Monday, February 29, 2016

Not Between Her and Allah: Hijab-shaming in Malaysia

This article was first published on Muslimah Media Watch.

Tunku Tun Aminah. Source
Hijab-shaming is a favourite activity for some Muslims, both on-and offline. In fact, just last month I attended a religious class where the teacher spent a good half hour doing just that (I had to stop going for my mental health).

While meeting up with a girlfriend last week, she regaled me with the details of a religious class where the female teacher showed examples of “improper hijab” from a selection of hijabi Instagram users – young women who were obviously oblivious to the use of their photos for such educational purposes.

Social media gives a degree of anonymous bravado that makes it easier than ever to degrade and shame Muslim women for not wearing the hijab – the sixth pillar of Islam. (Oh wait, it isn’t? Funny, it sometimes does seem like it is…)

Last week, Bank Negara Malaysia (the central bank, or BNM) awarded a handful of prestigious scholarships to underprivileged students from around the country. 18-year-old Nur Hajar Asyiqin Abdul Zubir was one of the four to receive the award, after several rigorous rounds of assessment.

Currently studying for her ‘A’ Levels in Negeri Sembilan state, she dreams of studying chemistry at Oxford University in the UK – a “golden opportunity” that this scholarship will be able to fund without worrying her parents, who work as meat suppliers. The youngest of five children in the family, Hajar had scored 9 A+s in her secondary school examinations last year and learned about the scholarship through a motivational programme for underprivileged students in the country.

Malaysia is a multiethnic country, where the indigenous Malays form the majority alongside Chinese and Indian minorities. Instead of pride in her excellent academic results, several Malay men on Facebook chose to criticise the fact that Hajar does not wear a tudung, or hijab.

One man said it was a “pity the aurat is not covered” and that “her father bears the sins”. Another man similarly qualified his congratulatory message with a snarky proclamation that “Allah hates His servants who do not cover” and dismissed the role of Hajar’s own intellectual efforts with the remark “we succeed not because we are clever”. Yet another man even suggested that the hijab should be a requirement for a scholarship awarded for academic excellence.

While one website described this online activity as “chiding”, I disagree: shaming is more accurate. It’s easy to shame Hajar because she is a young girl from a poor family, with no social standing. But it looks like women with a higher status in society are still not exempt. Case in point: a princess from another Malaysian state.

While deriding others is an attempt of the actor to give himself moral or psychological power, it only reveals his own internal crisis of masculinity.

Tunku Tun Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah was recently the target of negative comments on photos posted on Instagram by herself and her brother, Tunku Idris, which shows her without a tudung – her habitual look.

The only daughter among the six children of the Johor sultan and his wife, the fashionable 28-year-old still keeps an Instagram “fashion diary” (@ttaootd), which is heavily monitored for negative comments.

While her brother claims that Tunku Aminah had shut down her Instagram account much earlier and for reasons unrelated to the comments on her lack of hijab, he admits that such comments do “tick [him] off.”

He defends his sister by posting several photos and comments on his account on not being judgemental of how others look. He even vouched for what he knows of his sister’s spirituality, like praying and covering her hair at religious events: “Is that not good enough? Isn’t it between her and Allah?”

It’s such a simple – almost rhetorical – question, yet it is one that is difficult for many of us to answer. These people are shaming Hajar and Tunku for not fitting into their narrow ideas of what it means to be an ideal (Malay) Muslim woman. While deriding others is an attempt of the actor to give himself moral or psychological power, it only reveals his own internal crisis of masculinity.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Book review: Jewels of Allah by Nina Ansary

This article was first published on Muslimah Media Watch.

When I first heard the title of Dr. Nina Ansary’s latest book, Jewels of Allah, on the life of women in Iran, I must admit I had to restrain myself. In general I’m pretty wary about labelling women as two-dimensional objects, whether in a negative (‘lollipops’) or positive (‘pearl in its shell’) way. Ansary explains that the title is “meant to convey that women, who have been ordained as inferior [by hardline conservative factions] are in fact the jewels of the Creator”.

The book promises to tell the “untold story of women in Iran,” and it doesn’t disappoint in some ways. The first chapter begins with a determined tracing through centuries of history aiming to correct misconceptions about the popular narratives about women’s lives in Iran over the last 40 years. The popular narrative, according to Ansary, is one that creates a dichotomy between the free/modern/active/miniskirt-wearing Iranian woman during the Pahlavi monarchy and the gender-segregated/restricted/veiled Iranian woman in post-1979 Islamic Revolution Iran under Ayatollah Khomeini.

