My Alternative Wardrobe

by SC

I don't know if this is fact or fiction, but whatever the case, it is of interest to you all I am sure.


My alternative wardrobe

No, I'm not talking about a piece of furniture, but about the special set of clothes that normally hang in it.

The essence of clothes is that they cover a naked body, leaving head and hands open and free, the rest of the body being more or less covered or enclosed. My alternative wardrobe consists of clothes that take coverage and enclosure to their logical conclusion, i.e. total coverage so that no part of me shows, and so that I live in complete privacy and anonymity; I am hidden from the world. I never see the world, or ever touch anything, except through layers of fine material. This is my purdah; I love it and having to take any of it off is quite painful for me.

The materials generally used for my costumes are silks, satins and velvets, so that not only is my privacy preserved but I exist inside them in the greatest luxury, with fine materials touching almost every inch of me. But none of the lovely things I wear are constricting, except purely to ensure that they remain in place. Hands, feet, head and face are entirely free but covered so that no part of any of them are ever visible. There is no bondage element in anything I wear.

The inspiration of all this is the strict Muslimah, and if I cannot become one I wear my alternative wardrobe to be as nearly like one as I can. I have several niqabs and always wear one with eye veils lowered, with one or more chiffon scarves underneath so that not even the glint of my eyes is visible. Likewise, the meshes in my burqas tend to leave too much of my eyes exposed, so that again a chiffon veil gives me adequate privacy. I have six burqas, all of floor length all round (without arm holes, of course) and the best of them has two separate, small, meshed eye holes. It is of very fine polysilk which drapes beautifully and never needs ironing.

When not wearing a burqa I wear one of several khimars, also of floor length all round. They are all sewn up the front so that unless they have armholes my arms and hands are totally covered. My favourite is of fine green velvet, beautifully soft to touch, and with a heavy white veil sewn across the forehead and falling over my face. Another favourite is my Yemeni sharshaf, which, though no longer than to my knees, has double black chiffon veiling sewn in. The world is a dark, mysterious, haze, and I can remain completely private and unrecogniseable.

Often I combine these Islamically inspired creations with more normal clothes, or adaptations of them. A joy from many years ago is a white sports shirt, worn back to front with neckline round my forehead. It is in a very fine polyester material and there is a tiny hole in the back, through which I can just see with one eye, the rest of my face being completely and heavily covered.

Should a veil be matt or glossy? The average niqab is great and widely available, but tends on the whole to have a matt finish. An important advantage of one made of glossy materials is that the lights and darks of the reflections add to the veiling effect. Another is that the glossy material tends to be softer to the skin than the matt. My best niqab is of black open textured knitted silk; I can see quite well through two thicknesses, but to anyone else my veil is completely impenetrable. It is very simple; just a very large square, and there are no eye holes; it doesn't need them.

I play many variations with headscarves, some black silk or chiffon but mostly heavily patterned, and almost all at least a metre square. I sometimes wear them conventionally, knotted under the chin or with tails doubled under the chin round to the nape, sometimes knotted directly on the nape, but always with my face completely covered. A separate patterned chiffon scarf is ideal for the purpose as it makes a very light veil, and the patterns ensure that nobody can see any facial features.

The Western equivalent of the burqa or the khimar is the hooded cloak. I have several; none have armholes and most reach to the floor. My best are velvet with satin or silk lining; I sew them up completely in the front, so that the only remaining problem lies with the hood. One has a double black veil sewn into the hood, which can then be tucked into the neck or left hanging free. This is what I call the 'Western burqa', and has the advantage over the original article in that the neckband helps to prevent the body heat rising above the shoulders. Another is that the satin lining makes it very soft and sensuous inside. Another cloak has a zip right up to the apex of the hood, so that when done up I am totally enclosed in the finest satin, and it doesn't become much of a disadvantage not being able to see except through this and a layer of velvet. Another favourite is in unlined light blue satin, and its only disavantage is that I have to wear a separate, heavy veil with it. Two more both have very large hoods, so that with either I can cover my face completely. Almost all are of floor length, all round, and wrapping them around myself is a magical sensation.

Zentai involves total enclosure in fine materials, the only disadvantage is that it emphasises my figure, which the philosophy should be discouraging. So whenever I wear this it is always with a cloak over it, which needn't then be sewn up. This enables my hands to be more useful, even while still completely covered.

Roll on the day when it is acceptable for everyone, but everyone, to have the opportunity to live their lives in luxurious secrecy.