One of the best things that has come out of blogging for me, is discovering other bloggers that I might not have otherwise known about. A few months ago, I noticed a new blog name on my dashboard that I hadn’t seen before so I went to check it out. To my absolute delight, the blog turned out to be run by a woman named Fatima who writes articles about retro underwear (amongst other topics) and creates brilliant illustrations to go with them.
Fatima fascinated me. The part that interested me the most about her was that despite being a hajib wearing muslim lady, she was extremely open about her sex life and choice of clothing, which included retro underwear.
Having worked in Saudi Arabia in 2010, I know very well how the women dress under their Abayas and that often they harbour secret interests that they rarely let anyone know about. Although Fatima is not Saudi, she reminded me of some great women that I met out there.
I wanted to find out more about Fatima, so I sent her a long list of questions, which she was kind enough to answer for me. Please read on to learn more about this incredible woman.
Elinor – Could you tell me about yourself?
Fatima – I was born in London, lived there with my parents – British mother and Moroccan father who both worked in government offices – till I was ten. The next ten years me and my sister lived with our aunts’ families in a suburb of Casablanca. So my teens were spent mixing oriental/muslim life (at home) with modern/French-influenced culture (at school & in the city). Then (at the beginning of the 1990s) I moved to Berlin, Germany, to study illustration and design, and from the first day on I considered this city as my hometown (I still do… and I’m actually a certified German citizen now). I used to work for a big advertising agency, but seven years ago I decided I’ve had enough of corporate speak and went freelance to concentrate on illustration and jobs related to my ‘other’ main interest, music.
Having lived (or living) in three different countries with their own ‘state religions’ I’m not very religious at all. When I arrived here I felt free – no more regulations on clothes, way of living and behaviour – and enjoyed that. Later I got involved in some community groups (a boxing club, the Muslim women bicycle club, and helping people with beaurocracy) and found that a lot of young girls wear the hijab as some sign of pride, and not because religious teachers and parents tell them to: basically to show that they consider themselves modern big city people, but that they don’t ignore their own culture. So I began to dress in a more ‘Muslima style’ on occasions, and gradually realised that I actually enjoyed mixing and adopting my own ideas to certain restrictions. It helped that people at my company encouraged me – they found out that this ‘ethnic woman’ at board meetings and presentations made a big impression on their clients.
Elinor – What do you wear on a daily basis (outerwear)?
Fatima – Mostly long dresses and abayas, combined with hijabs in various forms, and (more or less) high heels. During colder seasons I favour jeans with blouses, tunikas, jackets… Basically I switch between the Arabic style (floor-length, flowing garments) and a European adaption (where you sometimes combine the hijab with leather pants or a biker jacket).
Elinor – What do you think about retro underwear, shapewear and stockings? How often do you wear them? Do you wear them on special occasions or for someone special?
Fatima – When I was around twenty I was uncomfortable with my body shape – I thought my hips were too small, my boobs too big… Then I got into the rockabilly scene, and in Berlin there were a few small stores who sold the appropriate clothes. Wearing those petticoats, bullet bras, girdles etc. I found that I indeed DID have the curves, and I’m basically wearing retro/shapewear ever since. It really gave me confidence and probably contributed a great deal to my life and my personality. Over time what used to be ‘dressing up for going out’ has become a daily routine. (And it’s not a routine at all – there are so many possible combinations!)
Elinor – Has your religion impacted how you think about retro underwear?
Fatima – Not at all. But I really enjoy the feeling of retro underwear – with everything being in the right place, and moving where you want it to move – under a long, flowing dress. My own personal enjoyment, I guess. (And I had a long affair with someone who regarded all this oriental style & retrowear as some kind of kinky fetish, and I really liked to explore every aspect of that…)
Elinor – Do you think there is a conflict between wearing an abaya/hijab with sexy underwear? Do you know of any other muslim women who wear such underwear?
Fatima – It is quite common, in fact (well, at least in European or more well-off countries). You should see the stuff in muslim stores that they hide under »brideswear« and similar monikers! And even my very conservative and religious aunt gave me some good advice when she introduced me to bras and lingerie, making me aware of different fabrics, lace trimmings and such.
From my own experience and acquaintances I know that in countries like Turkey, Egypt and Morocco the attitude is more »lingerie« (as in Italy and France) than »erotic accessory« (which is the way it’s often seen in Anglo-American and northern european countries) – sexy underwear is primarily something for the woman to feel confident and beautiful in, not just a tool to attract men. You know something is different when you check out the local equivalent of Marks & Spencer and all the stuff in the »granny section« is in black, bright red or violet, not in »nude«!
By the way, it’s always the German women in the changing room at my fitness club who want to know why I wear this »complicated underwear«. The oriental chicks only ask where I got it from.
Elinor – What is your favourite piece of underwear?
Fatima – I really like the corsets that were made-to-measure for me by Axfords in the UK, solid Victorian-style corsets that I’m wearing for more than 15 years now. All three are under bust style, with several layers of fabric, and (of course) with metal suspender clasps (»Never use plastic clips, you’ll eventually end up in an embarrassing situation,« as my aunt used to say). They also have steel boning, which led to some »interesting« encounters at airport metal detectors…
Another favourite (especially for those lazy days when one doesn’t want to spend half an hour getting dressed) are high-waisted panties, with the upper part slightly boned to give a nice shape. And of course I still hunt for vintage stuff in second-hand stores and fleamarkets; I recently found a whole box of 40s/50s-style bras that were exactly my size.
Elinor – What is your favourite brand of stockings?
Fatima – I always look for fully-fashioned ones, and they’re now pretty easy to get (Berlin has a couple of fifties/retro/fetishwear stores now). I’ve just looked: unfortunately they’re all re-branded with the shop’s name or something generic as »Ars Vivendi«.
Elinor – I have seen your images, and I’m guessing that you must create them yourself? They are really great! Do you put these up instead of photos of yourself? If so, is there any particular reason for doing this?
If you would like to check out Fatima’s blog, click here!