Islamic fashion goes stylish in Indonesia

Fri Nov 26, 2010 12:41am EST
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By Chandni Vatvani

JAKARTA (Reuters Life!) - Long known as feminine and demure, Indonesia's traditional kebaya is headed for a makeover at the hands of innovative designers.

Growing demand for stylish yet still modest fashions in the world's most populous Islamic nation is helping power efforts to bring Islamic fashion into the modern age, a movement symbolized by changes to the iconic kebaya, a blouse-dress combination.

Fun prints, intricate detailing, colors so bold as to be psychedelic and a mix of delicate lace all graced the catwalk at the recent Jakarta Fashion Week. One designer even paired the kebaya with red-and-yellow striped tights.

"I think it's a good presentation because if you wear Muslim clothing like this, it's not necessarily boring," Jakarta Fashion Week project manager Petty Fatimah told Reuters.

"You can definitely expect to see more Islamic fashion in the future and it is for everybody. If you're not a woman who wears Islamic clothing you can still wear it."

Though Islamic clothing is not mandatory throughout much of this vast nation, many women struggle with the desire to be both fashionable but dress in line with Islamic principles that rule against showing hair or skin.

In a nod to local mores, U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama donned a headscarf on her visit to Jakarta's Istiqlal mosque earlier this month. But wearing the headscarf is not mandatory and regulations concerning clothing are fairly liberal save for Indonesia's West Aceh district, which is the sole upholder of sharia -- or Islamic -- law.

Earlier this year, authorities in West Aceh began giving away long, loose skirts to Acehnese women wearing tight jeans.   Continued...