Dolce & Gabbana has become the latest fashion label to enter the brave new world of “hijab chic.” This week, the high-end designer released photos of a drop-dead gorgeous—and presumably drop-dead expensive—collection of hijabs, abayas, and other pieces of traditional Muslim garb, intended to adorn the kind of woman who doesn’t want to let a mandate of enforced modesty get in the way of wearing an outfit that runs into the five figures.
Other designers, of course, have dipped their toes in this singularly lucrative market, but none with quite the eye for detail and adherence to their own aesthetic (see: the black lace, the intricate floral embroidery) as Dolce & Gabbana. Perhaps they’ve cracked the code, or maybe it’s just that the Dolce & Gabbana sexy-Sicilian widow look lends itself particularly well to head-to-toe black, but I have to say: it works. I want one. I’ve thought for a while that the humble headscarf (think Princess Grace protecting her hairdo as she speeds through the Apennines in her canary-yellow convertible) needs to make a come back. But now I’m feeling the urge to swath myself to the ankles, hiding any and all unsightly lumps and bumps under yards and yards of gorgeously embellished fabric. Call me a fashion victim, if you must. (I am a person who counts the experience of once trying on a D&G corset dress at Bergdorf Goodman to be among the most painful of her life.)
Cultural appropriation is rampant in the fashion industry, of course. It’s even arguable that it’s what the entire glitzy enterprise is based on. Jews, of course, are included. I’ve written previously about the influence ultra-Orthodox codes of modesty have had on fashion of late, not to mention Jean-Paul Gaultier’s semi-notorious 90’s-era Hasidic collection, featuring Old World caftans and long side curls. And of course, we also get the random misfires: the “striped scarf” from H&M that looks like a tallit, which the company seems to put out a version of every year; that horrible/hilarious Zara children’s tee featuring a conspicuous yellow six-pointed star on a striped background—perfect for your toddler’s annual Yom HaShoah pageant, I guess.
But the D&G hijab line is appropriation—and it’s authentic. These are actual pieces of traditional Muslim garb, meant for traditional (and vastly wealthy) Muslim women who want to look stylish and beautiful, while still conforming to religiously-mandated codes of dress. In a nutshell: we can’t have them. Cultivating an aura of exclusivity? Engendering massive envy in thousands of people by producing beautiful things that only a very small and select group can wear? In short, starting yet another club in which hardly anyone can become a member? Sounds like fashion to me.