Today, I received a long-awaited package from Lebanon containing a new type of hijab I’ve been wanting to try for a long time. First, a little explanation about Bokitta. They make a unique hijab called “Voila!” which looks like an elaborately wrapped shayla, but is in (almost) one piece and does not require any pins at all. The reason why they chose the name is obvious, I think :). If not, it will be once you read on..!
Now, I love to experiment with all sorts of different looks and ideas for my unique style! But, I’m also all about comfort :P. I want my clothes to look good and make me happy (and cover me up) but they also have to be comfortable and easy to take care of. I’m not interested in a lot of fiddle-faddle, especially when it comes to getting dressed in the morning… I’m already having to manage to wrest myself out of cozy covers, and in a half-asleep zombie mode somehow throw together clothing, brush and wash, maybe apply some mascara (I said easy) and get my son out the door too and that’s before I stop for coffee! By the time I begin to mentally awaken at work an hour or so later, though, it’s nice to look like a little more thought went into it so I don’t frighten myself when I look in the bathroom mirror and accidentally introduce myself to the apparently-new-slightly-disheveled muslim who seems to have joined my company.
And then there are the days when I’m working from home, and need to run errands at the end of the day. There’s something to be said for throwing something on that looks like you haven’t been sitting in the living room in front of a laptop all day long (interspersed with toddler interactions). However, there is a balance of how much energy I really want to expend in that case when I’m just dashing 5 minutes to the post office or grocery store at the end of a looong day.
And the weekends when I REALLY want to kick back but will almost certainly be appearing in public… and so on. You get my drift I think, in fact at this point you are probably fighting with my drift and screaming to try to get my attention that the drift has drifted way too far up the beach and you are becoming smothered.
At any rate, my usual hijab has defaulted to a cotton bandana (to keep the wispies away from my face) as my underscarf and a square hijab folded in near-triangle and pinned at my chin in classic style. About the only variation is what I do with the ends… tie, pin it on my shoulder, or pin it by my ear (in part, depending on which kind of top I’m wearing). Easy. Fast. Comfortable. But not foolproof. Also, this requires 2 safety pins (one under my chin, one on my shoulder on one end of the triangle) and one brooch (on the other end of the triangle, either on my shoulder or pinned by my ear to my underscarf. It’s light, and cool in warm weather (depending the fabric). It’s not so good in any type of windy weather, jogging, bending over, etc. depending on the type of fabric different problems can arise. I’ve even had it slip over my head inconveniently while praying. Such situations often call for a coat or sweatshirt to tuck it into in order to prevent too much billowing or sliding around. Still, it’s been my standard for … oh… over 10 years now. I try a lot of other styles and types of hijab but I generally fall back on this 95% or more of the time.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the look of a nicely wrapped shayla. They’re also easier to come by and usually cheaper than the large square scarves (I often “make” my own square ones from the fabric store). I do have several shaylas in my closet, that I just had to purchase because they were so nice and I was sure I would wear them. But whenever it came right down to it, I ran into a lot of problems with them! First of all, break out even more pins. Attempt the multiple ways I might manage to wrap different sized shaylas to try to cover my hair, neck, and chest. They always seemed either too narrow, such that my neck was always wanting to uncover if I didn’t pin it just right, or so wide that I ended up with a huge, warm, muffler effect choking me. Or no chest coverage, and loose ends flopping around looking momentarily stylish but ultimately in the way. Regardless of technique, multiple layers were necessary, many pins in many places, and yet I would still feel it shifting after I left the house. I tried different underscarves. I’ve tried various different “amira” style hijabs (if you like the tight/hot feeling of a balaclava, maybe that works for you… I admit it’s handy when I go skiing). I don’t like how tight they are, and if I try to use them to provide the “extra” coverage under a shayla (and something to pin to), then it’s even hotter and more swaddled (I don’t like how snug they are by themselves either or the way they look). I also find myself constantly adjusting shaylas during the day as it shifts around… to keep the back of my neck covered, front of my neck and chest, the part across the forehead that always goes funny…. And then I have to rewrap it all for wudu.
