Notes on Clothes – By Guest Contributor Leila Aboulela

7 Jul

Notes On Clothes

  • A waste of money – clothes that don’t get worn enough because they are too scratchy, the wrong size or look all wrong once you get them home.

  • I saw an M&S nightdress exactly like mine hanging in my mother-in-law’s bathroom – I never wore it again.
  • There was a gap of five years between the time I wanted to wear hijab and when I actually did. Five years of questioning and wanting.
  • Clothes that become tight are proof, more solid than scales that I’ve put on weight.
  • In the University of Khartoum, I admired the girls who covered their hair and arms. In long dresses and skirts they looked as special as brides, as important as princesses. I wanted too that romantic, mysterious look.
  • I saw food stains on the pyjama shirt of someone elderly that I loved – he hugged me.
  • On my honeymoon, I washed my husband’s boxer shorts by hand. It felt like a rite of passage; something ancient, something new.
  • Clothes are for protecting secrets from sand and cold and eyes.
  • Adam and Eve were not naked in Eden. They wore ‘the clothes of Paradise’ and these clothes fell away when they ran towards the tree.
  • The first thing I noticed when I came to Britain was how well everyone dressed. Nothing torn, nothing ragged. No children in clothes that were too small for them or ridiculously too big.
  • In an imaginary local paper, the headline goes like this:  Lebanese Hijabi Woman Praises North-East Folk!…the wonderful people of (freezing!) Scotland, so decently covered up, no lying about half naked in the sun… It’s worse on Beirut’s beaches, she says.
  • The very first time I started to wear hijab was triggered by a clear dream. First thing in the morning, I walked out in the street with my hastily assembled outfit and hated my passing reflection in the shop window. It took time to co-ordinate colours, to choose the right material and practise ways of tying a head-scarf.
  • Today in the mall, I spot the kind of clothes I would wear if I were younger. These colours would be all wrong now, these styles unflattering.
  • Oprah, Tyra, Trinny and Susannah harangue women my age to cover their unsightly necks and sagging arms. But I wear hijab because Allah Almighty tells me that I am beautiful.

Leila Aboulela’s  new novel, Lyrics Alley is Fiction Winner of the Scottish Book Awards. Her previous novels are The Translator, one of the New York Times’ 100 Notable Books of the Year and Minaret – both long-listed for the Orange Prize.  Leila, a recipient of the Caine Prize for African Writing, grew up in Sudan, lived much of her adult life in Scotland, and now lives in Doha, Qatar.


One Response to “Notes on Clothes – By Guest Contributor Leila Aboulela”


  1. Vote for Lyrics Alley as Scottish Book of the Year! | Leila Aboulela - July 17, 2011

    […] Leila’s Notes on Clothes […]

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