Lilian Min
July 21, 2015 12:32 pm

There’s probably no more tragic time for dressing than high school, when teens experiment with style and, um, sometimes miss the mark. (For context, during my high school years I seesawed between dELiA*s, early Forever 21, and Hot Topic.) So, to win Best Dressed in high school is actually a huge accomplishment — not because teen styles shouldn’t be interesting and unique, but because to do that and also actually know how to dress for your body is an accomplishment most people don’t realize (if ever) until later in life.

For 18-year-old Abrar Shahin, who just graduated last month from Clifton High School in Clifton, NJ, she claimed the Best Dressed crown over her peers, but unlike most Best Dressed winners of yore, she did so while wearing a hijab. The garment, a tight cowl that leaves the face uncovered but wraps around the wearer’s head and shoulders, is oftentimes worn by Muslim women, whose dress has been the subject of censorship and controversy, as well as “well-meaning” concern by people outside of the Muslim community.

Shahin, who’s Palestinian-American and Muslim, spoke with Seventeen this week about the honor, saying, “As a young Muslim American woman, it makes me happy to know that I come from an accepting and open minded generation. My sister graduated from the same high school as me 10 years ago, and she says that she would have never imagined winning this award.”

Now, we live in a world where being a Muslim teen and being Best Dressed aren’t inherently incompatible. But unfortunately, there are still a lot of prejudices and assumptions in non-Muslim majority countries about what it means to wear head and body coverings as part of religion-related dress. Oftentimes, the argument non-Muslims make is that women and girls who adopt coverings are being oppressed or repressed against their will, when in fact these garments are often self-adopted and have, along with religious significance, deeply personal significance and expression.

Malaysian singer Yuna, who is also Muslim, once described her decision to wear a headscarf thusly: “I wanted to be a better Muslim… What we wear is our own choice, how we cover up. Personally, I found a balance.” Shahin clearly prescribes to this thinking as well, and whether she’s posting gorgeous selfies on her Twitter or simply stunting on most peoples’ high school fashion, she’s got nothing to defend about herself, her religion, or her stunning style.

(Images via here and here.)