The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: March’s Book of the Month Giveaway!

“They knew they must stay within the limits of what was permitted by the Taliban but refused to completely shed their own sense of style.”
The Dressmaker of Khair Khana

I did a Google Images search for “Afghanistan.” The result was a collage of maps, impressive mountain vistas, and photos of men with weapons. What other images come to mind when you hear the name? Whatever your impression or knowledge of the country is, I highly encourage you to read The Dressmaker of Khair Khana.

As a Harvard MBA student researching female entrepreneurs living amidst volatile political conditions, author Gayle Tzemach Lemmon set out to record stories rarely heard on broadcast news. “We’re far more accustomed to–and comfortable with–seeing women portrayed as victims of war who deserve our sympathy rather than as resilient survivors who demand our respect,” writes Lemmon, who herself worked for nearly a decade as a journalist for ABC News, and now sits on the Council on Foreign Relations’ Women and Foreign Policy program.

Lemmon focused her story on the strong-willed Kamila Sidiqi. Living in Khair Khana, a suburb of Afghanistan’s biggest city, Kabul, Kamila and her family lived on limited means in a war-ravaged land. After the Taliban capture of Kabul in 1996, residents like the Sidiqis struggled with even more limited means. Her 17-year-old brother then escaped to Pakistan to avoid the military draft, and her parents fled north in hopes of earning more money. Her 13-year-old brother was thrust into the role of mahram, a male escort to a female relative. This left Kamila to support the rest of the family, all eight of them.

Deciding that crafting women’s clothing could make a lucrative career, Kamila risked speaking to male shop owners and braved the danger of bringing attention to herself in a region where women were under very heavy scrutiny. If a woman left her home, she was required to be covered in a chadri, a.k.a.burqa, and to be with a mahram. Yet, following these rules guaranteed no safety. Despite the constant threat, Kamila’s strength, ingenuity, and bravery was stunning.

The most striking part of this story, to me, was the refusal for women to forget about their sense of style, as in the quote above. Though women were wearing the chadri outside, Kamila’s business made clothing for them to wear on the inside. In a system that didn’t recognize female individuality, these women did not let go of their own identity through the clothes that they chose to wear closest to their hearts.

Discussion question: Is personal style a necessity, regardless of the circumstances?

Leave a comment below telling us and fellow blog readers what you think. For participating, you’ll be in the running for a free copy of The Dressmaker of Khair Khana.


  • You have until Friday, March 25, 2011 to participate.
  • Though you may leave comments after the above date, any comments left after March 25 will not be counted into the giveaway.
  • Only comments left on this blog post will be counted.
  • We will contact you via e-mail if you are a winner.
  • For more information, please see our Contests & Comments page.

P.S. If you pick up a copy of this title, leave your own review of the book on its product page!


About Angela

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  1. Avatar
    Jessica 03/18/2011 at 10:11 am #

    I think what matters is that you hold onto what defines you. If your fashion style is an important part of you and helps you keep your sense of individuality in a time of crisis then by all means, yes. However other people might not feel the same and hold onto other things to determine who they are like religion or the people they associate with.

  2. Avatar
    Alexandra K 03/18/2011 at 10:28 am #

    Growing up in a small Texas town, the fashion staples I see every day consist of rhinestone crosses, zebra print, and Miss-Me jeans. I feel as if every girl I walk past in my school halls has some brand name emblazoned across the front of her shirt. So I gave myself a mission: never conform to the trends. Now, I frequent thrift stores and often make my own clothes. It’s invigorating to walk into school every day and see the heads turn. I have my classmates approach me and say how much they admire my style, and it just about makes my heart burst every time. Sure, I follow magazines like Vogue, but I think it’s essential for every girl to be able to take mainstream magazines and mold them into their own personal style. It’s not only a fashion statement, it’s a statement of individual spirit.