I feel optimistic when Ansary writes, “The real story is usually much more complicated, nuanced and less tidy.” These are the misconceptions she addresses in her book (one point per chapter):
  1. Before the Pahlavi monarchy, Persian women were always suppressed by the religious and political establishment.
  2. Iranian women didn’t advocate for their freedom until recently.
  3. During the Pahlavi era, all women were liberated.
  4. During the Khomeini era, women were totally oppressed.
  5. There is a lack of common ground between secular and religious women in Iran.
  6. There is not much of a women’s movement in modern-day Iran.

Chapter 2 looks at Ancient Persia and the then prevailing religion of Zoroastrianism, which she describes as egalitarian and progressive. Then, the 7th century Arab invasion and the “eventual infusion of Islamic values” into Persian society results in the loss of women’s equal status with men and their social separation, loss of educational opportunities. In the chapter, one hadith about women’s “brains [being] incapable of retaining knowledge” is quoted as if it were a widespread Islamic belief. Next, the chapter argues that women were granted a brief respite from oppression under the Iranian and Turkic dynasties from 9th to 13th centuries. However, the Safavid dynasty brought back the patriarchy, packaged in conservative Shia doctrine and persisting to this day.

Chapter 3 and 4 look at the nuances (as promised!) behind the Pahlavi and Khomeini eras. She argues that (conservative) rural women were not empowered under Pahlavi because their families kept them at home from school, while under Khomeini, a “failed gender ideology” resulted in women being empowered through education, despite legal and social efforts to oppress them. Chapter 4 contains a few rather extensive analyses of gender roles in elementary school textbooks, which read like standalone research essays.

Chapter 5, 6 and 7 look at the ups and downs of alliances between secular and religious feminists by tracing the development of various feminist publications and magazines.

The good

In the epilogue, Ansary highlights about 100 historical and contemporary Iranian women, over centuries, who espoused the feminist ideology of their times (these were previously posted on her Facebook page from March 2014 to May 2015). These women include scientists, artists, professionals and even a Paralympic athlete; this incredible collection is great for showing that Iranian women are not oppressed, have done many amazing things, and come from all walks of life – in short, they’re real people.

I also liked that she started the book with a story of her two grandmothers. Bringing in the personal helps give more context and motivation for why she wrote the book, something that authors should but rarely do.

Chapter 5 also includes a great explanation of Islamic feminism, and how religious and secular feminists in Iran work within a religious framework to advocate for women’s rights. A list of “Iran’s Islamic feminist movement” includes professor Dr. Jamileh Kadivar, journalist Parvin Ardalan, human rights activist Mehrangiz Kar, Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi and founder of Zanan magazine Shahla Sherkat. Other scholars mentioned include Nayereh Tohidi, Afsaneh Najmabadi, Haleh Afshar, Valentine Moghadam and Ziba Mir-Hosseini. A selection of quotes from these women indicates that they differentiate Islam as a religion from interpretation of Islamic laws and regulations – a point which is not so clear in the rest of the book.

The bad
One problem is the romanticisation of history and, in particular, of Zoroastrian culture as being a gender utopia. Further, the framing of the Arab invasion and Safavid dynasty as being severely gender unequal serves to frame the empires in between as seemingly more egalitarian. In reality, analyses of these periods deserve just as much nuance (based on other intersectionalities such as sex, race/tribe, class) given to the Pahlavi and Khomeini eras. While there were certainly female leaders and commanders in Persian cities and states in 6th century BC, what class of women could reach these ranks? Most probably educated women of noble lineage.

Walter Benjamin wrote in On the Concept of History (1940) about a painting called Angelus Novus by Klee. The painting teaches us that our view of history as a sequence of events only serves to justify a certain narrative.

“Where we see the appearance of a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe, which unceasingly piles rubble on top of rubble and hurls it before his feet (…) The storm drives him irresistibly into the future, to which his back is turned, while the rubble-heap before him grows sky-high. That which we call progress, is this storm.”

