Jun 20, 2006

The odalisque wears Prada


Underneath her burqa. Elle launches a Middle Eastern version.
Women in most Muslim countries cover their heads and bodies in public in keeping with religious tradition. But underneath, a growing number of them are wearing elegant, fashionable and often-revealing attire. In Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, social calendars are filled with women-only parties in lavish homes, featuring buffets, music, dancing and karaoke. Camera phones click madly, and photos of women in slinky dresses and glimmering tube tops are zapped to boyfriends and suitors.

"Young women have a globalized understanding of beauty," says Abu Baker Bagader, sociology professor at King Abul Aziz University in Saudi Arabia.

Maybe it's just me, but I find this whole notion strangely offensive. But maybe I'm wrong: Maybe what Saudi Arabian women need is a magazine like Elle to lift them out of second class citizenship.

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