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Women Undercover

Exploring the Intersectional Identities of Muslim Women through Modest Fashion.

  • FCAD Centre for Fashion Diversity & Social Change
  • Ryerson School of Fashion


Lead Researcher Romana B. Mirza begins her PhD in the joint graduate program Communication and Culture offered by Ryerson and York Universities and begins to define an expanded scope of research in modest fashion.

Findings from the 2018/19 research was presented in April 2019. This blog post, external link is based on the script from the presentation. The “Women Undercover” Master Research Project paper can now be downloaded from Ryerson University’s Library Digital Repository.

Modest Fashion 2 “Revolution or Revival” 
was held on Tuesday March 12, 2019. A lecture by Romana Mirza was followed by a panel discussion with visionary entrepreneurs immersed in Modest Fashion to discuss the industry’s rapid evolution and its future: Dr. Umar Dar of Tuesday in Love, external link, a cosmetics company offering halal product to the Muslim consumer; Ms. Nadia Ibrahim, founder of modest fashion design label The Wifey Collection, external link; and Ms. Tahira Munir, designer and founder of modest fashion design label Nur by Tahira, external link and The Nur Shop, external link, a modest fashion retail store in Ajax. This lecture was brought to you by the Centre for Fashion Diversity and Social Change and the Ryerson School of Fashion in the Faculty of Communication and Design.

The inaugural Modest Fashion Digital Storytelling Workshop was held in The Catalyst at the FCAD Centre for Fashion Diversity and Social Change, January 25-27, 2019. heck out a review on the digital storytelling workshop conducted in this study. 2018

In the fall of 2018, sixteen wardrobe interviews with Muslim women ranging in age from 23 to 73 were conducted. All research participants wear the headscarf and dress modestly and come from a range of cultural backgrounds. The findings from this research will be published in Romana Mirza’s final MRP thesis submission in 2019 

As part of her internship in the graduate MA Fashion program, Romana Mirza completed the analysis and findings report for “the first, most comprehensive study, external link giving voice to modest fashion consumers” (IFDC, external link, 2018). In October 2018 she was quoted in British Vogue, external link on the behavioural habits of modest fashion consumers.

Two inaugural Modest Fashion 1 lectures “Is it just a Muslim thing?” and “Modest Fashion – Tradition, Innovation, Subversion” were held and recognized, external link as a step toward expanding Ryerson’s School of Fashion focus on diversity in fashion. The lectures exposed students to the vast influence pop culture has on Modest Fashion and began to explore the intersectional identities of Muslims who choose to dress modestly as prescribed by their faith tradition.

This project introduces the ethnographic research method of wardrobe interviews to research in modest fashion and the arts-based research method of digital storytelling to fashion studies. The first stage of the project consists of interviews with women of diverse ages, bodies, professions, and ethnicities. During this stage, participants provide a tour of their wardrobes and describe the feelings and memories they attach to their clothes. This format allows the exploration of participants’ wardrobes in a setting that is familiar and allows them to open up and share memories of worn experiences both positive and negative.

The second stage is a digital storytelling workshop. Where current scholarship fails to uncover the deeper, nuanced experience of wearing the hijab digital stories allow research participants to have agency over their stories and express deeper and more subtle feelings.

This video was created by the lead researcher, Romana Mirza, in the Researcher-in-Training Digital Storytelling Workshop led by the Re•Vision Centre & Bodies in Translation, University of Guelph in April 2018.

This research presents new ways of learning about the lived experiences of Muslim Women who wear the headscarf or hijab in the West that have not been explored by diverse academic voices. The goal of this research is to build understanding between communities by breaking stigmas associated with Muslim women's dress while disproving stereotypes driven by misogynistic and unrealistic ideals constructed by Western culture.

#modestfashion #artsbasedresearch #fashionstudies #digitalstorytelling

These digital stories were developed by participants in the digital storytelling workshop facilitated by Romana Mirza and hosted by the Centre for Fashion Diversity and Social Change in January 2019 at The Catalyst, Faculty of Communication and Design, Ryerson University.

Underneath this hijab

Beyond the cover

  • “Contemporizing Modesty”, external link
  • “Legislating the Female Body: The Burkini™ Controversy and Contemporary Swimwear Needs” Poster Presentation
  • “Advancing Research in Modest Fashion Through Arts-based Methods” presented at the Popular Culture Association 2019 National Conference