Furthermore, there were other problematic themes that kept popping up throughout the book. One was the framing of women who ‘veil’ as being conservative and those who don’t veil as being free. One of the first notable women Ansary features in her book is Sadiqeh Dowlatabadi (1882-1961), “one of the most distinguished advocates for female education” (p.28). She reportedly said on her deathbed: “I will never forgive anyone who visits my grave veiled”. This quote is not explained or given any further context or nuance, leaving the reader to conclude that veiling can only be an unfeminist and unempowered act. (In her epilogue she also features Masih Alinejad, creator of My Stealth Freedom Facebook page for women to post photos of themselves without a headscarf.)

Compare this to a description of ‘Rejected Princess’ Naziq al-Abid, Syria’s first female general in history, and for whom going veil-less was also a big part of her life.

“She’s seen here ripping off a veil, since going veil-less was a big part of her life. Not that there’s anything wrong with choosing to wear a veil — she just didn’t have that choice for the most part, although she wanted it badly.”

The conspicuous lack of context is odd, as Ansary seems aware that there is more symbolism to the veil than the oppression-freedom dichotomy. The book shows that she is aware that there are other bigger factors that determine a women’s empowerment, such as laws and educational opportunities. This is evident in how she describes Khomeini’s ‘Islamic Government’:

“a misogynistic regimen […] embedded in a constitution reinforcing the primacy of the Sharia (Islamic law) over civil law and the absolute leadership of a Shiite jurist over popular sovereignty.” (p.200)

So it is puzzling why she does not give more nuance where it is so crucially needed.

This lack of linkage to larger political factors and global processes can result in readers making problematic conclusions. Gina B Nahai, in her review of the book, laments the lack of a “satisfying explanation” as to why “an estimated million women actively took part in the overthrow of the Shah and the return of the ayatollahs to Iran”. Nahai ends up blaming Islam as a monolithic patriarchal force, and Allah as a patriarchal god, for the problems of Iranian women. (Perhaps she didn’t read the final chapters where religious and secular Iranian women show how they are able to articulate gender equality in laws within an Islamic framework, through an ideology otherwise known as Islamic feminism.).

The final chapter also comes to an odd conclusion as to how women in Iran can achieve equality. It mainly argues for a reform of Islam based on “theological reform in Western nations”, based on the work of German priest Martin Luther and Friedrich Nietzsche. There is no mention at all of Islamic laws in other countries that do not have the same outcomes as Iran. Even a cursory look at other Muslim majority countries such as Tunisia or Indonesia could show how gender equality is not solely determined by laws or religion, but also other factors like increased employment or improvement in standards of living.

A public relations sheet that came with the book highlighted some publications and organisations that have featured her book. One organisation that stood out was The Clarion Project, which has infamously produced several Islamophobic films, the most recent being Honor Diaries. This rightwing organisation aims to “challenge extremism”, but in reality it provides a simplistic view of ‘Muslim extremism’ in order to perpetuate a cruel and oppressive image of an all-monolithic Islam. 

Despite this, in her interview with The Clarion Project, I think Ansary has bravely attempted to include some nuance about Iran’s gender inequality, highlighting that the West has its own gender inequality issues too.

Final thoughts

The language in Ansary’s book is easy to read, but it is held back by its pace. I felt like I was reading different essays cobbled together: some delving into too much detail in some topics (analysis of elementary textbooks) and some skimming over topics that needed more analysis (tracing of feminist alliances, Muslim reformers from within).

Most importantly, when I finished the book, I realised that state-sponsored terror existed under both Pahlavi/free and Khomeini/oppressed regimes. Not many readers may know that under Pahlavi, police beat up veiled women and forcibly removed their veils. Today, the basij or religious police do the same to women who are ‘improperly’ veiled. It’s an authoritarian state that imposes a regime on its people that creates oppression, not religion or a veil.

While Ansary extensively looks at the actions of the Iranian state (censorship of feminist magazines, changing of laws, the overall impression that her book gives is that patriarchy/male supremacy/culture/religion is to blame for the oppressive and misogynist laws in Iran’s history. I think she could have done a better job in differentiating Islam as a belief system from Islam as a set of legal interpretations that vary across time and space. Similarly, I think Ansary should have clearly explained that there are a multitude of meanings behind a veil or hijab; that women may wear it for many reasons that are not immediately visible from the outside.

This book may be useful to those looking for historical references and a simple discussion of Iran’s political environment; however, the book can be heavily critiqued from various feminist perspectives and is a limited contribution to the work of Islamic and Muslim feminists.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

On feminist alliance and participatory media-making.


