Finding clothing in Winnipeg that allows Hadjer Bendifallah to be comfortable without compromising her religious values has been challenging, she says.
Many Muslim women, including Bendifallah, seek out modest fashion that fits both their lifestyles and Islamic beliefs. It tends to reveal less skin, fit loosely and feature long dresses or pants.
While traditional items can be found in Winnipeg, some Muslim women want more places to buy their clothes. And that’s where community members are stepping up.
“It is not easy to find the clothes that meet criteria for an Islamic outfit,” said Bendifallah, who moved from Algeria to Winnipeg in 2020.
“Often, for me, I tried to adapt with what is offered in the market, because the offers are limited, so it’s not easy to find an outfit.”
WATCH | Expanding fashion options for Muslim women in Winnipeg:
One way Bendifallah’s gotten around the lack of availability is to order clothing online.
She also went to Algeria last year and brought back enough clothing to keep her covered for one year.
“But it’s not easy for all people to go to their home country and bring clothes from there,” she said.
Meriyema Seid opened Abijata Marketplace this past winter to help deal with the issue.
The clothing store on Sargent Avenue imports items from Dubai, Turkey and sometimes Saudi Arabia, Seid said. Garments at the store range from traditional items to fashionable pieces that can be worn on all occasions.
The store specializes in hijabs and abaya, Seid said, traditional clothing many women wear to go out.
Seid also used to buy clothing online, but sometimes the items she ordered didn’t fit properly.
She hopes Abijata Marketplace can make clothing shopping less of a burden for community members.
“I think it’s a good opportunity for our community,” Seid said. “It’s easy to find here.”
Hafsa Altaf, a local designer and artist specializing in modern modest fashion, wasn’t surprised to hear Bendifallah had trouble finding modest clothing in Canada — she also experienced that when she was younger.
Altaf owns Fashion by Hafsa and part of the reason she started the brand was to provide people with fun and creative options to represent themselves without compromising their values. She hopes her brand can also limit the amount of money people spend on clothes from overseas.
Altaf has been surprised to get a lot of business from non-Muslim women.
“One example is summer Islamic clothing. I found that a lot of non-Muslims wear it as well,” she said. “And this just rings true to the multicultural and accepting society in Canada, which is incredible.”
Bendifallah said it can be inspiring for the community as more stores get on board with representation and accessibility in the world of fashion.
Representation in advertising and among models is also important, she said.
“It’s hope for us to see and to find that we are here and we are present.”