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My personal style is best described as modest – but also creative and classic. I love the idea of contrast – for example, merging the masculine with the feminine, the bold with the muted or classic. Visual balance is important to my aesthetic, and I have a very eclectic approach to style – it’s certainly nuanced and complex.
Get yourself a great blazer. It can make a look more formal, depending on its cut and colour, and it could make a statement – you can also style it with a feminine dress or over a structured skirt and each look will be completely different.
Never shop without your hijab. Don’t try on anything without it, because the same look may not translate well with your hijab on. You may see a modest look you love on a celebrity and then try the same style – but it might not achieve the same visual balance. It happened to me during the early months of my hijab journey, when I would go shopping and realise my mistake. You can also experiment with your hijab style – you might prefer a turban with certain looks, for example. It’s a creative process but an important one.
Don't rely on a specific outfit formula. When I’m feeling lazy, it’s usually a t-shirt with my favourite baggy Acne jeans, then a blazer to finish. The layering is minimal, especially in the heat. I’d usually add a chunky sandal and some jewellery to pull it together. This works well when I’m going to pick up my kids from school.
Never compromise on comfort. When it comes to dressing, I always start with the shoes and work up. Do I want to wear heels? Do I want to go with a biker boot? If I’m wearing heels, I have to consider how high they are and how much I might be walking around that day. When you’re not comfortable, it shows and completely flattens the look. But if you are, you're going to feel more confident.
Find your favourite brands and take inspiration from them. Jil Sander is one of mine – I love the aesthetic as it resonates with my personal style, but I don’t always have the budget, so I draw inspiration and see if I can work with pieces I already own or find something similar on the high street. I also love Margiela, Acne Studios and The Frankie Shop. I amplify pieces from these brands with great basics from COS. I also love old Celine. What Phoebe Philo did for the brand was brilliant and relatable to women who dress modestly. Her idea of femininity and sexiness was more suggestive than overt.
Make considered decisions when it comes to trends. I can be influenced by trends, but I try to shop smart and think about how much I’ll wear the item before buying it. Sometimes you see something and love it, but when it’s in front of you every day, you become less enthralled by it. If there’s a trend that I like but know won’t last, I might scratch that itch with an accessory instead of a major purchase. Sometimes it’s just an Instagram trend, and those pass very quickly.
Find one simple way to update your wardrobe each season. Personally, I want some leather socks from a label called Erika Cavallini. While I was in Milan for fashion week, I was supposed to wear them with velvet heels, but it was pouring with rain, so I ended up wearing them with chunky Dior sandals. The socks added such a cool edge to my look. Some modest women shy away from even showing their ankles, but leather socks are a great way to style various types of shoes.
Focus on well-executed layering. I think there’s a real art to it, and sometimes it can look a little too contrived. I like to keep it simple, and autumn/winter is when you get to play with textures more – wearing thicker, more structured blazers, and tailored coats as well as quilted ones. I am obsessed with my Frankie Shop quilted jacket.
Play with colour in unexpected ways. I never wear more than three colours at a time and I prefer to go for neutral tones, but I don’t limit myself to any particular palette. I love to add a pop of colour if I’m wearing a tonal look of shades of grey – I might add something like a pair of red socks with sandals, a bag or a red lipstick. I like to add that bit of colour as an accent, rather than as the main statement. I’m enjoying adding colour with socks or stockings right now – I hope it becomes more of a trend this season.
Know that it's okay to struggle with finding your style. When you’re in a rut, it usually come down to where you are in life at that moment. Think about how you’re feeling, pay attention to who you’ve become and think about what your style aspirations are. Your style is constantly evolving, so get to know yourself a bit more. Things changed a lot during Covid and after that a lot of us didn’t know which way to go. It's probably the reason so many stores are full of oversized silhouettes and masculine tailoring.
Don't be afraid of a throwback pieces. In the shape of its signature ‘Swipe’ bag, Coperni has released a silver bag that looks just like a portable CD player from the 90s – and I love it. It’s so nostalgic. There is also a Loewe leather shirt with a purse chain on the end – you can just take it and wear it on your shoulder. Since I’m loving leather this season, I’d also love a pair of Loewe’s trouser boots I saw in Paris last year.
Spend a little extra on your shoes. They will literally last for years because in Dubai, the streets are flat and clean, and then you have smooth floors in the mall – you barely get any marks on the soles. It’s only when you travel that they might show signs of wear and tear – like when you’re walking on cobbled streets or it’s raining. That said, my Dior chunky sandals really went through it in Milan and Copenhagen and are still in immaculate condition.
Stay away from emotional purchases. The items we regret purchasing are often the emotional ones we make to get that dopamine hit, or when we just buy an item because we think the price is really good – like a Jacquemus shirt I’ve had for six months and still not worn. I’m sure I will eventually make use of it, but right now I feel like I made a bit of a bad purchase. Sometimes I have pieces for years before I really start wearing them because I’ve finally found other items they work with, and then I can’t stop wearing them. Creativity plays a big part in that.
Find inspiration on the streets and on Instagram. There is always something new to discover or see – whether it's a new way to style one piece to a whole look you might love. You never want to copy anyone, but you can take those elements and make them more like you. For style inspiration, I love Amy Smilovic – she’s the founder of Tibi and her looks are always effortless but interesting.
Follow @HananHouachmi on Instagram.