Discourse in clothing
the social semiotics of modesty and chic in hijab fashion
Keywords:multimodality, clothing, texture, gender, hijab, islamic
While there have been debates within gender studies on the gendering of the body and of the gendered nature of clothing, this paper shows that multimodality, with its attention to the finer details of communication, can provide a way to help us to think more carefully about how fashion communicates ideas and identities through textile affordances such as form, texture, weight, durability, colour, etc. Taking Hijab fashion in Egypt as a case in point, a multimodal approach is able to reveal how Muslim women use clothing to communicate a number of different discourses simultaneously. These include modesty, religious identity and tradition, on the one hand, and freedom, confidence and modernity, on the other. This analysis allows us both to problematize the monolithic representations of Islamic clothing usually found in Western media, and also to think more carefully about the ways in which clothing both constrains and enables women’s agency.
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