  3. Avatar
    Leah 03/18/2011 at 10:34 am #

    i think personal style, in this case, became a sign of spirit and rebellion and a way for the women in the area to unite around a craft they enjoyed.

    i have a friend with social anxiety disorder who feared being noticed for much of her life; she wore only t-shirts and jeans and covered her face with bangs. but once she went through counseling, she gradually began to shed those layers for prettier ones. as cheesy as it sounds, the butterfly metapmorphisis one is a good once. it gives me so much joy to see her now, four years after we initially met – a strong, sophisticated, creative dresser and a beautiful, confident woman.

  4. Avatar
    Magatha May 03/18/2011 at 10:36 am #

    This really sounds like a great book. I’d love to win a copy.

  5. Avatar
    Carly 03/18/2011 at 10:40 am #

    Well, there are other things that are necessity’s in certain circumstances and style is not. Like if your house was about to get hit by a tornado, you probably wouldn’t be running around grabbing your favorite scarves and dresses. You would most likely be trying to get something that mattered to you, and if that happened to be a ModCloth dress, it would be fine. But in just normal life having a personal style is a great thing. I’m in 8th grade and picking out my outfit for the next day is something that I love. After all the homework is done, and I can concentrate on seeing my friends the next day, choosing clothes that reflect me is very relaxing. Having a personal style is very beneficial for someone my age. It makes me feel great when my friends say that they like the outfit I picked out the night before. So I guess the short answer to the question is yes.

  6. Avatar
    Sara Mc 03/18/2011 at 10:45 am #

    I think style has different levels of importance for different people. Some people express themselves most easily and most fluently through their sartorial choices, and they would certainly feel it if they were told that that expression wasn’t permitted or was restricted. Others can express creativity through other mediums and may not feel the same loss of personal identity. The medium through which you express and define yourself is the one you’ll stand up for regardless of situation.

  7. Avatar
    Ani 03/18/2011 at 10:53 am #

    I think that while expressing one’s self in incredibly important and creating your own personal style is a way to accomplish that. This being said there are certain circumstances where maintaining your style is not feasible; like if you safety was in jeopardy. This is an extreme case, and I think that if one is not in this particular situation, personal style is indeed a necessity. In this book, women stand up for what they believe in and maintain their identity despite adversity. This is a strong message that all independent women have to learn at some point and personal style is one medium that accomplish this goal.

  8. Avatar
    Erin F 03/18/2011 at 11:04 am #

    I think if you haven’t thought about style, you haven’t put a lot of time into yourself. Style and fashion don’t have to be the same thing, which I think baffles people who aren’t interested in following trends. But personal style is an important means of expression. It is about knowing who you are and expressing yourself. Whether you think you just doesn’t have time or are living with limited means of expression, it is still possible and important to use your own style to center yourself. It gives a person confidence to know who they are to be unafraid of that person.

  9. Avatar
    Sarah 03/18/2011 at 11:08 am #

    I think in a society where you are not permitted to show any part of your personality through your clothing to the the outside world it would be a necessity to continue to show it to yourself. That expression of self is still vital even when you will be the only one seeing it because being surrounded by people who look the same would eventually cause you to lose your feeling of individuality and you would begin to feel like everyone else. I feel like the ModCloth community is similar in a less extreme way. We are a community of woman that have shed our stereotypical modern clothing and tried to mark ourselves as individuals. So yes style is always a necessity. We create our own style intentionally and sometimes unintentionally. But how we portray ourselves shows the world who we are.

  10. Avatar
    Ashtyn 03/18/2011 at 11:47 am #

    Personal style is one of the most important outward expressions of self that a person can have. Think about it – entire first impressions of people are formed based on appearances. If personal style weren’t important, then there wouldn’t be a billion dollar industry based on it; we’d all be wearing sackcloths instead of the multitude of different types of clothing that you see today. It’s not just clothing, its’ an important element of who we are. In a country where the government oppresses any sort of personal expression, this becomes all the more important. They attempt to make all the women look the same and strip them of their personal identity, making them almost less than people – not worthy to even have a personality. For them, wearing this clothing has a deeper meaning than just wanting to look pretty; it’s a silent rebellion against the government by the women who refuse to have someone tell them that they are less than people, and that they don’t deserve to have personalities. They assert that they are people too, and that their spirit will not be broken by a repressive regime.

