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When the the non-Muslim world thinks of clothing for observant Muslim women, they tend to picture unflattering and loose silhouettes in drab, dark colors. But style options are endless as long as modesty is a component: some women choose to cover their hair with turban styles, others with hijabs wrapped in soft layers to frame the face; and others do not cover their hair at all, choosing to focus on long dress lengths and sleeves. These choices are rarely discussed in mainstream fashion publications, but over the last few decades, Muslim women all over the world have collectively decided to take control of their sartorial image, and social media is helping them do it.

A new exhibit at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco aims to showcase all of the elements that make up Muslim women’s fashion. Contemporary Muslim Fashions shows over eighty different ensembles, from burkinis to ball gowns to sportswear, created by both established and emerging designers from all over the world. Fine art photographs and social media installations line the walls of the exhibit to help illustrate the layered and complicated story of modest Muslim fashion.

“The modest fashion industry is estimated at $44 billion,” said Reina Lewis, a professor and the author of Muslim Fashion: Contemporary Style Cultures who’s the consulting curator for Contemporary Muslim Fashions. “It’s rising faster than other sectors. Muslims, globally, are a youthful and growing population and modest fashion is having a moment on the global catwalks."

Max Hollein, former Director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, enlisted Lewis to join Jill D’Alessandro, Curator in Charge of Costume and Textile Arts, and Laura L. Camerlengo, Associate Curator of Costume and Textiles at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, to curate this exhibit two years ago. They worked closely with the local Muslim community to solicit feedback on the project...

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