The arguments on the Islamic way of dress, in fact, are not so recent. The Ottoman journalists especially in the last centuries of the empire often got into the same topic.
While the “Islamic fashion” industry is developing and becoming popular among Muslim masses, many critics criticize the designers for giving into a more seductive logic. The designers approach is found to be inconsistent with the spirit of the “hejab” in Islam. But contrary to what one might think, these controversies are not so recent.
The women’s magazines from the Ottoman era, such as The Ladies Log( Hanimlara mahsus Gazete ), Beauties (Mehasin) or World of Women (Kadinlar Dünyasi) touchbased on the topic more than a hundred years ago. The Ottoman women in the last centuries of the Empire were struggling to position their fashion styles because although they wanted to westernize their clothing styles they also wanted to remain faithful to the Ottoman traditions.
Their concerns were similar to the concerns of many Muslim youth of today who are wanting to follow the contemporary fashion without renouncing the Islamic requirements.
Balancing religion and aesthetics
From 1908 to 1922, during the second constitutional period of the Ottoman Empire, Western fashion was especially criticized with religious arguments. “Hanimlara mahsus Gazete” noted that the “hejab” was losing its identity and expressed regret that more and more women were turning away from the Islamic way of dressing.
However the criticisms gradually took an aesthetic turn, especially with the magazine Mehasin published in 1908. This magazine was a pioneer in ladies magazines as it relied heavily on photos. Although the magazine would even publish photos of women’s underwear, it criticized the excessiveness makeup and attire. The magazine also recommended its readers to dress more humble like the English aristocrats rather than following the French style and coquetry. To summarize, Mehasin absolutely supported Western fashion and even recommended to the Turkish women. Mehasin was instrumental in cementing the belief that “one had to follow the fashion trends”.
The inability to create a local fashion
The Kadinlar Dünyasi magazine which was first published in 1913 was a unique publication as it had no male writers. Like Hanimlara mahsus Gazete, the main question they focused on was to build a clean Ottoman fashion. The magazine even suggested opening an association to build and to defend a national fashion. The mission of this association would be to check with historians about women’s fashion, to check with the doctors the requirements in terms of health, to offer creative new models, etc. But this project could not succeed because the although the Western influences were regularly criticized, the Ottoman style also suffered from heavy criticism.
The “Conservative fashion” in Turkey is also awaiting the same fate as the so-called Islamic fashion brands show little consistency in mixing cultural values and aesthetics.