Suffice to say I don’t wear shaylas very often, even though I own them and they are very pretty (at least on other people or on the hanger!). If I have the extra time to do all that pinning and tucking, which is rare, I usually regret it later when I keep having to fuss with it, or get too hot, or I just sit there uncomfortable afraid to move around or chew anything robustly for fear of working it loose (okay, usually I go for the robust chewing and deal with the consequences after). The material generally does not feel good against my skin either, especially considering it’s in much closer contact than the loosely attached square scarves. If it’s smooth and silky, it won’t stay in place, and I really dislike the feel of the stretchy synthetic materials rubbing on my neck or anything scratchy (no pashminas for me either, even if I could stand the heat, I’m allergic to the wool).
Despite all this, I’ve been making do pretty happily with my square scarves all this time. I’ve tried one new style after another of “easy wear” (read, clingy head sock). The only “easy wear” ones that I don’t really mind are a couple of Indonesian-style one-peices that I’ll review another time, however, they’re only suitable for cool winter weather, and I only have two I wear (I have several of others I can’t wear for one reason or another… and I haven’t found a company selling them that I actually want to order from again or is affordable). And occasionally I’ll still mess with a shayla for special occasions.
Enter, at long last, Bokitta. I’ve had my eye on the site for several months, they only recently added their online shopping options (they already had some “brick & mortar” store, but not in the U.S.). Unfortunately, shipping from Lebanon was a bit prohibitive for a product I’d never tried before and knew I wouldn’t be able to return (I already have a pile of clothing items I don’t wear that I purchased online from afar and aren’t worth return shipping… including the aforementioned extra Indonesian hijabs). So, I kept a watchful eye on their facebook page and was delighted to see a free shipping coupon appear (which I believe is still in effect at time of writing, but not for much longer! The code is BOKITTAFSZ1).
They were clearing out their inventory for 2012 styles, so I eagerly leapt into action and chose a variety of options from the site to experiment with, which I thought I could wear in multiple everyday situations. Some of them were also on sale! And very reasonably priced, I might add.
I ordered 4 hijabs in different colors, as follows:
I ordered this solid color pale pink hijab as a sort of “neutral”. Normally, I don’t wear solid-color hijabs. I just like something a little more interesting (though I do have a few two-tone or subtle tie-dye ones which I love). However, on the occasions that I want to wear a top that has some sort of pattern (which I do have a few of), or an extra vest, accessories, etc, it can all start to get a little busy, depending on the scarf. Solid color neutrals can be much more versatile, I admit. Your basic black or white doesn’t do very well with my very pale complexion, so if I have to do a neutral I like pale pink. I decided to pick one to balance out my order and have an item I could wear with even more existing wardrobe items. For interest, I chose one that has a tone-on-tone stripe pattern woven into the fabric. The pom-poms also spice it up a bit :).
When I first took it out of the package, I tried this one first. It was the one I felt most reserved about in placing the order. I have to say they did an excellent job representing the color online, it looked exactly as described. The material was very soft, very light cotton. Like your lightest, softest summer sheet, exactly. It was so thin and light you could easily have made doll clothes with it, yet not see-through. Now, one of the things that attracted me about the Voila! scarves is they are 100% cotton! That is my favorite fabric against my skin. It gets even softer with wear, doesn’t pill up, doesn’t pull and tug or sweat like materials with stretch added to them, it’s the coolest thing to wear in the heat, and it doesn’t get all heavy and sweaty (well, if it’s woven anyway).
This absolutely filled the bill on all counts. The pink scarf is a variety called Voila! Plus. This is because it has a thin inner liner (which I tried to show in my photo below) of solid color pale pink (same fabric but without the stripe pattern). This serves to make the fabric non-see through, despite being so light and airy and having the stripe pattern (I wish they made cotton blouses double-layered like this…). The inner layer is a couple inches shorter than the outer layer, so it doesn’t have added bulk after it hits your shoulders.
A separate part, which wasn’t entirely clear from the website, is the headband piece which serves to hold your hair out of the way and keep the outer scarf in place. It is made of the same comfortable cotton material. Now, normally, even if i have a “two piece” amira or some such, I STILL have to wear my cotton bandana underneath because no other underscarf will stay on my hair without slipping around. It’s just slippery I guess. Not the case with the Voila headband! When I first put it on, my thought was it was too tight! However after a minute or two it did not feel tight and I couldn’t even feel it (another benefit of cotton… warms and molds to you). It was very wide, enough to keep my bangs and all wispy bits where they belonged, but did not feel at all like it was going to pop off the back of my head, nor did it press uncomfortably on top of my ears. There was no question: I would not need to wear any additional underscarf here.
