I’m making good progress on my burqa design project. I’ve conducted a few more interviews with women who wear burqas, and believe I am on track with my design choices.

I visited Material ConneXion library in Manhattan for the first time, and it was a dream come true. A crazy collection of cutting-edge and sustainable materials, everything from gossamer LED fabric, pressed mushroom board, and salmon leather. I spent one hour roaming the rows and rows of materials, and pulled about 6 off the shelf to follow up with the manufacturers for samples.

Hanny burqa

I had a great sewing tutorial with fellow ITP student A.H. She was gracious in showing me how to get started on the sewing machine.

We discussed the pleats in the cape, and she suggested that I might want to try pasting on the retro-reflective strips with fabric glue first before I sew on top of them to hold the strips in place. Good suggestion.

Hanny sewing machine

I’ve collected most of my materials for the initial piece, including retro-reflective fabric strips and yarn, midge net blue mesh, mirrored goggle lenses, and 4 different fabrics. The fabrics are jersey rayon blends that will hopefully breathe better than the existing nylon garment.

I had a very educational experience visiting the famous Mood designer fabrics store for the first time, spent 3.5 hours pulling rolls of fabric off the shelf, and was completely exhausted by the time I reached the check out. They had a huge mesh collection, but very little cooling / wicking fabric which was disappointing.

Sample reflective yarn

I contacted Metlon Corporation, home of retroglo yarn and retro-reflective fabrics. They were very helpful in suggesting the right kind of material to use for my purposes, and provided a sample card of different sizes. I ordered the style 2P2 1/23″ yarn, which is double-sided. I also ordered a roll of reflective material that is single-sided and sewable: 3M Scotchlite Reflective Material 8910 Silver Fabric, 1/2″, 65% polyester / 35% cotton. This material is good for home wash, which means it’s easy to care for in daily use. Home Wash instructions: Machine wash warm, 40 degrees celsius / 105 degrees farenheit, tumble dry low, medium iron 150 degrees celsius / 300 degrees farenheit. Dry cleaning may also be used. 100% polyester thread is recommended for sewing 3M Scotchlite reflective material. I bought the roll from Metlon Corporation for $38.27, 900 yards per roll. It comes in 1/2, 1, and 2 inch sizes.

I really like the 3M fabric much better than the 3M adhesive material as it is very flexible and easy to sew.

I tested the effectiveness of the retro-reflective material by taking a flash photo of the strips, and also by shining a large PAR can studio light on the strips.
reflective strips test 3
I couldn’t believe how bright the 1/23″ strips shone in the flash – it nearly blinded me! This test confirmed for me that the crown is a good place to attach the strips, as well as the back of the cape.

Here are some photos of the tests against the burqa.

Reflective strips test 2

I had a very successful design session this week, in particular looking at the placement and layout of the retro-reflective material on the burqa and the shapes of the cut-outs. We made a few designs using Illustrator and sketch pad, based on the henna hand designs and mosque tile shapes that I had previously researched. I am pleased with the designs we came up with.


Next, I shall start experimenting with pattern making and sewing, and exploring cinchable pull-cord flaps and movable pieces of the garment to enable more emotive movements.

Read about the inspiration for this project and future progress in these blog posts:

1. Research & Concept Development
2. Materials and Testing
3. Why Blue Color?
4. Sewing Pattern
5. Face Mesh Weaving
6. Fashion Hacking the Afghan Burqa

5 Responses to “Redesigning the Afghan Burqa (cont’d)”  

  1. 1 Chris Myers

    Beautiful idea. I now have a FaceBook page called Muslim Womens Movement I which we are trying different designs as well. Please feel free to join as a friend! Your comments, articles, critiques would be greatly appreciated.

  2. 2 Jane Macdougall

    Suzanne, I’ve so enjoyed wading thru some of what you do! Fascinating.
    What led me to you is a project I’m doing on visibility. I write for several publications and, if my project finds its feet, I’ll hope to reference your burqa project.
    You’re a good person to have on the planet; keep it up!!

  3. 3 suzkita

    Thank you, Jane! You have piqued my curiosity regarding a project on visibility, would love to hear more. Keep me posted on your endeavors!

  4. 4 Jennye Blain

    Do you sell these?
    Thanks for sharing your gorgeous design, makes me want! :)

  5. 5 suzkita

    I would like to create more variations of designs and apply reflective materials to other traditional women’s garments, such as a long head scarf (dupatta or chador) or shalwar kameez, so that I can produce a range of samples for user testing in different environments and for different scenarios.

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