Elaborate clothing seen as a reward for end of Ramadan
Hamna Badat's alarm clock buzzed her out of slumber before the sun even rose, well before the Islamic Society of Greater Houston's prayer ceremony to celebrate Eid al-Fitr.
"I had to do my makeup and everything, and help my sisters get ready," the 18-year-old said as she sat with her sisters, awaiting the beginning of the 10 a.m. ceremony.
Dressed in a long, lemon chiffon dress, with pops of orange, Badat's Eid outfit will be her biggest fashion statement of 2017. Picking out a prom dress is less stressful than finding the right thing to wear for Eid festivities, during which she celebrates the end of Ramadan and breaking her fast.
"It took me forever to pick this out," she said. "Longer than it took me to pick out my prom dress last year. With that, it's something simple and American-based. But this is a bigger deal, because it's part of the culture, and I wanted to be a little more extra."
Thousands of Muslims from around the Houston area came together to pray Sunday morning, marking the end of Islam's holiest month. Houston's prayer service is so large it takes up two halls in the NRG Center. One hall is reserved for men, while the other is for women.
"You've been fasting for 30 days, and you hope that you've been transformed, so you're rewarding yourself by dressing up," said Shahla Shannawaz, 26.
"This is the only time in Islam you're allowed to spend as much as you want on your clothes and your makeup," she continued, noting that she didn't get much sleep the night before, due to anticipation for the big day, and an early wake-up call to apply her meticulously inked cat-eye eyeliner and get dressed.
She pointed into the crowd of thousands, where women were dressed in a glittering rainbow of silk and chiffon.
"People think Islam won't let you do this. They think it's about covering and wearing black. But it's not. It's the most diverse religion. Every culture is different," said Shannawaz, who was born in Bahrain. "Indonesia is completely different. They wear different colors. And Africans wear yellow and bright colors. Pakistanis wear the long dresses. Everyone is different here."
For Shannawaz, and many young Muslim women, it can take time to find an outfit that strikes the right balance between modesty and personal expression. This year, she thinks she nailed it. And she's not alone.
The biggest variation of styles could be seen on the women's side of the service. But even then, many women wore understated outfits. Uzma Iqbal wore a mostly black ensemble, created by a Pakistani designer. And it lacked many of the flashy colors seen around the rest of the hall for a reason.
"For me, I have a few places to visit from here," said Iqbal, a medical oncologist. "I was looking for something that can go from here to the Galleria, and later, I may have to stop at the hospital and see a patient."
She had higher heels tucked away in the trunk of her car for an afternoon swap.
"What I'm wearing is very East and West - a combo. So it's comfortable to be worn here, and also for a Sunday brunch later on. For me, being a woman in 2017, I have this bag here," she said, nodding to a black Hermes purse. "And then there's a cross-body in the trunk too."
She's not the only one in her family who spent time consciously planning her outfit. Her sons, Cyrus, 24, and Salman, 17, also took their time deciding what to wear.
"The guys, what they wear looks simple, but it's actually not. My sons tried on several things before deciding," she laughed.
Salman, a rising senior in high school, considered three different outfits, before deciding on a light brown, slim-fit look. Slim-fit was key; that's the way he likes all his clothes cut.
Cyrus, a third-year medical student, wanted something a little flashy.
"Honestly, this is like the only time of year I wear stuff like this, so I get really into it," he said.
"I'm not normally flashy, but I kind of like this," he said, waving at the intricate beadwork around his neckline. "It's a chance to experiment."