Note that in the pictures from the bokitta site, in some of them there is an extra “white” layer. This is not part of the Voila!, it’s an extra underscarf from somewhere else that the model is wearing for variety. If you like the super-layered-look, you could easily throw any contrasting scarf, or a decorative headband, over this very slim profile headband/underscarf, before putting the outer Voila! piece on. Another way to dress it up and add a bit of variety to the way you wear it.
I pulled on the outer main scarf a little hesitantly (everything was beautifully and professionally packaged, but for some reason I felt nervous at the lack of any wearing instructions! Silly me.. experienced only with the other easy wear scarves of my past). There was no NEED for wearing instructions. Remembering how the models were shown wearing it on the site (in terms of positioning the row of pom-poms) I just mimicked that. I also found that for easy positioning there was a short bit of elasticized fabric just under the chin, so I lined that up with my chin.
And that was all there was to it. From that moment, I was sold! The longer I wore that scarf the more I loved it. It no longer looked plain, it looked and felt GREAT! It was very light and airy. I could tell that it would be perfect for the hottest summer day, and the headband would keep sweat from running down my face too. I could fold the top slightly for a more full look around my face, or smooth it back. Despite my concerns about length (my previous experiences with one- or two-piece hijabs is they’re ALWAYS either too short, leaving high chance of my neck being exposed in the back where they hang up on my bun, or enormously long so they have no shape or drape. This had neither issue. The lightness and yet body of the fabric and structure that it was sewn into held it away from my neck so it wasn’t wrapping around choking me like a regular shayla (or even worse any time I’d attempted ANY type of cotton hijab). There was no tightness or constriction around the neck or around my hair bun, and it went down far enough in the back and front that I did not have that ever-present feeling that there was going to be a gap at my shirt neckhole if I moved around/leaned forward/etc. I found myself thinking that even if i stood on my head, it would probably stay covering my neck (I didn’t try it though…. I’m not that flexible anymore :P.. and there were other scarves to try!). Also I want to note that the part around my face completely covered my hair, including the little bits of hair that grow in front of my ears, yet it was not tight. It was easy and comfortable to put my glasses on and off (which incidentally is a problem I have in many ways of wearing hijab/styles, though I usually wear contacts. A wrapped hijab always seems to hang up weirdly on the legs of my glasses, or I have to make it so tight that they’re hard to get on and off (especially sunglasses that come on and off a lot). I’m not sure if others have this difficulty or it’s just my face shape, but it’s worth noting. The hijab sat where I put it, without constricting me, just like a well-tailored shirt.
I hurried to try on the other ones I had ordered! The next one I tried was my purple hijab. Now, most of the product photos on the website appear to be very color-accurate, and they take photos in outside light (which is a great thought on their part). I knew when I ordered this one that the picture on the site didn’t do it justice, because the color was described as “Petunia” and the other “Petunia” scarves on their site were straight purple. So, I banked on this one being purple instead of sort of dark blue as it looks in the photo, and I was right! It was a gorgeous print of white, pale blue-green, and pale lavender on a purple background.
This style is slightly different from the Voila! Plus of the previous scarf. The purple scarf is a style called “Voila! Mixed” which was (visually) my favorite style on the site. Like the Voila! Plus, it has two layers, but I liked it more for the contrast effect. It was a little bit hard to tell from the website which ones were “Voila Mixed Printed/Dyed” and which ones were “Voila Mixed Dyed/Printed”. To add to my slight confusion, most scarves had product photos of several different styles (Voila, Voila Plus, Voila Mixed Printed/Dyed, and Voila Mixed Dyed/Printed), which weren’t always identified and which weren’t always still available in all 4 styles for that fabric. Whew!
At any rate, I eventually figured out that “Voila Mixed Printed/Dyed” is the one that has the pattern as the main body of the scarf, and the solid color as the contrasting edge. The “Voila Mixed Dyed/Printed” is the opposite: The solid color is the main part of the scarf, and the patterned part shows along the edge as contrast (the underneath layer). Since I’m partial to patterned scarves, but I liked the contrast and longer length that “Mixed” provided, I chose the former option. So this is Voila Mixed Printed/Dyed!
It’s constructed much like the Voila! Plus except the inner layer doesn’t end inside the scarf, it extends out a few inches to provide interest and contrast (and more coverage in front and back because this makes it slightly longer). Other than that, the basic design is the same.
