Islamic Cosmopolitanism: The sartorial biographies of three Muslim women in London

Tarlo, Emma. 2007. Islamic Cosmopolitanism: The sartorial biographies of three Muslim women in London. Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture, 11(2-3), pp. 143-172. ISSN 1362704X [Article]


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This article focuses on the dress of three prominent Muslim women who have made a significant mark in British public life: the textile artist Rezia Wahid, the stand-up comedienne Shazia Mirza, and the councilor and advisor on Muslim affairs Humera Khan. It focuses, in particular, on their sartorial biographies, tracing the processes, experiences, and reasoning behind their clothing choices. Whilst the wearing of dress that is visibly identifiable as Islamic is often interpreted as a sign of narrow conservatism or political activism, the biographies of these three women suggest something very different. Their sartorial choices and stylistic innovations are the creative products of cosmopolitan lifestyles and attitudes in which concerns about fashion, religion, politics, and aesthetics are interwoven in interesting ways. The article suggests that a focus on sartorial biography enables a shift away from a whole series of conventional dichotomies: religious/secular, traditional/modern, Eastern/Western, Islam/West, towards a broader understanding of the wide range of experiences and concerns that inform the clothing choices of contemporary British Muslim women. Finally, it is suggested that the proliferation of religiously oriented fashions amongst Muslims in Western metropolitan cities is not necessarily a sign of narrow conservatism. It may also signal the emergence of new forms of Islamic cosmopolitanism.

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1 September 2007Published

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12 Mar 2009 15:41

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29 Apr 2020 15:32

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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