  11. Avatar
    Abby 03/18/2011 at 11:58 am #

    I believe that personal style is a necessity regardless of the circumstances. Your personal style is what makes you unique; it is what makes you a human being. In my history class, we are learning how the Nazis would dehumanize the Jews by removing all their clothes and shaving their heads to try and make them all look the same. When you do not have anything that sets you apart from others, it can seriously affect your psyche.

  12. Avatar
    Rachel 03/18/2011 at 12:01 pm #

    I would not consider personal style a necessity, per se, but a part of who we are. It can be done away with for survival, when drawing attention is the last thing desired, but even then your personal style will be in your albeit hidden personality.

  13. Avatar
    courtney 03/18/2011 at 12:21 pm #

    Even though the women were not allowed to show their true selves outside of the home, they still had freedom inside of their home. It is important to stay true to yourself even though the circumstances are hard, and frightening sometimes. I believe it was important for them to show their style as a sort of way to keep their war torn lives somewhat normal.

  14. Avatar
    alyssa 03/18/2011 at 12:49 pm #

    this book looks so great! I do think personal style matters- it’s great to be unique and it comes off as part of your personality to people. obviously people who are required to wear certain clothing as far as uniforms or in this case- a burka don’t have much variety with what they can wear. I do love that she is making clothes for women to wear underneath their burkas. I feel this would definitely give them a sense of empowerment given that they don’t have many freedoms or choices in their country.

  15. Avatar
    lavenderlola 03/18/2011 at 1:24 pm #

    I think personal style is a beautiful, exuberant and essential part of our existence and it is an expression of the most necessary thing in any circumstance, our individuality of spirit. It could be a burlap onesie (fashionably cut!), but when embroidered with different colors and shapes, it is this happy and free heart and spirit that keeps each of us vibrant and alive with hope. We embrace ourselves as pieces of art in this world in each inspired choice we are blessed to make!

  16. Avatar
    Shannon J. 03/18/2011 at 2:21 pm #

    I think it is necessary for a sense of self and I think that is the strength people need to do things that are unexpected. Kamila seemed to have strechted the limit of what a woman in her society can or should do. I think personal style is just one step in a larger process of getting what you want and deserve! I haven’t read this book but the review sounds fascinating.

  17. Avatar
    Nina 03/18/2011 at 2:36 pm #

    I would not consider personal style a vital necessity – it is not food nor drink nor air – but for many people it is an important mode for self-expression. Over the years I have seen friends’ styles evolve and change as they have evolved and grown as people. This is definitely true for myself as well! It’s beautiful, really, how individual style is one of the most powerful and telling outward reflections of a person.

  18. Avatar
    Annady 03/18/2011 at 3:04 pm #

    Yes! Personal style is definitely a necessity – although I think there are many ways of expressing it: through your writing, through your beliefs and actions and also through the way you dress. Sometimes it’s as simple as a signature lipstick color. When times are difficult and challenging, it’s one of the few things you can control and help to define and set yourself apart.

  19. Avatar
    Naomi 03/18/2011 at 3:09 pm #

    Personal style is always a necessity! It doesn’t take money, status, education…it only takes a little imagination to put your own little spin on things. We are all blessed with individual identities and at every moment are bursting with our own unique personal style.

  20. Avatar
    K@ Rosewitz 03/18/2011 at 3:21 pm #

    I think personal style is a necessity no matter the circumstances. Most of the time, style can be hidden from some and extreamly pronounced to others. Even in this case when you were required to wear something in the eyes of all, it’s the eyes of the family, friends, home, and most importantly yourself that matter. Even if you were going to be alone on an island for the rest of your life, you still have yourself to look at and judge what you wear and how you present yourself. Style could even be just the way you look in general not counting what you wear. It’s what makes you stand out in a croud if everyone is wearing black.

