June 20, 2023
This March, when Pakistani education activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai arrived at the Oscars red carpet, she unexpectedly turned heads. It was clear that, this night, Yousafzai meant business, as the producer of the Oscar-nominated short film Stranger at the Gate, which tackles Islamophobia in America. Yousafzai donned a sequined silver custom Ralph Lauren gown. Long-sleeved and cinched at the waist, it was form-fitting with a draped hood, and felt refreshingly ultra-feminine, while also providing her the coverage she needed as a Muslim woman. Yousafzai noted, “I wanted my dress to represent the message of our film, Stranger at the Gate, and embody hope.”
Over the last year, the hooded gown has become the scene-stealer on several red carpets. Celebrities in the West and East, including Aishwarya Rai, Bella Hadid, Margot Robbie, Priyanka Chopra, Anne Hathaway, Simone Ashley, Miley Cyrus, Beyoncé, and many more, have recently sported it, often in a similar style that covers much of the body. It’s quite a 180° turn from cut-outs and sheers from seasons before. For some from South Asia, the design is reminiscent of women draping dupattas or chunnis to cover their heads and of influences from Muslim regions, where it is also customary to cover one’s head with the hijab, niqab, or burqa. Much like the trend of two-piece gowns that look like lehengas, this feels like another fashion movement drawing from the East — yet rarely openly credits it.