One other bonus that I did not realize from the website is the way the “Mixed” headband is constructed. One side is patterned, and the other side is solid, so you can wear it either way for different effect! Also, each side has a contrasting edge if you want an extra effect: for instance, turn the purple side one way, and you can see a thin contrasting strip of pattern, turn it the other way and it’s just purple. You can also fold the edge over a half-inch (or more) for a contrast strip. The Voila! Plus also has this “double edge” on one side (though without contrasting colors of course, since I got it in a single color) which I liked (I don’t always want my scarf laying completely flat against my forehead). All-in-all, 4 different ways to wear the Mixed headband for slightly different looks. Lots of variety from an easy wear scarf!
I loved the way the Mixed scarf fit as well. The patterned cotton is of a thicker material, while the solid color lining cotton is thin and soft, light and comfortable. The outer material was heavier cotton than on my solid color Voila! Plus (which had bout the same weight inner and outer cotton: very light). This lead me to be even more pleased with choosing the Printed/Dyed option because I liked the fact that the thinner, lighter fabric was on the inside rather than the outside. The slightly heavier cotton on the outside also gave it a bit more structure, so if I wanted I could fold it up for a fuller look or sleek it down for a smooth refined look.
I loved the look of Voila Mixed, so I also got another Voila Mixed in pink and dark brown! This is one of my favorites! (Okay, so I can’t decide which one is my favorite. But I really love this one!). This is a less-subtle, bright, cheery pink. The contrasting color looks almost black on the website, but in fact it turned out to be a dark espresso brown. I liked it even more than if it had been black (which I’d been slightly worried about being too contrasty for my usual look… plus I wear a lot of brown!). This is a two-tone print and is constructed the same way as the purple one. It also has the two-sided headband (I will probably wear the headband with the print side out, because I like how it makes it look like the scarf is all one piece of fabric, but those who enjoy wearing their shaylas with a different underscarf for a layered look will really appreciate the versatility here!
This scarf came with tassels instead of pom-poms. On each scarf you have the option to specify either tassels or pom-poms, but the site notes that not every style is available in both. They give you the option to specify what you would like them to do if the style (pom-poms or tassels) that you selected for a particular scarf is not available (substitute another scarf?) or if you don’t specify, they will just give you the trim option that is available.
In my case, I chose pom-poms for all the scarves, but I chose not to specify any other substitutions, knowing that they might send tassels if the pom-poms were out. In general, I like the pom-poms better both in the way they look, and in the fact that my experience with tassels has been that they start to look tattered after a while as the threads come out or get uneven. However, this was my first order and I was willing to experiment in order to get the fabric I wanted. The pom-poms look good out of the package, but I do have some reservations about how they will hold up in the wash and over time and if they will start to fuzz out and look messy. I fear they will as they are the thread construction I usually find on clothes, rather than the tightly stitched sort you find in curtain departments of fabric stores. However, if they do give out, I crafty enough to happily replace them with new versions (as I’ve done on other clothes) or remove them altogether. Note: some scarves are available without any trim and this is surely also an option if they were out of the kind of trim one specified. However, I kinda like the trim look :P.
The final scarf I chose is a teal, blue and white print that is in the original classic Voila! style. That is, it is one layer and does not have any underpeice or additional length. I was a little hesitant about ordering the classic Voila! because it comes out to a shorter length without the contrasting edge (plus I like the contrasting edge) but I liked the pattern a lot and though it would go with a variety of outfits, so I decided to give it a go (the pattern was originally also offered in Mixed, as that is also pictured on the website, but was sold out in that style when I trundled in at the end of the sale with my free shipping pass in virtual hand).
Having tried it, I have no further reservations and would be quite happy to order a classic Voila! again as much as the other types! It is still sufficiently long that I feel no qualms about coverage or riding up, and the fabric is fully opaque, comfortable, and light. It is of the heavier cotton used in the other prints, but is not uncomfortable against the skin without lining at all. This one also turned out not to be available in pom-poms and so I received the tassel version. The headband is patterned on both sides since it’s not the “mixed” style. The print is mix of several colors which makes it especially versatile for mixing and matching with different outfits: dark blue ground, with white, medium blue, pale blue, bright (almost turquoise) blue, light teal, and dark teal! Lovely coordinating colors on a beautiful chrysanthemum pattern, it reminds me a bit of kimono printing :). Yet another thing to love about Bokitta, their variety of interesting and gorgeous patterns! And, I’m happy to note, none of them with oddly bright, garish, or clashing colors, which I’ve received on other online orders before (hard to always represent accurately online, I know, but some colors JUST don’t go together!). Each scarf print clearly had beautiful compatible shades with subtle variations chosen by someone with color sense.