  21. Avatar
    Amy 03/18/2011 at 3:25 pm #

    I think that personal style is really about more than material things. While i do think that we often get too carried away in the materialistic aspects of style, I think that the fundamental core to style is expressing who you are and feeling comfortable with yourself. That being said, I feel like personal style is definitely a necessity. Having personal style doesn’t mean you have to spend all this money and focus on shallow things–it just means being who you are, making yourself happy by feeling comfortable in your own skin, and being confident knowing you are proud to be you.

  22. Avatar
    Sarahnargle 03/18/2011 at 3:27 pm #

    As the show Ned’s Declassified once said, what you wear doesn’t matter, as long as you have style. Everyone should own their personal style, no matter what; it’s a reflection of the power of the human spirit.

  23. Avatar
    Gayle Tzemach Lemmon 03/18/2011 at 3:49 pm #

    I am delighted to hear of this contest. You have captured perfectly the spirit of Kamila and her sisters and so many women of the period who contributed to their communities despite all the obstacles. They never lost sight of who they were and how many people were counting on them. I hope you will enjoy this story of unsung heroines and the relentlessness of the human spirit.
    Very best regards,
    Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

  24. Avatar
    debra 03/18/2011 at 4:02 pm #

    i would love to have this inspiring book for my arts, crafts, sewing, design and inspirational library that i am creating at home!

  25. Avatar
    Caley 03/18/2011 at 4:11 pm #

    I can’t even begin to fathom the circumstances of devotion and the quiet rebellion that these women face everyday. I’m sure, while struggling with everyday life in the roughest part of the world, that even the slightest change to their wardrobe underneath would give a glimmer of hope and sense of empowerment. This novel seems like it would be an eye-opener on many levels, and I’m genuinely curious of what lies within.

  26. Avatar
    Jennifer 03/18/2011 at 5:08 pm #

    We live in a world where there are two kinds of people. The kind who wear Aeropostale, Holllister, etc… And the kind that don’t. I try my hardest to be the latter. Personal style is required to express yourself. You should strive to be unique, to stand out in the crowd. When you wear the brand names, you’re just telling everyone that you’re desperate to fit in, or be popular. When you choose to buy things from Modcloth, you’re sending a message to everyone around you: It’s ok to be different!

  27. Avatar
    Puja 03/18/2011 at 5:42 pm #

    Personal style is a definite necessity regardless of any circumstances.This is because when things are not working out and the situation we are in is tough, being able to implement personal style helps us to stay positive, feel burden less and have the confidence to sail through. In good times it means feeling happy and hitting all challenges with fresh and full vigor…..

  28. Avatar
    Megan 03/18/2011 at 6:19 pm #

    Personal style is always important, but it can be expressed in so many ways. You don’t have to wear “fashionable” clothes from head to toe to feel like you have a personal style. Even the way you carry yourself and think about people can convey this true sense of self. As long as you are true to yourself, you are emanating your personal style.

  29. Avatar
    Michelle 03/18/2011 at 6:59 pm #

    I believe having your own personal style is very important. And personal style isn’t just clothes, it’s also what you believe in and your passions. Growing up, I always seemed to like different things. I also could never afford the mainstream mall brands that everyone at school wore. I would get teased and I felt bad about what I wore and what I liked. Half way through middle school though, I realized that I could create my own personal style. I shouldn’t force myself to like something I don’t, and I didn’t need to wear a certain store’s logo. I could create a style that was uniquely me. I explored new things and new ideas, not caring if I got made fun of for it. I would happily experiment with clothes, while not once entering one of those stores at the mall. And I developed a unique type of style, one that truely represented me as a whole. I love my style and I love expressing my style. I stand out from the crowd and I have my own identity. Having a personal style really helps you find where you belong and who you really are. I feel it’s important, and I proudly show my style everyday!

  30. Avatar
    pamphyila 03/18/2011 at 7:11 pm #

    In this case, because women were being suppressed, what otherwise might have been frivolous is actually a way to assert themselves under a male tyranny. Persoanl style can be a way of defining oneself vis a vis the society & the outside world. Even primitive man/woman put ochre and so on, on their bodies to decorate them! Total lack of style really = a subsistance level of living.

