Wimples and Burkha’s – Designers exploring clothing symbolic to religions

It’s hard to avoid talking about the new style concept of collections  which designers  have adopted recently in the  fashion weeks from 2009– Designers like Stefano Pilati  covered  the heads of  5 ft 11 inch models with wimple-like hats in the YSL fall show in Paris 2010.

Stefano Pilati for Yves Saint Laurent 2010

“Stefano Pilati categorically denied there was any religious symbolism in his fall show. Nevertheless, the sober caped black forms, wimple like head coverings, starched white cotton, hoods, and heavy chain pendants gave a nun like impression.” –Style.com

Similarly, there was much talk when Ricardo Tisci in fall 2009 showed a Middle Eastern inspired collection with models wearing burkhaa-like veils.

Ricardo Tisci for Givenchy fall 2009

The gold jewelry and the black draping were dark and beautiful and the collection is one of my favourites.  While leaving the audience completely at awe,  it also left them questioning; whether the depiction of burkhaa-like veils in black reflected  the designers views on the current political and cultural clashes within the western and middle eastern world? The fact is (at least to my knowledge) although designers present controversial designs that might reflect a current situation in the national /international level. It does not necessarily mean that it is what the designer believes -Instead, designers as artists love to play with themes and different subject matter to see how their audience reacts to it. I believe that the recent trend of head coverings don’t have anything to do with designers punning on the subject of ‘burkhaa’ or a nun’s wimple.  Instead it is a way of exploring the various forms of female clothing and adornment.Head covering is not just for the pious but it had been a popular style before, from the European mansions to the east Arabian or African cultures. . Moreover, the bedouin hijab or the Indian sari is expected to be worn by the women folk mainly due to their strong cultures rather than religious obligations.

african headdress

bonnets of the 18th and 19th century

In the  18th and 19th century Europe,  women  were expected to cover their hair under bonnets  as it showed her modesty; and the bigger and more decorated it was the more fashionable it was considered. By the late 20’s hats were

the elegant cloche

simplified to modern  Chanel cloches, yet they were a must in a woman’s wardrobe.Since the end of the 60’s, wearing a hat is not fundamental to complete a woman’s dress-up. And today, wide brimmed hats are mostly donned for beach wear. However, Stefano Pilati’s exhibition for YSL, with models wearing beautiful sculptural head pieces raised eyebrows and made editors re-write the year’s styles and trends. The models looked feminine and mysterious with the head pieces flowing around the face like a veil and  made the eye focus more on the sharp tailoring of the dresses.

“It is symptomatic of a wish to remove oneself from the Nuts, Zoo and Heat magazine culture; to ask for attention by not displaying flesh; to question what is eye-catching or elegant or intriguing.” – Another magazine


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