Just one more thing I’d like to add :). These all came right out of their nice folded packages (very nicely presented if you wanted to gift or sell, by the way) without ironing and they looked great. Artfully rumpled, if anything. I’m going to wash them (just to remove the new-fabric-smell and get the fold lines out, etc), but I don’t anticipate having to do any further ironing after a tumble dry :). Which is good. Because comfort and ease means not having to iron, among other things :).
This is but a word of caution. The Bokitta site offers both PayPal and 2Checkout (2co) options. Due to some hassle with my bank I’d recently switched bank cards and I didn’t want to go through the setup of the new card with PayPal during my order (I know, I know) so I used 2Checkout, which I’ve used before on another site. Now, in hindsight, I remember the same thing happened LAST time I used 2Checkout to pay for something. Both this time and last time, my bank decided that 2Checkout was a “sign of fraudulent activity” and put a hold on my account. A call to my bank the next morning (after they sent me a text message… at 5 am… and email about “suspicious activity” cleared up the misunderstanding, but keep it in mind. I’d use PayPal instead for smoother sailing). I’ve haven’t actually had a problem with 2Checkout’s practices or anything, but I HAVE ended up at counters with my card denied before for one reason or another because of my jumpy bank (which to their credit did one time detect a legitimate problem, out of all the times they inconvenienced me).
Yes, I do have to report something. No, it’s not the quality of the products! There was a problem with the shipping. Normally, packages are delivered >worldwide< in 2-3 days! That’s impressive. Very impressive (still pretty expensive shipping, but I like my instant gratification). So when my package didn’t arrive in that timeframe, I wondered if it was because I had used the free shipping option. Their website has a handy account feature that keeps track of your previous orders, so I checked on that, but couldn’t determine what my package was doing exactly.
A quick contact to customer support provided news, if not good news. It seemed the shipping company had lost track of my package somewhere in Lebanon. Customer service was very apologetic and assured me that they were working with the shipping company to get it straightened out, and if they did not find the package they were going to dispatch another one, by a different company. They did followup with me by email in short order (and also by phone, I found out later, although since they did not leave a message the first time I did not know who was calling, but later, they left me a detailed message). All in all it took my package an excessive amount of time to arrive, 12 days (well, excessive if you consider it was supposed to be 2-3 day shipping). The company assured me though it was the first time they had tried Aramex shipping and they would be switching to DHL in the future. Incidentally, Aramex did eventually find the original package and get it to me, just very late. They sent me the tracking info so I could keep an eye on it as well. They also ended up cancelling the initial charge, and recharging it at a later date, which was slightly confusing. And, I ended up with an additional 2 dollar and change charge for unknown reasons that I’m still tracking down. The whole shipping situation made me leery (and glad I had used the free option), however, Bokitta made extra effort to keep in contact with me about the situation and apparently to keep bothering the shipping company until they got their act together, and apparently won’t be shipping with them again. Plus when I finally opened my packages… oh the sweetness of delight in the product melted most of my grumpiness away :). After seeing these, I’d even be willing to plunk down the regular exorbitant shipping (and see it in 2-3 days on the opposite side of the globe, which we must admit, is pretty amazing) for another order, especially after everyone I know sees these and decide they must have them as well and share shipping costs! If you’re not convinced though, I think they still have that FREE OFFER going 😉 but I bet it’ll be gone once the new 2012s styles are out!
One more thing…(a good thing!)
I should also mention by the way, if you haven’t pored over their site yet, that they intend to bring out fresh seasons of different patterns, (2012 is already being previewed) AND they also have other coordinating clothing on the site in matching colors, plus regular shaylas in the same patterns! They also have had some free giveaways so keep an eye on their facebook page and sign up for “special offers” on the main page of their site right now!
Bokitta’s Voila! designs get a RESOUNDING multiple thumbs and toes up from me 🙂 I love them, and I can’t wait to wear them all, repeatedly, and gush to everybody I know! I put them on and it’s fast, it’s easy, it’s super comfortable, it’s not slipping ANYwhere and needs no adjustment, AND I look like a million bucks and like I’m all put together and not slapping on something sloppy. Great idea, excellent execution of said idea, and insha’allah they thrive in their business! Let’s support them!