Funky fare for Muslim fashionistas
But a fashion show of Islamic clothing in Indonesia on Tuesday shattered the stereotype, as dozens of models sashayed down the catwalk in outfits that complied with Muslim tradition but also oozed funk and flounce.
"Muslim fashion should not be identified with long black scary attire, but Muslim women can appear in nice, trendy, up-to-date fashion," said Musa Widyatmojo, supervisor of the Indonesian fashion designers' association.
"Indonesia is a trendsetter for Muslim fashion followed by Malaysia."
Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim country where most people follow a moderate form of Sunni Islam. Some women wear headscarves, but often with the trendy Western-style clothing favoured by most women.
In Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam which practices an austere version of the faith, women must wear the abaya, a black robe that covers them from head to toe.
Many Muslim women around the world have adopted the abaya as the proper Islamic attire, and in some cases, such as Afghanistan, modified it to cover the face as well.
MODESTY AND STYLE
On the Jakarta catwalk, the outfits were long and loose and the models wore headscarves, but they were anything but dull.
Models paraded a host of Indonesian batik outfits, ranging from beaded silk blouses with long flowing chiffon skirts and long-sleeved flowery tunics embellished with feathers to embroidered silk traditional dresses and silk trousers.
Beads, lace and bright colours abounded.
"I want Muslim women to wear Muslim fashion every day. It does not have to be Lebaran or any special occasions to wear Muslim fashion," said Jeny Tjahyawati, one of the eight designers who participated in the show, referring to the Muslim feast that marks the end of the fasting month.
"There are more and more women wearing Muslim fashion to parties. It can provide comfort since it is loose and it can also protect women from perverted men if they walk alone at night.
Some designers and models said modest Muslim clothing was appropriate to prevent crimes against women such as rape, touting an argument often used by clerics to convince women to cover up.
"To cover our head with a veil is a must. The veil must cover the forbidden parts. Women are priceless things, the more priceless she is, the more protection is given," said Samira Mochammad Bafagih, a 25-year-old fashion journalist.
"Men are not likely to seduce women in veils. Thus I feel more comfortable if I walk alone at night. I agree that women without veils are more likely to be seduced.