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The Museum of London is constantly acquiring new items for its collection - both to fill out any gaps in our representation of London's past, but also to keep up with the constantly changing nature of the city and its inhabitants.
Sparked by my own reservations around an existing display of Muslim dress in the museum’s galleries, I was interested in exploring representations of Muslim Londoners through our fashion collections. This display (represented by the sketch on the left) stood in our World City gallery, which reflects the city and its people since 1950. A Muslim Londoner myself, I felt that this outfit – collected nearly 15 years ago now – did not reflect the creative, stylish and modest Muslim men and women that I know. The ‘What Muslims Wear’ project sought to diversify the Museum of London’s understanding of Muslim dress styles in London, by working with young Londoners to collect outfits that reflect Muslim dress in the capital today.
These stylish Muslims were performers, artists, fashion designers and journalists. Some had been Muslim all their lives, while others had converted just in the past few years, but all of them were exploring what it meant to look Muslim in London today, reflecting on the spiritual, practical and experimental motivations that inform their dress choices. Working with artists Fourth Wall Creations we set about collecting six worn outfits from young Muslim Londoners, three of which I wanted to share here.
Hiba, a young Muslim Londoner of Eritrean heritage wore this outfit on her first day as a student at the London College of Fashion in 2013. She was keen to express her Muslim identity, whilst still being on trend. She described her look as the ‘urban’ hijabi look, practical, edgy and keeping up with her hectic London lifestyle.
Focusing on outfits worn by specific young Muslims in London much better reflects the diversity and creativity of the city's population - rather than trying to create a "typical", and perhaps stereotypical, set of clothes that might stray towards a costume.
Saif wore this outfit during Eid celebrations in 2008, when he visited family and friends in East London. Saif’s outfit encapsulates his Bangladeshi heritage, as well as his East London roots.
Yasmin wore this outfit when she interviewed well known Muslim author and role model, Yasmin Mogahed for the Islam Channel, aired on Boxing Day, 2012. This was one of Yasmin’s first TV appearances.
The process of collecting the six outfits was observed and captured by illustrators OOMK (One of My Kind) and summarised in the ‘What Muslims Wear’ booklet capturing the Museum of London’s Muslim dress collection of 2014. We've now replaced the display at the top of the page with fashion items collected during this project. Head to our Galleries of Modern London to see them.
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