A Hijabi Fashionista

The hijab, a traditional head covering of Muslim women, isn’t often paired with trends like glow-in-the-dark Jeffrey Campbell pumps or statement faux-fur sleeves. But Maria Al-sadek is not your typical girl. Her photos, starring herself rocking high-end styles and designer labels – clad always in long sleeves and a headscarf or turban – have gained her 40, 000 online followers and inspired her to create her own blog (mariaalia.com). Fans fawn over her Instagram photos, with thousands of likes and comments of “Mashallah, ” an Arabic phrase for appreciation and joy. Maria, 22, has even been featured by the likes of Huffington Post and Women’s Wear Daily. She hopes that “A Modest Fashion Blog” inspires everyone, “whether they dress ‘modestly’ or not.”

This past fall, while studying abroad (and strengthening her Arabic) in Dubai, Maria made waves in the local fashion scene when she was featured by Middle East Broadcasting Center and AHLAN! Live. “The fast-paced city life in Dubai was definitely a far cry from West Mobile, ” the born and bred Mobilian says. “I love traveling, but there really is something to be said for growing up in such a down-to-earth city.” 

Now back home, Maria is finishing her degree in marketing management at the University of South Alabama, with plans of working in the fashion industry. Here’s her style philosophy. 

Tell us about your cultural roots. I’m Palestinian on my father’s side and Spanish / Puerto Rican on my mother’s. My mother was born and raised in the States and my father moved here when he was 18. So, I grew up in a melting pot, and I feel lucky for it. It has made me appreciative of other cultures.

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What is hijab and what does it mean to you?  Hijab is the traditional covering of the hair and body by Muslim women. It symbolizes modesty. Everyone interprets it differently, and it ultimately is a choice and should be between a person and God. Living in America and wearing it isn’t the easiest thing, but I find that expressing myself through my style tells people a bit more about me and helps them see past just the headscarf.

Do you have any shortcuts that make it easier to plan outfits that still fit within your guidelines of modesty? Yes! I always have a few key pieces that help modify outfits to fit my interpretation of modesty. Long-sleeve fitted tees, denim button downs, long loose tanks, duster coats and kimonos are all simple pieces that can instantly add a little more coverage without sacrificing style. It’s all about wearing what makes you feel good and comfortable.

What do you typically post on your blog? Outfits of the day. I also like to document my travels and what I wear. 

How have you gained such a following online? It happened organically through Instagram. I would post regular pictures with friends and family, and I started getting questions about where parts of my outfit were from. Soon, I had followers asking if I had a blog. I always admired the fashion blogging scene but wondered if I ever started one, would anyone actually read it. So after seven months on Instagram and a following of around 600, I decided to start the blog, and here we are now!

What is your favorite part about blogging and social media? I know it sounds cliché, but I’ve actually made some really great real-life (as well as virtual, of course) friends through it! It’s a really positive community of people from all walks of life sharing a common interest in style and art. 

What is your proudest moment? In terms of blogging, it would have to be when readers comment to tell me that I’ve inspired them or that they love my blog and they’ve tried out my turban tutorial or makeup and skincare regimen.

Which item in your closet can you not live without? My Chanel espadrilles. They’ve been my ride-or-dies for over a year now. 

Describe your style in three words. Classic, versatile and effortless.

Where would you like to see yourself in five years? I’d like to see myself as chief marketing officer for a brand that I’m really passionate about. 

See Maria’s musings on fashion, travel and more at mariaalia.com or on Instagram.

text by Haley Potts • photos by Maria Al-sadek

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