Writing (for Muslimah Media Watch and other platforms elsewhere) has opened up many opportunities to collaborate with other activists from around the world. In particular, some articles I wrote on female circumcision (and also male circumcision) a few years ago attracted a lot of attention from activists and filmmakers, and a fresh round of conversations about these articles prompted me to gather and reflect on these transnational interactions.

A few years ago, while I was still living in the Netherlands, a Dutch non-government organization contacted me. They were looking for a gateway into the homogenized ethnic group of “Islamic Indonesian or Malaysian background”. Even though I specifically identified myself as being a Malay (ethnic group) Singaporean (nationality), they mistook me for an Indonesian. Indonesia and Malaysia are two different countries, and Indonesia alone has over 15 ethnic groups – facts that I would have hoped an NGO would be aware of if they were targeting this demographic.

Dispersing the misconceptions about ethnicity, nationality, and diasporic communities was work enough. Then they asked me to help them find other recent immigrants who “may not be informed about the consequences if they have their daughter circumcised.” Their assumptions about immigrant Muslim women and their culture(s) were ominously foreshadowing the recent Dutch policy to teach “gay rights” in refugee centres. Both parties paint immigrants and refugees as being inherently misogynist and homophobic.

(Can we get #NotallMuslimwomencircumcisetheirdaughters trending?)

Soon after, I received a request from an filmmaker working on the issue of routine male infant circumcision (MC). She was looking for doctors or parents in either Malaysia, Indonesia, or Singapore (though anyone from “Africa or Asia” would do) who supported the less invasive forms of female circumcision (pricking, slitting) – and she wasn’t planning on portraying them in a negative light. The purpose of juxtaposing FC (which is normally considered abhorrent) in other countries to male circumcision in the US was to help point out to Americans of their “cultural blind-spots” and “double standard”.

However, it would make more sense to change just one variable instead of two. For example, how about comparing “American” forms of genital cutting such as labioplasty/vaginoplasty to male circumcision? Instead of you know, using the rest of the world as a setting to help Americans learn more about themselves.

Most recently I was asked, by an photographer-filmmaker, to find some women or girls who had been through FC. More specifically, she wanted to film the procedure and some interviews – keeping all parties anonymous. Then: “They can wear their burqas if they want to.” #NotallMuslimwomenwearburqas

In all of the above interactions, I felt conflicting emotions. On one hand, I wanted to raise awareness about FC and MC. However, on the other hand, I felt like the person’s interpretations of the topic were being forced on me. In the case of being asked to provide contacts, I felt like they were forcing their way into an extremely intimate subject – information which had required time and emotional effort on my part to obtain – making me feel like an unwilling ‘native informant’.

As a result of feeling coerced, I curiously started to become defensive. In my mind, I even wanted to defend these practices – FC in particular because of the ‘milder’ nature more prevalent in Southeast Asia – against the onslaught of eager activists. It was a wholly reactionary defense mechanism.

Multiracial alliances can fail or be productive. As in all relations of power, there are lines of privilege to consider. I feel that immortalising representations of Muslim women through the making of media (books, films, policy papers) is something to be especially careful about. What would make me want to collaborate? What would make it worthwhile?

There was one more request by an European activist, who requested me to answer a series of questions on FC. Initially suspicious (seriously you can’t blame me though), I asked her many questions about her background, work, motivations and objectives, to get a better idea about how she was planning to represent the situation in Southeast Asia. In the end, our interactions were open, pleasant and productive, so I ended up contributing my experiences.

In her book Power Lines: On the Subject of Feminist Alliances (2008), Aimee Carillo Rowe writes:

“There’s the colour of the body, and then there’s the colour of the commitment that burns like hot blue flame in our hearts… Our work is to turn ourselves inside out. To locate ourselves through our loyalty and our bravery and our willingness to fight for radical visions.”

The only project I ended up contributing to was one that I felt I had the most control over. Not only did the collaborating activist ask mostly open-ended questions, the published text is also made up mostly of quotes. This shows a willingness to let people speak for themselves (as far as it is possible in a textual form). I suppose then, what makes a collaboration worthwhile is if we can control our own representations and get our message across at the same time.

PS: I almost forgot about the random White male law student who had written a paper about FC and was looking for my feedback. When I asked him why he wanted to send it to me, he said he thought it would be ‘as much for my benefit’ as others had been ‘extremely appreciative’. I think I forgot to give him any feedback.