  31. Avatar
    pamphyila 03/18/2011 at 7:13 pm #

    In this case, where fashion might otherwise be solely frivolous, the women used it as a means of asserting themselves under a male tyranny. Living totally without style would mean a life on the subsistance level. Even primitive peoples decorate their bodies with paints and scarification, etc.

  32. Avatar
    Angela (ModCloth) 03/18/2011 at 7:30 pm #

    These are all beautiful comments, everyone. Great discussion going on!
    Thank you to Gayle Lemmon Tzemach for her comment, as well.

    If you’d like to know more about Kamila Sidiqi outside of the book, here’s an article worth reading:

  33. Avatar
    Caitlin 03/18/2011 at 7:34 pm #

    I think this sounds like an inspiring book. I think that in those kinds of circumstances expressing individuality can even more important. Defining who you are is always important.

  34. Avatar
    Amy Kirchhoff 03/18/2011 at 8:49 pm #

    I suppose if one were in circumstances when survival is the focus, style would take a back seat. But if one just falls on hard times, I believe it’s important to maintain a sense of integrity. A person may not be able to dress how he or she wants, but one can always achieve clean, wrinkle-free clothes that fit. But really, a style comes from the inside. I’ve seen people wearing the best brands who still don’t look pulled together, and others who pair thrift store and Wal-Mart to look like a million bucks. This isn’t because of what they are wearing but how they are wearing – how they walk and talk and pull it off. This is called confidence and poise and usually respect and awareness for others around them. A person should maintain those qualities no matter the situation. If they do, then they will always find themselves having a sense of style.

  35. Avatar
    Cristina 03/18/2011 at 9:01 pm #

    I think personal style is something everyone has…whether they realize it or not. Despite whether you just get up and put on a pair of jeans and an old t-shirt every morning or you spend an hour picking our the perfect high fashion outfit, you have a style that is only yours. Yes, there will always be the argument that many people conform to what others (like models) do, but I believe everyone–in some way–makes what they wear their own. So I believe personal style is not so much a necessity so much as it is a natural part of every person .

  36. Avatar
    Arthur 03/18/2011 at 11:21 pm #

    I think that the more restrictive the circumstances the more important personal style is. We all need to feel we are expressing ourselves. We all need to feel that our voices are heard. Sometimes we are taking a stand and sometimes we are protesting and sometimes we are just being frivolous. Whatever the reason, our style is an easy way to say and do those things. And in some circumstances they are the only way we have.

  37. Avatar
    Katrina 03/18/2011 at 11:51 pm #

    I don’t know if style is necessary regardless of the circumstances. If you think of style as a way to express your personality, emotions, and feelings, then yes, all people should be able to express their personal feelings. Yet, if circumstances means consequences then it all depends on the person. If their feelings are stronger than their fear of the consequences, then expressing feelings or style is necessary. If somebody’s fear is too great, then it is up to them whether they choose to face the circumstances.

  38. Avatar
    Torrie 03/19/2011 at 1:19 am #

    Personal style is a great thing to have, but I wouldn’t consider it a necessity. Too often people will simply follow trends, and that isn’t setting their own personal style. It takes guts to wear something that could be thought of as a miss, and it takes even more courage to wear it proudly. Personal style shows how confident a person you are, and that’s what’s important.

  39. Avatar
    Caitlyn 03/19/2011 at 1:44 am #

    I attended a private school in high school with a very strict dress code. It took away personal style and made everyone visually the same. From that, I learned that clothing is just clothes–some you love and some you hate. The important thing was to know who you were and let that be what people see. Now that I wear what I want every day. I think personal style is great. Personal style should be a reflection of that person. It’s like a preview to someone’s personality. I know this is cheesy, but ultimately, as long as you stay true to who you are, personal style will come through; it’s not always a necessity though. You make your style; you’re style doesn’t make you.

