The other day I hastened home to pick up my freshly delivered order from SHUKR, hoping it would temper the dissapointment of my previous one. Sadly, as soon as I opened the package I was to be sorely dissapointed. I’d hoped to lay my hands on one of the few remaining cotton jersey options on their site, but unfortunately, the sweatshirt I ordered was not 100% cotton (apparently an error on the site) but instead a mix of cotton and elastane. Timely, as one of my sister posters on her blog Old School Hejabi actually recently invited a discussion on the merits of cotton vs. cotton blends! I know there are many out there who are a fan of the synthetic blends, but I’m in the 100% cotton camp myself and there was no way I could bring myself to keep it. I love the feel of 100% cotton against my skin, be it a tee-shirt, sweatshirt, jeans, etc and I love the way it wears over time. It gets softer and finer feeling with time and develops an almost velvety knap. If it’s a fitted garment it molds to your body, but without clinging. It protects against a slight chill, but it’s also airy and breathable, a perfect layering garment. It doesn’t get smelly or clingy when you sweat, it’s durable, and it doesn’t pill.
Unfortunately all these lovely aspects of cotton are lost when you blend it with a stretch material like polyester, elastane, or spandex. And one of my huge pet peeves over the last many years has been how much of this fabric has invaded the market at the expense of good old reliable 100% cotton. Now, I’m not an “all natural fabrics all the time” person by any means. I have a fair amount of clothes in non-natural or synthetic fabrics, along with cotton, rayon, etc. Especially when it comes to fleece or sweaters of the heavier sort, I go non-natural because I’m allergic to most wool. Also in terms of outer garments like coats if I want them to be waterproof, or abayas/jilbabs, I frequently choose unnatural fabrics for their other qualities. But as the “inner” layer, unless I’m going skiing or something, cotton wins hands down.
I’m not really sure why so much “stretch” is getting mixed into everything these days. It’s well-nigh impossible to find women’s jeans that are actually 100% cotton denim (and in a style that works on me), and has been for the last 10 years or so. They’re becoming more and more scarce. I know the real denim still exists, because men’s jeans are made out of it (I check), but for some reason women’s have gone all stretchy. The last jeans I bought I had custom-made, and probably will do so again (I’ll feature them in another post when I do, insha’allah :). Stretch jeans to me are a horrid thing, when you first put them on they squeeze uncomfortably, but by the end of the day they’re saggy and gross. Since the waist is also stretch, they also sag during the day so by the end of the day I’m hiking them up like a kid wearing leotards for the first time (well not so obviously I hope) and I can pull them off without unbuttoning (I’d prefer my pants to stay where I put them a little better). They’re also the worst in hot weather because whatever’s in the stretch makes me sweat and prevents the fabric from breathing.
This is also a problem in shirts or sweatshirts made out of stretch cotton… not so much the sagging of course, but the breathability and sweatiness. Once you sweat on a cotton/stretch blend, it never seems to come out, and I really dislike the smell of the wet material (this may be peculiar to just me, I also hate the way silk smells when it gets wet or sweaty :P). One of the worst factors though, and this is a big problem with the blended sweatshirts, is the way cotton stretch blends pill over time. Instead of getting softer like cotton does, the once-fleecy inside develops aggravating fabric pills that are impossible to conquer. This happens on the outside of such fabrics eventually to, especially anywhere that rubs against something else (and is why after the one time, I will never ever buy anything but 100% cotton sheets and mattress pads… oh the pills).
So, 100% cotton is the way to go for me on this type of garment. Above all, I want my clothes to be comfortable. Yes, I also like ones that I think look nice on me and are functional in terms of keeping me dressed, covered, not too cold, protected from the environment, etc but comfort is number 1. I keep my seam ripper close at hand on new purchases to remove itchy or pokey tags, too 😛 and I’m perfectly happy to make repairs/alterations on comfy garments to keep them that way.
Back to SHUKR: I’m a long time customer, and a long time fan. One of the things I’ve ALWAYS loved about them in the more than 10 years of being a customer is their high-quality, timeless fabrics, often made of durable, soft, 100% cotton. Several years ago they started making things like long, tunic lengths sweatshirts of 100% cotton jersey. Now “jersey” as it’s normally available is one of my least favorite fabrics. The usual synthetic stuff has all the things I hate… clingy, sweaty, pilly, etc. Cotton jersey on the other hand is very soft, durable, and wears great. I was ecstatic when they came out with these, because while SHUKR is a great site for “business” wear, I tend to be a fairly casual dresser most of the time. Also I like to get out and active in the natural world, and I like clothes that will hold up while doing that. While I love my flowy abayas, they snag, they get dirty, they aren’t very effective while hiking or gardening or running around on the playground. So, I usually keep them for activities that aren’t going to inflict a lot of wear and tear, depending on how durable they are. Cotton on the other hand is great for holding up, it tends to wash clean and wear well and if it snags, which is rare, it survives pretty well.
SHUKR makes very high quality garments. My favorite things to buy from them historically have been the aforementioned sweatshirts/hoodies. I got my first one which was also a Maliki hoody when it first came out, in heavy 100% cotton jersey. I think I was pregnant at the time 😛 it lasted me pretty well pre and post, but eventually I needed to size down, and got another cotton jersey hoody which I loved even more. And eventually as I continued to shrink postpregnancy, grew out of that too :P. I’m currently on the third hoody which is considerably too large for me. Approaching the return to my “goal” size (aka before I become a mother size :D) I have been carefully watching the SHUKR site, only to find they seem to have switched to stretch cotton blends for all their jersey. I’ve actually ordered several items in this to try it out, after waiting around for some time for the regular cotton options to come back.
