From Modest to Big Sweaty Mess: Why Hijab Is Nearly Impossible in the Summer

I live in New York City, where the temperatures reach the 90s in the summer with humidity making it feel like it’s almost 100 degrees. Now to an average person, the heat is just the heat. I mean, it’s just weather right? Well not if you’re me – or any Muslim woman who chooses to cover for that matter. Figuring out which hijab and clothes to wear that adhere to the Islamic principles of dress, but still prevent me from becoming a puddle of sweat, is rather difficult.

I’m actually disappointed in myself. In the 11 years I’ve been wearing hijab, I haven’t figured it out. I still end up wearing hijabs that make my head feel like I just took a shower (sorry, is that gross?) or I wind up layering with a long sleeved shirt that should be saved for December weather. This morning I woke up to the weather report saying it was going to be humid and warm and I stood there in front of my closet asking myself “What am I going to wear?!” To my husband it’s a dumb question, because he thinks I have a full wardrobe, but I’ll save that for another post.

Even though I haven’t mastered being a hijabi in the heat, I have compiled a list of things that do and don’t work in making your wardrobe as breathable as possible.

1. Try to avoid layering

As cute as short sleeve dresses are, it’s next to impossible to wear a long sleeved shirt underneath them (Unless you’re planning on sweating off your weight, but that’s up to you). Also, if you’re wearing a short sleeved shirt, don’t think you can get away with wearing a sweater to cover your arms. Nothing looks weirder than a hijabi sister wearing a sweater in August. If you do wear a short sleeved dress though, consider buying detachable sleeves to cover your arms instead.

2. Don’t wear black

Repeat after me: Wearing black absorbs heat which means you’ll feel hotter. Put away your black hijabs for 2 months and experiment with fun summer colors. Now, I’m not saying go out and buy a neon green hijab, but consider warm blues or soft purple hijabs. If it’s hard to wear a colored hijab because of your uniform at work or university, brown and tan hijabs are great options as well.

3. Pay attention to the material of your hijab

Out of all the hijabs I have, crinkle hijabs made out of chiffon make me sweat the most. I cannot wear them during the summer so I have to store them away until the fall. Cotton hijabs are usually the best way to go but if you can’t find them look for thin pashminas. Side note- keep your hijab styles as simple as possible too; the fewer folds you make on the top, the cooler your head will be.

4. Consider wearing maxi dresses instead of an abaya

If you wear an abaya instead of pants, wearing a maxi dress is a great option so you don’t feel overheated by layering so much. You can get them tailored to fit you as well. This brings me to my next point …

5. Consider getting your clothes made by a tailor

If you’re of South East Asian decent like me, you have probably worn shalwar kameez that have been sewn by someone. Traditional Pakistani clothing can often be bright and vibrant in color, so some tend to be put off wearing them out in public. However if you shop at a fabric store, you can find many solid colors that can be made into beautiful tunics, long dresses and tops that are 100% hijab friendly. Nothing is more beautiful than wearing a long sleeved top made to fit you, made out of comfortable material that will let your skin breathe in the heat. If you’re not sure where to get started, ask any of your desi friends where they buy their material from. If you’re in New York and need the names of stores and tailors, feel free to tweet me!

6. Take it slow

Being covered in 90 degree heat can be dangerous. Take all the necessary precautions to shield yourself from the sun; wear sunglasses or even a sun hat. Drink plenty of water and take breaks inside an air-conditioned store if you’ll be out all day.

When I made the decision to wear hijab, I didn’t really give much thought to how it would make me feel in the summer. Now that all these years have passed, I do sometimes dread the heat because it genuinely gets frustrating being covered. But whenever the frustrations arise, I just remember one thing: the reward. The reward for wearing hijab is pretty high- imagine how much Allah is blessing us when we choose to stay modest regardless of the temperature. For that alone, I’ll brave New York City temperatures every day.

By: @MiriamMahmood (MW Contributor)

Miriam is a full time mother, wife and paralegal residing in New York City. Her writing stems from her experiences in this thing called life.