Friday, February 26, 2016

For our own good.

She could not say that Mrs Denbigh's conduct was positively wrong - it might even be quite right; but it was inexpressibly repugnant to her to think of her father consulting with a stranger (...) to manage his daughter, so as to obtain the end he wished for; yes, even if that end was for her own good.

We grew up thinking this was normal, accepted and even, desirable. That as a child you should be controlled, managed and moulded. That as a daughter even more so, because it was for our own good.

A dark cloud came over Jemima's face. She did not like this close observation and constant comment upon her manners; and what had Ruth to do with it? 'I am glad you were pleased,' said she, very coldly. Then, after a pause, she added, 'But you have not told me what Mrs Denbigh had to do with my good behaviour.' 

'Did she not speak to you about it?' asked Mrs Bradshaw, looking up. 'No; why should she? She has no right to criticise what I do. She would not be so impertinent,' said Jemima, feeling very uncomfortable and suspicious.

We were told, scolded, beaten into believing that our negative feelings should be hidden, tamped down, swallowed into oblivion. The slurry of gossip disguised as information fed to those in authority over you about who they saw you with (the opposite sex will never just be 'a friend', but this is more believable if they are of a different ethnicity than you), and the passive-aggressive advice given to you to be obedient are meant to be accepted whole.

For our own good.

Quotes are from Elisabeth Gaskell's Ruth.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Watch: Malaysian NGO uncovers 8 misconceptions about polygamy

Where I grew up, polygamy was normalised through the actions, stories and tacit approval of the adults around me. Even though the negative side of having multiple wives were not ignored, there was no struggle for justice either. In retrospect, the apathy surrounding the women who were suffering is astounding.

A Malaysian NGO, Sisters in Islam (SIS), produced a short video illustrating the myths and realities around polygamy in Malaysia. From 2007 to 2012, the NGO carried out in-depth interviews with 63 respondents from polygamous families, on the impact that this marriage institution has in Malaysia. According to the information on their YouTube account:

"SIS hopes that the data gathered from our nationwide research on the impact of polygamy on families will prompt the relevant authorities to re-look and reform current Islamic Family Laws on polygamy in Malaysia."

[transcript below]

People say... Polygamy is the undeniable right of a Muslim man.

In reality... Based on Surah An Nisa (Quran 4:3), polygamy is only allowed in order to protect the property and welfare of orphans whose fathers were killed in war.

People say... Men practise polygamy to fulfill the sunnah (practice) of Prophet Muhammad.

In reality... 70% of husbands surveyed admitted to practising polygamy because of sexual attraction.

People say... Co-wives tolerate polygamy for emotional and material reasons.

In reality... 42% of second wives work overtime to support household expenses.
32% were forced to contribute to expenses of the husband, his first wife and their children.
56% of husbands failed to provide sufficient nafkah (allowance), while some did not provide any allowance at all.

People say... Only men with sufficient wealth practise polygamy.

In reality... Men who cannot afford to practise polygamy still do so.
70% of husbands interviewed earn MYR 3000 (USD 700) monthly or less.

People say... Polygamous men divide their time fairly between their wives and children.

In reality... 50% of husbands do not discuss the distribution of time with their wives. (50% do.)
64% of first wives found that their husbands did not follow the arranged schedule.
42.5% of second wives and 77% of the first wife's children are unhappy with the arrangements.

People say... Children do not mind their fathers being polygamous.

In reality... 87% of children interviewed find that polygamy has negatively affected their psychological wellbeing. Some fathers did not know to which wife a child belonged to. Some did not know the names, ages or birthdays of all of their children!
92% of children oppose polygamy because of their own experiences.

People say... Polygamy brings happiness to husbands.

In reality... Husbands admit they suffer emotional stress due to time constraints, financial burdens and complaints from their wives and children.
47% of husbands work overtime and take on extra jobs.
50% admit that taking turns between houses is exhausting.

People say... Malaysia's sharia family laws are fair in dealing with polygamy and family matters.

In reality... The laws are only ideal in theory; enforcement is extremely weak.
60% of first wives were not summoned to the Shariah Court to give their testimony on their husband's eligibility and capabilities for polygamy, before the judge granted a second marriage.
40% of polygamous marriages took place outside the country, mostly at the Thai border.
32% of those marriages did not register their marriages in Malaysia, thus neglecting the legal rights of the new wife and her children.

