There was one thing I didn’t have to worry too much about when I lived in the US: My appearance. Seriously. When I was living in rural America, I got to notice something interesting: people did not seem to care too much about their appearance. People simply wore clothes that were comfortable to go to class, to go to work, and to go do shopping.
I have met millionaires who dressed like everybody else in the streets. I have seen students going to class with their pajama pants on!! YES, their pajamas!!! LOL. I have seen people wear yoga pants as everyday pants, etc. It was a staggering contrast with the image we were fed of glamourous America on TV. Growing up, all I saw on TV shows was sweet 16, Lizzie Mc Guire and famous Hollywood stars. It seemed to me that wearing “chic” clothes was everyday business.
Either way, when I got to meet “real Americans”, I embraced the freedom of wearing casual clothes.
Coming back home
Back in Cameroon, I had to adapt to the norms and expectations of people. Here, people care about the way you dress, the way you speak, and the way you carry yourself in public. This happens especially in the business world. It is a habit we have inherited from the French culture: dress the way you want to be addressed.
I really struggled to find a clothing line that fit my personality. I first started wearing traditional North Cameroon clothes for a while, but I realized it made me feel older than I was LOL. Then, I tried western clothes, and it always seemed complicated to wear. Some dresses were not long enough for my liking, and I had to buy a cardigan to put it on top. Sigh.
Your clothing says a lot about who you are
In the US, people have transcended that state of mind, but in my lovely Cameroon, personal image is very important.
Here, the way we dress has a huge impact on the way we view ourselves and the way other people perceive us. When we choose to dress elegantly, people notice that and assume we are worthy of respect. When we neglect ourselves and dress casual all the time, people start thinking that we lack self-esteem and usually belittle us in the way they speak.
We sometimes think that appearance does not matter, but it actually speaks volumes about who we are and what we believe. Our outward state is a reflection of our inner state. When we are going through life as a clumsy, unprepared, and cowardly person, we tend to dress carelessly. When we reach a higher level of self-actualization, we tend to dress in a way that communicates it.
I came up with my own clothing line
I am a mosaic of cultures. Since I have adopted many parts of Western, African, Muslim and Asian culture, I thought I would just bring it all together in one clothing line that suited my lifestyle and personality. I met a seamstress who is not only talented, but also willing to work with me on the project. I call my clothing line “la Citadine”. In English, that means “the city girl”.
My clothing style reflects my identity: I love to live the city life, I lead a very active lifestyle, and I meet CEOs every day at work. My clothing has to respect my Islamic values, but also be flexible enough for me to move around easily, original enough to make me stand out from the crowd, and beautiful enough to make me feel powerful and feminine. My girl Yakin and I brainstorm occasionally on styles that I can adapt from Western, Arabian, and African fashion so I can express myself through the way I dress. Alhamdoulillah I hope God rewards me for it.
It works !
Ever since I found my own style, I no longer dress to become popular, or to become forcefully accepted by others. My style reflects ME. It is as simple as that. Nothing to add, nothing to remove. Once you are confident in your own clothes, you become the happiest person around. You stand your ground easily, and you ooze self-confidence.
A piece of advice for my Muslim sisters
When we wear hijab, we tend to neglect our appearance completely and shun everything that makes us feel feminine. Allah swt is beautiful and loves beauty. Therefore, find a way to express your beautiful self through modest clothing. Don’t wear outfits that make you look old, careless, and repulsive. Find clothing that is noble, elegant, chic and most importantly, speaks volumes about who you are in terms of style.
P.S: Sisters, wear clothes that are so well designed that you can pray with them everywhere. You won’t need to bring a large khimar everywhere you go. Just dress appropriately and you will be fine.
Rose Du Sahel