A burqa can be one of two forms of ethnic dress associated with Islam: a Saudi face and head covering and an enveloping ankle-length garment from Afghanistan. These clothing styles are popular in some countries, but not all Muslim women wear them, nor is it a requirement of the faith according to the Koran, which does not directly call for the face to be hidden, only that women “should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their zeenah (charms, or beauty and ornaments) except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof.”

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Styles of Muslim Clothing

The burqa of Afghanistan is worn to completely hide a woman’s body in accordance with the country’s conservative religious views. This type of burqa cannot be tied, as it is a simple sheath pulled over the body and adjusted so a mesh screen is positioned over the eyes, allowing for sight. Many women hold the burqa with their hands to keep it in place, and gather it up slightly to prevent the edges from dragging in the dirt. Burqas can be ordered online, though some institutions and countries have restrictions in regard to wearing them.

In Saudi Arabia and many other Persian Gulf nations, women wear a face-covering veil known as a burqa or niqab. This type of burqa is worn to provide a high level of modesty and prevent lustful stares. It is made of two panels of silky cloth, one which hangs over the nose and face, and another which is pulled back over the head. There is a gap between the two pieces for the eyes, and a tie that is pulled back secured around the head, either by velcro or by tying the ends in a bow.

Many Muslim women wear a simple headscarf, called a hijab, to cover their hair while leaving their face visible. There are countless ways to tie a hijab, and styles vary by country. One popular method involves the use of a long, rectangular scarf that is placed over the end with one end hanging a couple of inches below the chin. The remaining length is wrapped over the the head, usually two to three times, until only a small amount of fabric remains, which can be secured with a pin. Wearing the hair in a bun or ponytail can make creating this style easier, as it provides something to anchor the scarf around.

Some styles of hijab are shaped like a cloth tube, and simply pulled back over the head until only the face is showing. This keeps bangs and bits of hair out of site; a smaller headbandlike piece can first be put on underneath the hijab in a complimentary color.

Any good-sized scarf of a fine material can cover the hair and serve as a hijab in a pinch, and the easiest method is simply folding it in half to form a triangle shape and then securing it under the chin with a pin. Many Turkish opt for this style when hiding their hair, wearing large silk scarves in bright patterns and colors, the top of the triangle wresting on their back.