Al Jazeera World

Hijabi fashion in Turkey

An insight into the glamorous world of hijabi fashion and how it reflects social change in Turkey.

Filmmaker: Ayse Toprak

Class dynamics are changing in Turkey.

When Turkey was founded in 1923 it was on firm secular principles. Turkish women were restricted in wearing the headscarf – known as the hijab outside Turkey – in all public sector jobs and universities for most of the 20th century.


by ”Hulya

other fashion magazines. We can’t dress short and slim fit. This is what our religion requires and what dressing modestly means.”]

During the current AKP party government, a young, confident, female, Muslim middle class has emerged, that is less worried about being socially accepted and more comfortable sharing public spaces with secularists.

Hulya Aslan is the editor of Ala, a monthly fashion magazine in Istanbul that serves a growing Turkish market of Muslim women who think that fashion and Islam are compatible – “conservative” women who want to wear the hijab but also want to dress fashionably, with colour and style.

“Covering” in Turkey once meant long, cover-all tunics called “pardessus”. But now that clothes designers have started to cater much more to Muslim women who want to dress modestly, it can mean colours, glossy fashion magazines and high street hijabi fashion stores.

“In the 90’s, covering meant pardessus and a black burqa. Those pardessus were very ugly. They were seen as similar to wearing a black burqa. Most women didn’t want to cover because they wanted to be fashionable,” says Taha Yasin Toraman, the co-founder of online hijabi fashion outlet E-Tesettur.

But not all agree with the new, arguably commercial look. Busra Bulut, a student and journalist who writes for the conservative Turkish news magazine Haksoz strongly opposes it. She feels there is a tension between her faith and the consumerism represented by Ala and the fashion industry.

“They claim to create alternatives for covered women, whether it’s a magazine or other platforms. But the fact that there are hundreds of brands doesn’t mean I can wear them or that they’re Islamic…. Why should a woman need to use dress to show herself off? Or to exist? It’s a key question. Why does she need to create her identity through dressing up? Why is this a priority?” says Bulut.

This film follows Hulya Aslan at Ala and looks at hijabi fashion, social change in Turkey and the ongoing debate about a Muslim woman’s right to choose how she dresses.