  40. Avatar
    Jaime 03/19/2011 at 4:58 am #

    Wow, I love reading everyone’s opinion about this. And, it seems that, most people’s opinion comes from their own personal experiences. Which, in this case is a great thing, it’s hard to be objective here. I do believe personal style is a necessity. For me, it goes along with music and art, some of the ways I’ve learned to cope through turmoil in my own life and family. I express myself and feelings with the clothes I choose to wear. I rebel on some occasions, I play demure, all to fit how I’m feeling that day. And, it’s been one of the handful of things I had the power to control, in my life. So, definately, yes it is a necessity. My teenaged years were full of hand me downs that I altered and added on to fit my style. That helped me feel more unique, not just kid #6 out of 10 kids.

  41. Avatar
    Clair 03/19/2011 at 5:45 am #

    Although I admire people who have a unique and interesting sense of style, I don’t believe a person can be judged by their clothes. However, I do think we must all have the freedom to be creative and to try to create beauty in the world, in whatever form we deem to be appropriate.
    big love to all the creative sistas out there xxoo

  42. Avatar
    BeatleBabe 03/19/2011 at 5:54 am #

    Humanity, coupled with the celebration of all that makes it individual or unique, is essential for the perpetual improvement of our existence. Therefore, if any one man or woman needs ‘style’ to achieve that liberty, it is a necessity to everyone.

  43. Avatar
    P. Priscilla Morrison 03/19/2011 at 7:09 am #

    What defines life? Can it be more then an existence of survival and procreation. Yes human lives have created many societies where individuals express them selves through various mediums. These expressions define ones social status amongst their peers and contribute to a healthy emotional and mental state of well being. Is this personal display a necessity, regardless of the circumstance, yes.

    Even in squalled conditions through out history many have sought to lighten their daily burdens with items or another form of display. Even negative emotions and situations have created outlets that help the dramas disperse into more positive venues. Amongst depressing surroundings beings have sought something that gives them a sense of hope or continues to urge them to live on. Clothing is one of the most simple and common form these desires are adorned by. While fashion may not be a basic need of supporting a living organisms, it is a must for societies continual celebration of life.
    The ability to support these expressions is a continuous gift that improves the enjoyment of Living.

  44. Avatar
    Kathy 03/19/2011 at 2:18 pm #

    This book sounds fasnating. I love learning about other cultures and fashion, so to have the two mixed together sounds neat.

  45. Avatar
    FAUN 03/19/2011 at 3:18 pm #

    Its important that even with the worse restrictions Ms Khana was able to create her own path and prove her mind the strongest in the situation.
    not only did she free her mind but she’s given others the ability to help them selves.
    I think many of us in the US don’t use our freer circumstances with the best stewardship. I would like a copy of this book to see how i might make my dream of a fibre & textile school real here in Wisconsin, where schools are so undervalued by the ruling hierarchy here

  46. Avatar
    Bridget L 03/19/2011 at 4:08 pm #

    I believe that personal style is a necessity for a person’s wellbeing as it asserts who you are as an individual. I don’t think it has to define your identity, but it certainly reflects it. While I can’t really speak for the women featured in this book, I imagine that it would be a relief to have an outlet through which they could be themselves in a world where they didn’t really have that freedom. In finding clothes that they wanted to wear, a choice made by them, it gave them power to not only be themselves, but embrace it in a wonderfully satisfying way. I’m sure that all of us feel absolutely fantastic when we put on an outfit that we crafted ourselves that just works. We fully become ourselves, and in a world where we can easily be distracted that and where our identities are constantly being questioned, it’s a good feeling to know that we can find ourselves in the simple act of dressing our body/decorating our office space/etc. Just a simply reassurance that we are who we are.

  47. Avatar
    Marci 03/19/2011 at 9:12 pm #

    I take so many things for granted: freely leaving my home when I want, pursuing interests and education, communicating openly with friends and family. I don’t give activities like these a second thought, but in many parts of the world, women can only dream of these freedoms.I highly recommend The Dressmaker of Khair Khana. You will be amazed by strong women in unfathomable circumstances, reminded of the many blessings that are so easy to disregard, and inspired to do more with what you have!

  48. Avatar
    Erin 03/19/2011 at 9:24 pm #

    Yes, and no.
    NO if you think of fashion as just one reflection of personal style, because I’ve been fortunate enough to hear the stories of female prisoners of war and certainly, their stories are of complete physical oppression.

