By JoAnne Viviano
It was just a week before the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr, but neither 15-year-old Nadia Mirza nor her older sister, Summer, had decided what to wear for the celebration.
One thing was certain: Whatever dress she chose, Summer, 24, would be wearing lots of matching bangles.
The sisters, who live in Worthington, will choose special outfits today to mark the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan. They’ll gather to pray with other members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Groveport, then share good food and celebrate Eid al-Fitr with family and friends.
The sisters trace their roots to Pakistan and have closets full of dresses that mirror the south Asian country’s fashion trends.
Such dresses aren’t easy to obtain in the Columbus area, said the sisters and Atia Mirza, who declined to give her age. She worships with the Ahmadiyya community but is not related to the sisters. They stock up when they travel to London or Pakistan or make trips to Chicago, New Jersey, New York or Toronto. Other women, they say, order custom-made dresses from overseas.
The fabrics span the colors of the rainbow, and each dress has its own personality with beads, sequins and embroidery. The dresses are worn for holidays, weddings and other special events
“We’re looking for something fancy that has a little bling to it,” Atia said.
She said a simple dress can cost $60 or $70, while something especially ornate could go for $500 to $600. Generally, she said, women spend $100 to $130 for a dress.
For women of Somali descent, finding holiday clothing in Columbus is a little simpler, said Yasmiin Abdi of Yasmiin Fashion, one of several clothing shops at the Global Mall on the North Side. Customers come from Cleveland, Cincinnati and Detroit to the Global Mall and similar shopping areas in central Ohio, Abdi said. She stays open until midnight to meet demand from last-minute shoppers in the week before the holiday.
She and Ayan Hosh at Hani Fashions, also in the Global Mall, said their customers trace their roots to countries such as Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Both said that Muslim women from those parts of the world generally buy robelike dresses called abayas, usually in black. For the holiday, they said, they choose abayas with sleeves embellished with glittery studs of various colors. They then choose scarves in colors that match the embellishments.
Seamstress Sobia Wirk of Dublin said her business picks up throughout Ramadan. She said she charges $25 to $30 to sew dresses for women from all areas of the Muslim world, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.
Abiba Barry, 33, of Ghanaian descent, shopped at the Global Mall last week for holiday clothing for her 5-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son. Her goal was to find holiday clothes that they might also wear to school.
Barry, who lives in Canal Winchester, shops on the North Side because “it’s the only place you can find Muslim clothes.”
While many choose ethnic fashions, some younger, second-generation Muslims are opting for more-American styles, said Amany Jondy, who launched the Internet-based Zeena clothing line in 2011 with sister Bayan Jondy. The company, based in Virginia, has experienced a 25 percent to 30 percent jump in sales during Ramadan as shoppers prepare for the holiday.
“We knew we had to fill a void,” Bayan said. “We would go out shopping ourselves and we weren’t able to find clothes that we loved and reflected our personality. … I would like to wear exactly what’s on trend in the U.S. I don’t want to wear what’s on trend overseas.”
Whatever style Muslim women choose, the common denominator is that the clothing reflects their faith’s call for women to dress modestly. All outfits cover women from neck to wrist to ankle, and most include a head scarf to cover their hair.
The Mirza sisters have an aunt who owns a boutique in Pakistan and ships them dresses. Summer’s mother-in-law also sends clothing for the sisters and for Summer’s 5-month-old daughter, Aatikah Mangla.
The little one will likely wear a red-and-white dress and red tights for the holiday.
She also has her own tiny, matching bangles — her own version of bling.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH