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.