    But YES if you think of personal style as something deeper, a mental state and way of seeing life. Yes, if you don’t let anyone have absolute power over your own thinking and mental state.

    I am really excited that you’ve shared this story amazing women. Can’t wait to get a copy and share it with everyone I know 🙂

  49. Avatar
    Kris 03/19/2011 at 10:33 pm #

    Personal style is a necessity, no matter the circumstances. You truly are able to add your own personal touch to anything and everything. Personal style is a direct reflection of who you are, being portrayed on the outside. No matter the circumstances, express yourself! By doing this, we are able to acquire our own personal style 🙂

  50. Avatar
    Heather Anne 03/19/2011 at 11:58 pm #

    I think it really depends on the person. However in whatever case, you need to wear what makes you comfortable and happier. Even if style is not a prerequisite to your daily life and identity, at least wear what makes you happy and feel more confident about yourself.

  51. Avatar
    Samantha 03/20/2011 at 1:53 am #

    Is personal style necessary for one’s survival? Well it’s not food and water, but it is something everyone has. Many people, such as those in third-world countries, may have not have had a chance to develop it. One will always have a preference though; How exactly they like their hair pulled back, maybe how they put on their burqa. One will always have a form of style, as ill-developed as it way be. Personal style may be hidden, secret, rejected, ignored, or covered up, but it is ever present.

  52. Avatar
    Megan 03/20/2011 at 12:47 pm #

    I believe that personal style is always a necessity. Clothes are a way of defining who we are and sharing that with the rest of the world. They reflect our personalities, preferences, and even our beliefs. They are a defining part of being an individual. The fact that these women have clothing to wear inside the home that the outside world never sees exemplifies the importance of personal style. Although most may only see them under a burka, they refuse to be solely defined by this symbol. They are individuals, displaying their identity and drawing confidence in who they are as women from their personal style.

  53. Avatar
    Rachel 03/20/2011 at 5:24 pm #

    Personal style isn’t a necessity; it’s expression. It’s something that just comes naturally and is a part of you. Breathing, a necessity, isn’t comparable to how you think or represent those thoughts (expression).

  54. Avatar
    Sylvia 03/20/2011 at 8:51 pm #

    One always hears about what goes on in Afghanistan from the American perspective or perspective of the men there. The women lives their lives under wraps, in secret. It’ll be enlightening to read a story from the Afghani woman’s perspective.

  55. Avatar
    Randi 03/20/2011 at 9:42 pm #

    Yes because without personal style, what defines you?

  56. Avatar
    Crystal 03/21/2011 at 7:43 am #

    Regardless of circumstance, I truly believe people will do what ever they can do to make themselves feel better just for being them. If personal style is what makes a person want to wake up and get out of bed in the morning and face the day whatever the circumstance then they have found something that brings them some happiness. I would love to read this book and would love the opportunity to pass it along to others to read…

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    Jessica 03/21/2011 at 11:20 am #

    Your personal style reflects who you are, sadly because of male oppression, women cannot fully grasp this concept. Looking inward, being honest with yourself, and finding the confidence defines your personal style, whatever you are wearing – it is yours, because YOU picked it – no other influence matters. Despite the situation, through conversation, small details, your beliefs, and your own personal routine defines your perception in any circumstance.

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    Kristin 03/21/2011 at 4:20 pm #

    This book looks fascinating! I think if a person is motivated to display their personal style, there’s always a way. Even if someone doesn’t think they have a “style” they’re always expressing something. I hope to raise my 2 daughters to understand that they can make anything their own, to reflect their personal preferences and style; regardless of their circumstances.

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    Veronica 03/21/2011 at 4:33 pm #

    For women, appearance is a huge part of our identities. Unfortunately, society still judges us on how we look. Having your own personal style is one way to break out of the “you must be thin, blond, and wear brand-name clothes” box. I love ModCloth and all of the personal style blogs, like BlueCollarCatWalk and WhatIWore, because they help broaden the idea of what is cool, hip, and pretty. Great topic for the blog!

