The Muslim Woman and Fashion Ads

Take a minute. Look at this Ad. How does it make you feel?

We see them everywhere. Ads that lure you into making you feel something about what you are looking at. Sometime last week I read an article called Why Diamonds are an Investor's best friend. It couldn't have said it better on how advertising works. It goes on to saying that in the 1960's Japan had gone into little change about marriage customs. They were pretty much arranged, little romance and definitely rocks(diamonds) were not part of "you betta put a ring on it" tradition. Then came a man with an advertising idea and 'love' as the article states, got hijacked. Walter Thompson from Da Beers put up a campaign of posters showing couples where women wore diamond rings. It painted a whole new picture of love. By the early 1980's around 60% of Japanese women were sporting rocks(diamonds). So, what's the deal with this?

 The images you see whether in the form of fashion ads, street-style photography, television, or internet is the fastest selling message from the seller to you. That message is all about making you 'FEEL' something towards what you are looking at and connecting you to it in an ecstasy manner that your brain stops thinking. The act behind the ad doesn't care whether you can afford it or less if you want vs. needing it. It just wants you to take it home, like a lost puppy in the cold. As muslim woman or just as smart consumers, how do we deal with this puppy? 

Let's get into some studies. There is alot of research and planning that goes behind an Ad other then the artistic influence from the designer. Per Phsycology Today, a study was conducted by Melanie Dempsey and Andrew Mitchell for Journal of Consumer Research in where they conclude that the feelings of the consumer are transferable from one item to another. What does this mean for us muslim women? For a muslim women/girl this can be comparable to seeing a plain abaya surrounded by things that you actually feel good about like a certain headscarf styling, heels, make-up and a drop-dead beautiful background, you might actually now start to like it and when you see it endorsed by your favorite fashionista or hijabista, it is almost like a no-brainer(well, at least for many). This is called affective conditioning and does it obsure our choices?

Yes, it does! The above mentioned research based it studies using two pens. The people were told one had better qualities then the other. The study did an experiment where one pen was paired with positive images and 70-80% of the people chose that pen. The study also states that even after given enough time to choose, they still chose the pen paired with the positive images.The results of these studies proved the powerful tool of advertising is to make the person 'FEEL' good by surrounding the object of sale with things that you like. How does this all work into the choices we make as muslim women in our daily consumer lives?

It all works hand in hand with the shop, designer, street-style photographer, fashionista and consumer. The more we let our choices be decided upon what we feel instead of what is fitting to our own customized lifestyles, the more we are taking chances others will make wrong choices for ourselves. As muslim women, we have to be careful because again, we have guidelines to follow. For example, some big name brands(I promised not to mention any names) make very cheap clothing and sell it at outrageous prices. By cheap I mean the actual fabric is low in quality and the labor is humanly abusive.  Who is buying? We are! This is just one example of the practices we follow as a seller and a buyer without questioning. These kind of practices(abusive labor and ripping off customers) are against Islam. Right? Ok, let's keep going.

Here is the catch, we are muslim women and a muslim woman comes with a set of values and guidelines that are advised to follow by her Creator not just in prayer, the way of dress, but in business practices as well. You are sharing the values of a business when you shop at their store. This is where we as smart muslim women consumers have to take a step back, analyze the situation both wordly and spiritually in whether it is an ad with an abaya with heels and a turban, a woman applying tons of make-up, a business selling fake branded scarves, a hijab tutorial that pulls you a step backwards in your hijab, or a fashionista wearing tight pants, hijab and so on. You have to keep in mind that we all are just representing ourselves and not the way the religion should be. Take what works for you and your Creator. Also, keep in mind that not everything you see is for one area of hijab. Hijab goes more in depth then just a scarf. We muslim woman have room to do alot, but at its appropriate time and places. So, you at least owe it to yourself to question the act. 

The responsibility of what we put out there is shared by all of us; business owners, bloggers, hijab tutorialists, fashionistas, hijabistas, street-style photographers and designers. Let's pick on the seller of an idea a bit more because they tend to have the upper hand in what is fed to our minds in terms of advertising which in my point gives them  responsibility in what we are pursuaded to do. They can help us feel high-end, low-end, ghettolicious, and of course sexy. For example, if a hijab shop sales fake Chanel hijab pins, the uninformed muslim woman who doesn't know that 1. Chanel doesn't make hijabpins. 2. The wrongful(without permission) use of the Chanel logo will easily buy it for the high-end luxury feeling.

If we sit here and think of who is at fault, we will point fingers at each other all day long until they fall off. The fact is that advertising does affect how we make decisions in our lives. There is nothing wrong with feeling sexy(at the appropriate times), or advertising(we have to sell/buy somehow), The problem is taking these ads to a different level then what they are meant for. So, what is the solution? Maybe disclaimers? or maybe a more creative way of advertising? or maybe just educating ourselves on the guidelines of how women should dress infront of her mahrams(people she can't marry) and non-mahrams(people she can marry). This will allow us to breakdown an ad and know what to apply where and when. As far as the sellers, maybe they can be more creative on how to advertise and not just follow mainstream and keep in mind that people will follow what they advertise and you know how that will go down with your Creator.

I am not sure how you are feeling just about now(if you read this far) but, I want to conclude with the following when we are faced with fashion ads 1. The ads you see are ONLY a selling point and have been psychologically created for you to have a good feeling with the sole purpose to buy. They don't necessarily act to the best of your interest all the time. The study above also mentions we do this unknowingly. They are not there to teach you Islam or rules on modest dressing. But as a muslim designer, shop-owner, fashionista, street-style photographer, bloggler, stylist and consumer, we have a responsibility with our Creator to use good business practices by sending at least a good message with it and as a consumer to question what we are given. And, by this we should be more attentive with what we take from mainstream fashion advertising to promote in our lives, own designs, boutiques, shops, blogs, styles and so on. We don't want the message to be a certain message all the time but something more sustainable and adequate to the lifestyle of the muslim woman.

Questions you can ask yourself when looking at any form of advertising:

 1. Is what am about to consume(buy) halal(permitted) not just from the selling point, but from the point of picking that cotton, to the labor practices, other business practices of the shop or designer?

2. Does it reflect my own identity personality, and lifestyle?

3. What does Allah SWT say about this?

So, I ask again, how are you reading fashion ads now?

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