when i don’t feel good in a scarf

September 29, 2017

Don’t get me wrong, I love wearing the scarf. I did it on my own as an adult, no one forced me and I honestly feel a sense of calm and sophistication. I love that I bring a tangible piece of my religion wherever I go and I have that sense of “ok gotta behave and sit up straight and not terkangkang, gotta smile and be polite to people always” because I carry a certain responsibility with this one piece of scarf. Oh, you save a lot on hair maintenance too, fyi! Haha. 

But I’m going to be honest. There are few instances where I feel less than pretty in it. I’ve identified three times I’ve ever felt that way: 

  1. when I go overseas and no one there wears a scarf 
  2. when I go on beach holidays 
  3. sometimes when I take pictures and it just doesn’t look good 

For no 1, there’s not much you can do. It’s just the case of being different in a place with a differing culture. It’s like an Asian person in a room full of non-Asians. Or a black person in a room full of whites. You have to either change to be like them so you can “fit in” or you can accept the differences and let your personality shine instead. Easier said than done, but in this case, I choose the latter because it doesn’t compromise who you are and it always works. If you take off your headscarf to fit in, with that reasoning, do you expect the black guy to do plastic surgery to look white to fit in? Two extremes of course, but same basis of belief – to fit in. Unless it’s for security and safety, people who take off their headscarves to fit in basically gave in to social pressures. Gotta just have a thick face and a big smile, and more often than not, people respect you even more.

No 2. I still struggle with this. I generally don’t like beach holidays because I’m scared of the ocean. But ever since wearing the headscarf a few years back I dread beach holidays. No hijabi wants to say it but we all struggle to dress for the beach and we usually look really awkward. They’re two competing views: beach = sun, tanning, tight swimming clothes, lightweight sheer clothes. Hijab = covered, layering. The beach is hot and people come to bare and tan, and us hijabis are trying to wear burkinis, or light kaftans (with our inners inside) and big hats to look cool and “suntan” too, but it all looks really bad. I follow a lot of hijabis and I’m being honest here – I haven’t seen one that looks good in a Burkini. We all just end up wearing big shirts and leggings and our scarves flying everywhere uncomfortably, next to our sister in law who looks amazing in her one piece swimsuit and hair blowing in the wind (Hi Yas!). We shouldn’t NOT go on a beach holiday because of this, but we have to swallow the fact that we’re not going to look the most attractive so it’s good to come in accepting that. It’s especially hard when people recognise you and want to take photos with you when you don’t feel you look your best. We also have to accept the fact that hot girls in bikinis passing in front of our husbands is going to make us gulp, but that’s when you point to things and say “Look Sayang, a bird!” And make him look up instead. (And then you repeat with pointing to a boat, the sand, the sky, that uncle digging his nose… just anything!). In all honesty, beach holidays for hijabis are hard so you need to have a sense of humour. Especially for me who used to be one of those girls in swimsuits before, it’s a big change.

No 3. Now, you guys know I take pictures of my outfit for a living – it’s called ootd. I have to take photos of what I wear everyday and I feel so passionate about local brands that I want to promote them. And what I wear usually sells out so I know it helps their sales and this motivates me to ootd more. Also omg I’ve started this 3 pics in a row thing on Insta which I think is so cool and I sigh of happiness when I see my “neat” feed but I won’t get into cos I’m diverting again. Vivy Yusof, focus! ANYWAY yes yes, so basically I need to look good in photos. 

After taking thousands of photos I start seeing that my poses are the same and my facial expressions are repeated too. Clothes are just clothes but it’s the attitude that takes it up a notch. And it’s really hard to show “attitude” with just facial expressions. And you can’t be all extra with your hands and legs because that’s not suitable with your image anymore. I’m not kidding guys, the secret to a gorgeous photo is the hair. Take any magazine ad you see with a girl’s hair beautifully flowing. Cover that and put a headscarf on her – the effect is completely different and less “vavavoom”. Unless in the photo, the headscarf has some sort of “flying” effect that makes people go wow hot dayummmm exhibit A Yuna’s cover in Vogue Arabia… but let’s face it, in real life, you can’t keep walking with 2 guys blowing at you left and right with a hairdryer to get that effect (well you could, I guess, but you’d have to bring super long wire plug extensions… and you won’t be able to hear anything with all that blowing…). The hair can be changed with styles and colour to help determine the mood of the outfit from head to toe so it’s that much harder for hijabis to complete the look we are going for. This is where hijabis go wrong – when they think it’s the same concept with scarves and they get all creative – braiding their scarves, draping and twisting it everywhere, layering many colours to substitute “highlights”, wearing a headband on top, putting strips of coloured diamantes, adding ruffles etc etc. I just cannot guyssss. It looks so try-hard. The best way to wear a headscarf is to just keep it simple and elegant. Well, to me, anyway. But again, the problem with that is it waters down the effect of an outfit and ootd photos become a lot simpler and less exciting compared to non-hijabis. The fact is that nice hair gives that wow effect in photos and not being able to use that sometimes makes me feel less impactful as a “fashion icon” as some have labelled me. That’s just the way it is and when I was talking to Fadza about it just now, he nodded but pointed out something interesting. 

“But then you’re blessed,” he said smiling.

“Why is that? My ootd photos are less wow,” I argued. 

“It depends on your intention. You need people to see your clothes and so do these others fashion influencers. You guys normally want people to see the products, right?” He asked. 

“Yes, I need people to see the products,” I confirmed. 

“Ok then imagine if your hair takes over the photos and people just look at your hair, and nothing else,” he said. 

“Huh?” I asked. 

“Don’t you see? You want people to see the clothes etc but whenever you post it, people say oooo where did you do your hair and oooo nice hair, gorgeous hair. And you’re like no no look at my clothes, guys, not my hair.” 

I laughed. 

“See! So be thankful people look at your clothes. Once you start showing hair, the focus is divided. Then our sales will fall, then you realise you want to wear tudung again.” 


He is soooo lame! But ok, I’ll take it. 

At the end of the day, we try to always find reason to put ourselves down. 

For No 1, I realise that me feeling out of place is just my thoughts. If you ignore those thoughts, start smiling at people, start speaking and engaging in conversations, people see you for who you are.

For No 2, I will always dread beach holidays but nothing fills the joy in my heart more than seeing my family enjoying time together. My kids don’t care if I wear a big shirt or a gorgeous kaftan with thigh high slit. They just want Mommy to play in the sand with them. My husband hates it when I think too much about how I look – he just wants me to join in the fun, Burkini or not. The way he hugs me, looks at me, kisses me, is the same with or without my headscarf on. 

For No 3, gorgeous photos mean nothing if they don’t serve the purpose you want. Mine might be to increase sales for local brands, but yours could be different – maybe more followers, maybe more likes on social media, maybe to get more modelling jobs for income. So just check if it does what you want it to. For local brands I talk to, photos that help them convert to higher sales most is always from 2 people – me and Lofa. And both of us wear the headscarf. So bam! What more do I want if my purpose is served? 

At the end of the day, turn everything into a positive. Don’t let insecurities doubt your choices in life because your insecurities are just distractions swaying you away from the prize. There will always be days you feel meh, even if you don’t wear the headscarf. That’s why you always need a sense of humour and a reminder on what your purpose really is. And this really applies to anything in life.