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    Heidi 03/22/2011 at 10:31 am #

    I think personal style can be a way of asserting your independence and uniqueness from everyone else. And a culture which suppresses that is using it as one more way to make people feel unimportant and that they are all the same and not special. So while oppression of style is obviously not the most problem that these women are facing, its all a part of the bigger picture of oppressing individuality and human dignity.

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    Jenee 03/22/2011 at 3:21 pm #

    Personal style is important. It’s an expression of who you are, the art of who you even want to be, a dream of who you will be.

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    Amy 03/22/2011 at 7:40 pm #

    Personal style is a necessity but is fluid and flexible depending on the circumstances in your life. You may have a student phase, a mommy phase, a career phase, a frugal phase, a splurge phase. Like fashion, personal style is always changing!!!

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    Maggie 03/22/2011 at 10:26 pm #

    I think that personal style helps define who you are. It’s important to stay true to yourself and show your personality through your style, however, it’s also important to understand how others are reacting to your style. Personal style can be used as a great expression of your personality and true self but people will judge you based on how you look. it’s sad that it happens but it’s something to remember when defining your personal style and knowing what you are comfortable with.

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    Sophie 03/22/2011 at 10:52 pm #

    I don’t think that personal style is a necessity regardless of circumstances if you’re talking about things you wear. Clothes are an expression, but not the source, of who we are so there’s no need to cling to them if it means risking things that are more substantial. However, I think true personal style is something that you always have by virtue of being yourself. Style is defined by Merriam Webster as “a distinctive manner of expression” or “a distinctive quality, form, or type of something”. A person’s personal style, their distinctive manner of expression, may look different based on the situation, but no matter what you are always you. Your style of thinking, reacting, analyzing, is inextricably interwoven into how you live… even under oppression. I have never thought that people need to fight to assert their independence because no two people are alike. I think the best way to be independent is to not look at how I can be different from people around me, but to be the truest version of myself that I can muster. Sometimes our desires are hindered by our circumstances, but even our plan B’s (or C’s or D’s) speak to who we are.

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    Elizabeth 03/24/2011 at 12:00 pm #

    This story in general reminds me of Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea in which he argues that educating girls/women (most of whom will become mothers) is the most effective way to change the society and eradicate terrorism. There is something really extraordinary about empowering women, especially in cultures where female empowerment is frowned upon. I would love to read The Dressmaker if for no other reason than to draw the parallels between these two books and greater a broader picture of life as a woman living in the Middle East.
    The Dressmaker strikes me as highly intriguing (as a premise-I obviously haven’t read it) as it speaks to female individuality in a society that often denies them that right… I’m just not so sure that fashion is the necessary means by which they can achieve it. It’s not their irrepressible fashion sense that makes these women unique but rather the fact that each of them refuses to conform to established hierarchies and as a byproduct form their own individuality while simultaneously creating female camaraderie. Fashion, in respect to this kind of culture, goes beyond individuality to create solidarity amongst women which in turn creates a strong and unified female voice and a unique bond. What these women must face is unimaginable for most of us, but their strength is encouraging and motivating.

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    Annablair 03/24/2011 at 8:16 pm #

    While personal style may not be a woman’s biggest issue at hand, I think clothing is a necessary way of expressing individuality. When society is trying to force you to look and act a certain way, it’s important to remember that you are an individual with your own unique beliefs. Even though it’s hard for some women, especially in certain cultures, to really express themselves, clothing offers them a way to not only rebel but also to reveal who they are. Clothing isn’t necessarily just about fashion. To some, clothing is just a covering for the body, while for others it’s about displaying their own style and making a statement. When women embrace who they are by wearing their clothes with confidence, they’re showing society that have pride in who they are.

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    Ti 03/26/2011 at 7:54 am #

    I think that personal style comes from character and is constructed from within. The clothes, accesories, make-up… those are the ways we create it for the world outside but it is innate to our core. Everything we wear has a meaning, every piece signifies something inside us.

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