12 thoughts on “From Modest to Big Sweaty Mess: Why Hijab Is Nearly Impossible in the Summer”

  1. Salamualaykum,
    I just started wearing hijab, haven’t completed a year yet, but nshaaAllah I will. Hijabs are beautiful someone once told me that even we don’t feel we look beautiful to ourselves when we look in the mirror with the hijab, we have a beautiful light to others that we can’t always see and when we take it off in our house there we find ourselves saying how come we can’t look like this always, when in fact we do, we just can’t see it. Allah is beautiful and He loves beauty. Just because we wear hijab doesn’t mean we can’t dress up, look cute and attractive not for anyone but for ourselves and our personal self esteem. It’s all about intention and Allah supan Allah is the only one who can read those intentions. None of us should be shrouded in dark colors the whole time if we look around at the beautiful colors of earth we would know Allah loves colors.
    I know this thread is talking about how to survive hijab in hot weather, bit I live in Kuwait and stay cold even in the summer so weather doesn’t bother me so much.
    May Allah bless you all and thank you allowing me to share my thoughts.


  2. AssalaamuAleikum Sis, the weather can be fairly hot in the UK too..

    Whilst I was working, I find it very hard to ‘dress down’ as there is never a professional way of looking with JUST an abaya. Instead I’d wear blazers with abaya’s to give it that ‘professional look.’ As a result, I’d be pretty much sweating throughout the day and running to the bathroom to run cold water on my body.

    How I have managed to deal with the heat is to NOT wear maxi’s or colourful hijabs and abaya’s as all of this is bringing attention to ourselves (which defeats the purpose of the hijab and its modesty), but what I suggest is wear the one-piece or two-piece jilbab. Honestly, it’s the most comfortable thing ever, the material is very light, the dress is very loose on the body and you get all the space and air coming from in, making it cooler. These jilbabs may look unflattering but who cares.. 🙂 Furthermore, there is no need to put on a head scarf with jilbabs, as it’s from head to toe MashaaAllah. I have been wearing it the past week with less clothing than what I would wear with abaya’s. Furthermore, abaya’s are more fitting than these one-piece or two-piece jilbabs which means you have to watch what your wearing (or not wearing) underneath as everything is shown, if you know what I mean. At least try is and you will see for yourself.

    May Allah help you this ramadhan as we prepare for what is considered a ‘very long ramadhan.’

    JazakAllah Khair


    1. While I do appreciate you taking the time to write the comment, I did not say to wear bright colored hijabs. In fact I said “don’t buy lime green” which meant bright colored overall.


  3. Thank you for this post. I haven’t started wearing hijab yet but I do want to soon in shaa Allah and I’ve slowly started changing my wardrobe. It doesn’t get as hot here in Sweden as it does in NY though, and alhamdulillah it’s not humid, but it’s good to know these things for when we travel to Bangladesh.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. When I see this post. I think I need to add some tips, since Im from city which temp around 80 – 100°F 24/7 all years.
    But first, you are using Fahrenheit scale, rite sister? Cause my country use Celcius, so I got confuse. 100°C is a boiling point tho~ hahaha

    1. Try to use onepiece cloth. No outer or inside. (Yes no layer) instead try to use cotton singlet inside to adsorb your sweat.
    2. Long sleeve Maxidress or Midi dress(with legging) is cool.
    3. Use one size bigger, to avoid sticky and greasy feeling because of sweats
    4. Shiffon, spandek(like soccer tee), thin cotton, hawaiian(?) cotton material are good
    5. Drink a lot of water. Bring your bottle water with you. Dont ever dehidrate your self. (Try to avoid cool or hot water instead of room temp water)
    6. Eat too much make you sweats too much. Take a small portion instead.
    7. Avoid air conditioner, use electric fan instead. AC make it harder to you body to adjust to your surroundings temperature.
    8. No hijab folds on your neck. No turtle neck too.
    9. Try using a anti-bacteria soap. Why? Cause sweat is a good place for bacteria, resulting itchy or bad smell.
    10. Its time to use more natural make up, sister 🙂 but keep spf lotion around you.

    Thats all my tips for you, sisters.
    May Allah make you only tested Dunya Heat.

    *Sorry for the broken english. :’)

    Liked by 1 person

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