the chairman of Indonesia Fashion Designers Association (Appmi), lauded the book.

“The book is concise, yet informative and inspiring,” Taruna said. “I believe many Indonesian women will benefit from it.”

Tuty said her vision goes beyond the book.

“I hope the book will help to develop Indonesia’s Muslim fashion industry,” Tuty said. “Along with other Indonesian Muslim fashion designers, I hope Indonesia will become the trendsetter and growth barometer for international Muslim fashion attire.”