Finding the perfect evening dress is a struggle for many women. But for women that adhere to conservative Muslim dress-codes, looking fashionable can be almost impossible.
Sally Diaa El Din, a 23-year-old fashion designer, thinks she has the solution. And she’s using the Internet to get the word out.
El Din is the founder of the Facebook group “Vixen,” which markets and sells dresses she designs aimed at giving choices to veiled women who are tired of having to rely on Carina – long sleeved shirts – under their fashionable attire.
“ I want all Hijabis to feel proud and elegant not wearing Carina because it makes the dress worthless,” said Din. “I am trying to achieve this goal by designing elegant long sleeved dresses for them.”
Her designs are exclusive and one of a kind. She never designed a dress twice because “ that’s something that has always irritated me especially when I see people in streets following a specific trend, ” Din said.
Facebook Group & Clients
Since the group was created in 2008, it now boasts over 2000 members joining from different networks and countries. Still most of her clients are Egyptians because of the growing number of hijabis now in Egypt. According to the New York Times, 90% of Egyptian women are veiled. But mixed weddings and social gatherings are still common, prompting the need for fashionable, yet conservative attire.
For many women, having to don a Carina under their designer gowns, took away from the beauty of the dress.
Heba Abdel Aziz, a foreign recruitment manager in All in One Home Tour, was one of these ladies on the group who thought Carina was “ a big nightmare… I don’t hate them much but they look really ugly with evening dresses.”
Din gets her clients through either phone calls or through Facebook messages on her site. She does not accept more than two projects at a time. Her prices vary between 900 and 2000 LE, depending on the client’s desires but Din thinks they’re reasonable given the nature of the designs.
”The client will have a package of the dress design, fabrics, embroidery, headscarves and above all you’d get the dress done in less than two weeks,” She said.
What's so different ?
Colorful, simple and long are Din’s designs. But she tries to incorporate ideas of the customers with her own vision for the dresses.
“ You could never imagine how she could convince you with what she has in mind,” said Abdel Aziz. “You could see two colors that can never match in your mind but then out of the blue she has a design that would take your breath away and you’d go like wow.”
If the client liked what she had to offer, Din would try to ignore her own desire of how she would want the dress to look like and start getting involved with the client’s personality.
“I love lace but I prefer showing them samples of other fabrics to choose the color or the material according to their budget,” said Din.
Support & Modeling
Comments from friends and family on her own designed dresses few years ago made her reconsider what she wanted to be in the future as she was an English literature graduate.
“Whenever I designed a dress for myself, I received supportive feedback from my friends and my family because they’ve never seen a Hijabi dressed the way I did,” Din said. “That was my starting point for the evening dresses.” So It did not cost Din much when she decided to start her business because she “ posted the dresses [she] designed for [herself].”
Din gained her family’s trust to the extent that she designed her sister’s wedding gown. Even her friends have their pictures on Facebook wearing one of her designs and saying that they “are proud to know such a person.”
But Din said she does struggle that some ladies don’t know what they want and have unrealistic expectations.
“ It’s very annoying to work with these kind of girls,” she said. “They only make me feel stressed out and frankly sometimes I just refuse to work with them.”
Nevertheless, late phone calls never bothered Din as she would get questions from people asking her what to wear and what not to wear ”especially if they don’t have time to come and see me and at the same time they don’t want to wear Carina with an evening dress.“