Last week, I talked about how my sister Ali and I decided to attempt a social experiment where Ali would dress up in a Muslim hijab and see how the people in my community treated her. We were ready to face prejudice with our eyes wide open.
We purchased a black headscarf at World Market. After a few hours of watching YouTube tutorials, I was able to learn how to properly wrap a hijab around my head, and soon after, I figured out how to put the hijab on Ali. One thing I learned during all of my hijab research was that many Muslim woman believe that they cannot show their hair, as they consider that to be immodest.
Step Three: The Cap
You may not have noticed this before, but Ali has a lot of hair. It's beautiful, but there's a lot of it, as you can see in the picture below.
Even though I had figured out how to properly wrap a hijab, it was impossible to keep Ali's hair from poking out beneath the scarf. That simply wouldn't do. What we needed was one of the caps that Muslim women use to cover their heads before they put on their hijabs. We saw plenty of those in the YouTube tutorials, and most of the women even instructed hijabis to wear the caps to ensure that no hair showed beneath the headscarf. The problem was: we weren't sure where to get one of those caps.
After a while, we realized that without a cap, our experiment wouldn't work. We needed some sort of a cap to cover Ali's hair.
We brainstormed for hours, trying desperately to think of something that would substitute as a hair cap. After a few days, we had settled on a couple of lame ideas that we both knew wouldn't work.
1.) We considered using one of those stretchy cloth book covers that kids use, but the pointy ends made Ali look more like Batman than a Muslim girl. Surely the pointy corners of the book cover would show beneath the hijab.
2.) We tried out different headbands, but none of them concealed Ali's tiny baby hairs, the ones that were peeking out from beneath her hijab the most.
3.) We even borrowed some of my mom's pantyhose to tie around Ali's head, but if the wind blew back the hijab, how would we explain away the fact that Ali was wearing pantyhose?
After days of brainstorming, an idea came to us in the form of a ski trip.
Ali was invited to go skiing with some people from our church, so we got out all of our ski supplies from the back of a closet. The idea didn't take long to form after that. A black ski cap didn't look that much different from the caps the Muslim girls from the YouTube tutorials wore beneath their headscarves!
We pulled Ali's hair into a bun and used a thin headband to hold back her bangs. After some struggling and fumbling, we managed to fit the tight ski cap over all of her hair. To our relief and excitement, the cap worked perfectly.
We spent the next ten minutes laughing and taking pictures of a hairless Ali.
Step Four: Makeup and Clothing
Ali decided to wear a fairly loose, long-sleeved shirt that was designed with black, white, and gray flowery swirls. The shirt was slightly exotic-looking and would also match the hijab. She put a loose black jacket over the shirt. She wore long gray slacks that were loose rather than tight, and finally added a pair of black boots to the mix. With her hijab, the only skin that would be uncovered on Ali's body would be her hands and her face.
I enjoy playing with makeup, and since Ali doesn't wear much eye makeup on most days, I used my mediocre skills to give Ali some gold and purple eyeshadow that hopefully accentuated her "Middle Eastern" features. Ali put on a little more mascara, foundation, and eyeliner than usual, and she was finished and looking quite lovely.
Step Five: The Finished Product
After Ali had put on the makeup, ski cap, and modest Muslim clothing, I carefully wrapped and pinned the black hijab around her head. It took a few minutes- and attempts- but when I was finished, we were quite satisfied with our result. Ali could easily pass as a Middle Eastern Muslim girl.
Perhaps Ali still looked more Hispanic than Middle Eastern. Perhaps the hijab wasn't wrapped correctly about her head. However, her costume was passable, because people see what they expect to see. The clueless passersby in my small city in Texas weren't going to examine Ali's ethnicity and wardrobe and accuse her of being an imposter. When does that happen? No, Ali's disguise would work perfectly.
We were ready to begin our experiment.