The Islamic Family Law Act 1984 states the requirements for a proposed [polygamous] marriage:

  1. It must be both appropriate and necessary
  2. Husband must be financially capable
  3. Husband will treat all co-wives equally
  4. It will not cause darar sharie (harm) to the existing wife/wives
  5. It will not directly or indirectly lower the standard of living of existing wife/wives
However, the 1984 Act was amended in 1994. Husbands now no longer have to ensure that the standard of living of existing wife/wives remain the same (See #5 above).

In 2005, the 1984 Act was amended again to make polygamy easier for men. The proposed marriage only has to be appropriate OR necessary (See #1 above).

The 1984 requirements must be reinstated and strictly enforced. Polygamy should not bring happiness to only one party. The purpose of marriage is to create happiness between two people who love and feel compassion for one another (Quran 30:21).

And you will never be able to be equal between wives, even if you should strive [to do so]. So do not incline completely and leave another hanging. And if you amend and fear Allah - then indeed, Allah is ever Forgiving and Merciful. (Quran 4:129)

All data in this video was obtained from 'Impak poligami atas keluarga Muslim di semenanjung Malaysia' (2007-2012) [Impact of polygamy on Muslim families in Malaysia], a research collaboration between SIS and researchers from The National University of Malaysia (UKM), Malaysia Science University (USM) and Malaya University (UM).

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

4 essential mama tops for breastfeeding ease

This article was first published on Aquila Style.

Don’t limit yourself to maternity shops, mums. Try these types of tops for minimal fuss, exposure and equipment.

Image: Fotolia
When my baby was a few weeks old and I felt ready to leave the house, I remember looking through my wardrobe and declaring that I had nothing to wear. Maybe I had said that a few times before, but this time was different: my staple high-cut tops, t-shirts and pullovers were going to make breastfeeding on-the-go much more difficult. Though a hijab or nursing cover would provide sufficient coverage, I was looking for ways to dress modestly yet be able to nurse in public with minimal fuss, exposure and equipment. After a few months of experimenting, I found that these were the kinds of tops that worked best for me:

1. The basic blouse

NYDJ Contrast zip front blouse | $98 |
GAP Navy Poplin shirtdress | $36.99 |

A conventional blouse with buttons down the middle – easily found in stores – works just fine. A zipper is less common, but still readily available. I found these sorts of tops great for when I needed a more formal outfit or wanted to feel more put together.

Either way, you’ll need two hands for this kind of opening – which is sometimes not so handy when you have no hands left to keep baby from rolling off your lap. Zippers and buttons can sometimes smoosh onto baby’s face, leaving marks.

2. The cache coeur

Anna Field jersey dress, petrol | £34 |
Fizza silky kimono baju kurung, navy/burgundy | $40.66 |

A wrap-around or cache coeur (“hidden heart”) cut makes it easy to manoeuvre access to the breast with one hand, and it’s just as easy to cover up when you’re done. Layer a cropped tank top underneath and pull it up while nursing for coverage.

The only drawback is that such tops are usually made from jersey material, which I find sometimes staticky and tend to cling too much to a post-partum body. Look for more structured materials that fall away from your body in the right places. For Eid this year, I got myself a modern take on the traditional Malay dress (baju kurung) which used a wrap around top made from chiffon instead of the usual long blouse.

3. The crop top

Chiffon loose cropped top | $9.60 |
Navy white striped loose crop blouse | $16.67 |

These loose and boxy tops are my favourite; I find these to be the most versatile and useful. Layer a crop top over a tank top and it gives you easy access (just lift up the crop top) and enough wiggle room (slip one or two hands underneath to unhook and hook nursing bras). Plus, it even doubles up as a nursing cover.

Great for hot weather or babies who are not used to nursing covers, since baby can drink al fresco while there’s just enough fabric to keep you covered.

4. The DIY top

Heather Lehmann |
With the exception of cache coeur tops, you can also easily modify current pieces in your wardrobe to have the opening that you like best. Hem off your loose maternity tops or oversized t-shirts to make your own crop tops or send a few items that you love and wear often to the tailor to incorporate invisible zippers (one down the middle, two on each side, or horizontally).

This solution can be easier than buying new clothes – especially when you’re too busy nursing your baby to spend hours shopping!


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