How to Style Your Hijab for Class

With the recent celebration of World Hijab Day women across the globe shared what their relationship with their hijab is like on social media. Those who wear it everyday spoke about their experiences and those who wear it sometimes expressed how it made them feel. For women, it is not only a religious or cultural object but also a symbol of freedom – the freedom to choose what they want to do with their bodies, whether they choose to wear the hijab or not. We asked Ohio University graduate student Sundus Zahra what exactly a hijab is. “For me hijab is any piece of scarf, shawl, stole or cloth that you somehow style around your head,”, she says. She was brought up in Pakistan and wears hijab when she wants to. “From where I come from a lot of people wear hijab for religious reasons which is great. But I don’t always wear it for religious reasons.” So, we asked her to show us how she styles her hijab for when she wears it to class. Brace yourself for some serious fashion envy!

  • Play with the prints.

“Hijab can be of different levels, hijab can involve completely covering your head or it could be slightly covering your head,” says Zahra. Here she wears a bright kurta (a long top typically till your knee) and understated straight-leg pants with embroidery. She pairs this with a bright hijab with floral prints that she casually throws around her head and shiny silver flats. This outfit is perfect for summer when you want to wear light fabrics and comfortable kicks.

  • Ace it with accessories.

Zahra says, “How you play around with your hair and how you pair hijab with your earrings – it makes you look different.” Here she combines a top with busy prints with a solid-colored hijab in a soft, nude tone. She pairs this with her long, dangling earrings and wears eye-catching makeup. Pair this with high heels for when you must dress formally for an important presentation in class.

  • Go all out with outerwear.

If you don’t want the hijab to be the focus of your outfit, pair it with bright jackets. “Different styles of hijab bring out a different personality in you,” says Zahra. She wears a pale pink hijab with geometric motifs along with a bright red trench coat. She keeps the rest of the outfit simple with a grey tee and fitted, black trousers. This is an easy outfit perfect for those 9 am classes.

  • Dealing with details.

For when you want to make an impression, you can also pair your hijab with other eye-catching elements for a memorable look. Zahra says, “On my gloomy days if I put a bright lipstick and if I dress up it cheers me up.” She pairs her black hijab covered in silver accents with a drool-worthy jacket with gold detailing. Wear this when you’re fishing for compliments!

Most importantly Zahra suggests that you should wear hijab in a way that makes you feel comfortable and confident. “Everyone should be allowed to wear and style their clothes the way they want,” she says.



How to Wear Ethnic Pieces to Class

We all have something in our wardrobe that holds cultural value to us – an item from home that reminds us of comfort, care and cuddles. It might be an intricate piece of jewelry passed down to you or an ugly item that you don’t throw away just because it was from Grandma. When I moved from India to the United States six months ago my mother lovingly packed a few clothes and accessories from home – I bet you have something similar. But don’t let the loudness of it deter you, there are ways to wear them with Western pieces and still look casual. Here I have used pieces from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, but you can use these guidelines to sport any ethnic piece you have and look stylish.

  • Start small

If you usually go to class in grubby sweatpants and you happen to show up one day in an elaborate costume, there are bound to be some eyes rolling. So, take baby steps by slowly integrating ethnic accessories into your outfit while keeping the rest of it still Western and simple. I had a pair of intricate earrings that are quite attention-grabbing, so I wore them with black, round shades that didn’t have any detailing and a simple outfit.

Image courtesy Michelle Michael
  • Balance busy prints with solid colors

A lot of ethnic items often have busy prints or intricate details – loud animal or floral motifs, extremely small designs repeated a thousand times, delicate embroidery scattered across the entire garment. These pieces can be eye-catching so pair them with solid colors to provide a blank background for your ethnic piece to enhance its design. I wore a colorful dupatta (a long scarf from Pakistan) with floral motifs along with a white tee and shorts so that my scarf is the focus of the outfit.

Image courtesy Michelle Michael
  • Jeans make everything casual

There is a reason why jeans are everyone’s go-to clothing item – it can make you look put-together without any effort. Pairing it with ethnic pieces is easy because jeans go with everything. If you want a more streamlined look go for a fitted pair of black jeans, if you want something more relaxed try wearing blue jeans with a boyfriend fit (don’t forget to roll the bottoms!) I paired my soft, blue kurti (a long top worn commonly in India) with a pair of stripped boyfriend jeans and black boots.

Image courtesy Michelle Michael
  • Pair bright colors with neutrals

Western fashion takes a lot of inspiration from French fashion, so it is dominated with neutrals. Black, white, brown, beige, navy blue and grey are the most commonly-worn colors sometimes with a dash of bright hues. So, take an item with any of these colors and pair them with something bright – this combination is easy on the eyes and looks like you really spent time getting ready. I am sporting a sarong (a long, fitted skirt worn popularly in Sri Lanka) that has an interplay of blue, gold and red shades. I paired it with a black tee to make the outfit simpler and a black leather jacket.