“I wanted to show that it’s possible for girls to have their own style while still shopping at mainstream stores.”

Summer Albarcha of Hipster Hijabis

Earlier this summer, Summer Albarcha of Hipster Hijabis caused quite a stir when she posted a photo of herself wearing a skirt from an Orthodox Jewish boutique, Mimu Maxi. The store was also criticized when they re-posted her OOTD photo because she’s a Muslim woman and it happened during the escalating conflict in Gaza. But despite that, the controversy ended up opening a lot of people’s minds to the idea of “modest dressing,” not as a tool of oppression, but as something empowering and even, yes, stylish. Seriously, if you need some layering 101, you will surely learn a thing or two or more from Summer on her lookbooks and popular Instagram account with over 19,000 followers. And so I thought, everyone should know Summer Albarcha! That is why I reached out to her and asked her about her passions, inspirations and her fashion style. And this is her story…

Her Story

“I’ve lived in Saint Louis for most of my life, being originally born in Ohio. My father was born in Damascus, Syria, and my mother was also born and raised in Saint Louis, but originally Syrian. I like Saint Louis because it can be seen as a big and small city all in one. There is quite a fashion scene in Saint Louis, with STL Fashion Week coming up next month, and Missouri Style Week having taken place last week. I live in the suburbs but attend a university in downtown and so I find wearing any kind of style appropriate for my activities (high city chic vs. jeans-and-tshirt suburb living).

The Founding of Hipster Hijabis

I am passionate about fashion, public speaking, interfaith, business and guitar. I was always interested in fashion from a young age. My mother would find me drawing all my clothes from my closet and mix and matching them on paper to create outfits for weeks ahead. Even though I went to a private school with uniform, I always found fashion my out of school passion. I began fashion blogging after creating an Instagram in 2012 and seeing people use it as an outlet for their fashion creativity. I had always received questions in high school on how I managed to create in-style outfits with a head scarf and so I created my own page to make it easier for others to see and keep track of my outfit ideas.

I am inspired by simplicity but also the idea of standing out in the crowd without drawing negative attention.

I would describe my blog as effortless, simplistic, nonconformist, feminine, and fun. I always lived by the idea that modesty was the way one dealt with beauty, not the way one avoided it, and so through Hipster Hijabis I intended to show this message to women across the world who might be struggling because in today’s society body adornment comes before modesty. I wanted the transition to wearing the headscarf and/or dressing more modestly in public to be easy for everyone as easy as it was for me. Also, attending a public high school, I saw the enormous amount of high school girls that followed the same mainstream fashion, whether it be leggings and sweaters or high-waisted denim shorts and crop tops. I wanted to show that it’s possible for [Muslim] girls to have their own style while still shopping at mainstream stores.

I am inspired by simplicity but also the idea of standing out in the crowd without drawing negative attention. I always think it’s best to look as if the outfit was effortless to make, yet still cute and modest.

Her Style

Hijab definitely puts limits on what types of fashion to take part in and not, but I never saw it as inhibiting my direct sense of style. I search for items in style that are still considered modest, such as tunics, maxi skirts, oversized cardigans…etc. It actually gives me more of a creative outlet in fashion since it requires me to work with a limited amount of clothing styles, yet create numerous stylish outfits with them, and I always enjoy a good challenge.

I would probably say I break the “no white after labor day” rule very often (is it even still a rule?). White is just so elegant and I find it to be a perfect color year round. I also hardly ever wear animal prints, and especially don’t mix them.

[A hijab] actually gives me more of a creative outlet in fashion since it requires me to work with a limited amount of clothing styles

My favorite places to shop would be Zara, H&M and Forever 21. As for designers, I love the elegant runway dress designs by Chanel and Dior. I also think Prada bags are gorgeous.

I skimp on everyday outfit pieces such as tees and jeans because I find that the low priced quality isn’t too different from that of higher quality, and girls tend to buy several of those pieces and wear them not too often. I do however like to splurge on accessories such as handbags, watches and shoes because I find these pieces to last longer and make a greater statement than the actual clothing pieces.

Ultimate Showpiece

I am a huge fan of statement necklaces. I think they’re the perfect outfit completer when stuck wearing two plain colors. I love the trend and I won’t let it go fade out (hopefully!).

Next “Must-Have” Purchase

I own a few handbags that I feature very often in my outfits on Instagram so I think adding an extra handbag to the collection would be nice.

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What’s next for Summer Albarcha?

My next step is to get my Youtube Video channel going with look books and tutorials in the near future.

Fashion Advice

One tip I’d give to anyone seeking fashion advice, especially for a more modest appearance is to never go out of one’s way to make an outfit “modest” or appropriate for a head scarf. Rather, try buying pieces that are in style and already modest. Avoid wearing pieces that are already immodest to begin with, such as miniskirts, and trying to pair them with leggings. Wearing more long sleeve tops or jackets/cardigans make outfit pairing much easier, rather than worrying about adding sleeves under a tank or tank tops under low cut tops. For those wearing the hijab, it should serve as an enhancement to the outfit, not a barrier. There is an unlimited amount of fashion out there so it’s best not to pick out pieces that will make appearing modest look complicated. On Hipster Hijabis, I try to show “tumblr” inspired outfits compared to the one I’m wearing in order to show that it’s doable to dress similar to outfits I like and not make the hijab a barrier.”

-As told to Style Vanity. Photos courtesy of Hipster Hijabis and Summer Albarcha’s Instagram.