In her first column for TheLatch—, Australian fashion icon and Instagram influencer, Nawal Sari, shares what modest fashion means to her, and reveals the many sources of inspiration that drive her unique and game-changing style.
When I decided to wear the hijab at 16, I thought there was no place for me in the fashion world anymore. I never saw hijabi models or Muslim women generally represented in mainstream media.
But I always knew I was creative, and I quickly realised when I graduated high school that I had a chance to make a change. I wanted young Muslim Aussie girls never to feel that way I did when I was 16.
Now, as a modest fashion influencer with a supportive following of over 120,000 on Instagram, I’m working to redefine modest fashion — one creative outfit at a time.
I define modest fashion as a styling choice for both men and women that prefers to conceal parts of the body, and for some women — like myself — dressing modestly is to also respect and create a closer connection to one’s faith.
To dress modestly is common in many religions and cultures for both sexes. Muslim women, for example, can wear the hijab, burqa, niqab or even just looser clothing, while Muslim men can express modesty by concealing from the naval to the knee.
To dress modestly can mean wearing anything from tops, skirts or pants with a modest fit, and just as all forms of fashion are meant to be expressive, creative and most importantly, personal, modest fashion is the same.
And just like any new trend or way of dressing draws inspiration from sources around, so too do I when it comes time to create my looks.
The women in my family have always dressed so impeccably and I have long looked to them a source of inspiration — from my mum donning a boho look to my sisters loving a more grungy ’80s aesthetic.
As for me, I’ve always found the ’90s and ’00s fashion to resonate most, and an example of how I’ve drawn inspiration from these eras is my current layering of a bandana over my hijab, just like in Lizzie McGuire and The Cheetah Girls, which I loved watching growing up.
Safe to say, anything I love or find interesting, I am drawn to. And if I love the trend, I’ll find a way to incorporate the look into my daily outfits.
When it comes down to it, my modest fashion means I am able to respect my faith and represent my community whilst also still having fun and being entirely myself. I’ve loved fashion since I was a little girl, and throughout my life, I have been so inspired by new trends and have always enjoyed how amazing I felt in a new outfit.
Today, as a 21-year-old woman who wears the hijab, I still feel the same way. I love keeping track of trends and finding new ways to express myself, and my hijab has never come in the way of the art of it either. If I love a dress that isn’t long enough to cover where I want it to, I’m inspired to find a way to layer and style myself so that I feel comfortable in it.
Ultimately, modest fashion means I can be myself and dress how I want. Just like any woman has the right to.
Starting my Instagram, I had no intention of ending up with such a large platform to which I could share my message. Now, with a dedicated and supportive following of 120,000, my Instagram is a place where not only am I organically Nawal, but I’m also unapologetically Muslim and love wearing my hijab.
The campaigns I book, the outfits I post, and the companies I align myself with are all a part of my mission to inspire other Muslim girls and everyone who wants to have fun with fashion and not feel pressure to compromise their faith or feel excluded in any way.
To many, modest fashion is considered boring, oppressing and niche, but for me, it’s none of these things. This is why I’m on a mission to redefine modest fashion.