The one I ordered in my most recent order was the maliki hoody, several sizes smaller than my long gone original. As I mentioned, it says on the site that it is 100% cotton but this apparently an error, as when it arrived it was 95% cotton and 5% elastane. This doesn’t sound like much, but it makes a big difference. The feel was not pleasant on my skin, it was clingy and stretchy and not breathable. Sadly, I wrapped it up and sent it back (also letting them know about the incorrect description). Also it seemed (though yes it was in a smaller size) to be cut a bit differently than my previous one, in that while it was long in the front, it didn’t quite cover my rear end in the back, which is a no for me if I’m going to be wearing it with pants. Obviously differently shaped sisters can modestly pull off different looks, but for me, if I’m not wearing a skirt that effectively skims/camouflages my back end, my top or overgarment needs to come down further!
Since I’m also tall, this is a frequent problem for me on things that are classed as “tunics” but on my look like regular length shirts. I suspect my confusion about the length when looking at the website measurements had something to do with the fact that it’s much longer in the front. This was the case with the previous Maliki hoody I had, but since I was wearing a larger size it might have compensated.
The last order I got from SHUKR, before this one, was the first time I decided to try their cotton blends. I ordered 3 of the new jilbab styles, two in cotton/poly blends and one in cotton corduroy. What drew me in was the site advertised that this cotton blend had cotton on both the outside and inside, with the stretch material “sandwiched” between, so I thought, well… I’ve been holding out for a new sweatshirty thing from SHUKR for a long time, AND I really like their styles of the new jilbabs, AND maybe if it’s not touching my skin it won’t be so bad…
Also the fact that SHUKR has a good return policy helps. I’ve utilized it many times over the years as sometimes things just don’t fit like you’d expect or it turns out to be the wrong size. They will either give you a store credit coupon for 100% of the cost or refund the cost minus about 10 for shipping (you also have to pay return shipping). Since I’m a frequent customer I usually take the credit unless it’s a pretty big order.
Usually their shipping is also quite fast, within the week. On my second to last order unfortunately there was some problem and it was delayed for over a week until I inquired about it, during which time one of the items I ordered went out of stock (without notifying me unfortunately). After some communication with customer service I eventually got the package, and they also gave me a free shipping coupon for future orders. The experience was disappointing, however, my long history of successful and fast shipments from them suggests this is not usually the case. Also, my most recent shipment (of the maliki sweatshirt) came very quickly.
The jilbab blend fabric unfortunately was not to my liking. The outside was very soft and cuddly feeling, but the inside of the jersey had a peculiar unpleasant loop texture reminiscent of polyester loop terry cloth on those guest towels that never absorb anything. The stretch in the jilbab made it very clingy as well, so it was more “figure hugging” than it would have been in 100% cotton, which stretches to adjust to your shape. I did not care for the zipper pocket style on this particular jilbab, because the edge of the zipper pressed against my wrist when I put my hands into the pockets and poked me. If you do not mind the fabric type, I would suggest one of the similar styles either without zipper pockets or with a fabric edge between the edge of the zipper and where your hand goes (which was the case on another SHUKR sweatshirt I previously owned with zipper pockets). Finally, the jilbab was cut way too short, which I should have known, but I thought maybe I could pull it off. Depending on sizing, I end up with a lot of jilbabs which hit me mid-calf. This sometimes works, and sometimes doesn’t. It’s due to the fact simply that a lot of sites do not have variable lengths and they’re made for shorter women. This tends to be the case on SHUKR jilbabs.
The other corduroy jilbab I got was 100% cotton, which was nice, and I think I could have pulled off the length, but the sleeves were too tight and short for me in comparison. On the whole, it was an experimental order which didn’t work out.
Until they offer longer lengths in jilbabs, I think I will have to continue sticking to ordering tunics and skirts from them, which are historically what I have ordered the most from SHUKR. This is pretty much the only place I’ve found where you can get HIGH quality, colorful and comfortable long cotton tunics and skirts. Depending on what is the current fashion trend, it can be hard to find skirts that actually cover my ankles, but SHUKR has always come through in this aspect and I have ordered a fair number of skirts from them over the years.
Oddly, though their skirts fit and are generously long enough, their pants are always too short for me. I’ve tried different ones here and there over the years (also tempted by the fact that occasionally they offer wide leg or boot cut jeans in all cotton denim, my aforementioned dream) but the inseam is always a couple inches short. Now, I’m not actually THAT tall (5′ 9″) and I have read on their blog that at least one of the posters there is also 5′ 9″ and fits their pants and jilbabs, so I guess I’ll chalk it up to different body types. It’s kind of hard to tell how the pants will fit by looking at the site though, since they don’t always include the inseam length, and overall length with pants varies quite a bit depending on if they sit at the natural waist or well below it.
One of SHUKR’s strong points is, aside from inseam on some pants styles, they do include garment measurements on everything so you can see not only what size it falls into, but what the real dimensions are. This is EXTREMELY helpful for sizing garments (especially if you change sizes) and I wish all websites did this. It doesn’t do me much good to order online from a place that just has indicated “Medium”. Even giving the range of body sizes on a chart (which SHUKR also includes, but supplements with actual dimensions) doesn’t always cut it because: different styles or clothing manufacturers add different amounts of “extra space” on the garment to allow for a comfortable fit, and also because I never actually fit the given dimensions on the body chart in that my upper measurements might be in one category and my lower measurements in another. Knowing the actual clothing dimensions, as SHUKR provides, is a good way to tell which category to go with.
The last order I did keep from SHUKR (on top of MANY staple SHUKR garments accumulated over the years in my closet, mostly skirts and tunics, in mix and match sizes of course) was this lovely cotton knit sweater and skirt. The sweater is great, I love the color, and I wear it all the time. It’s hard to tell from the picture, but it’s regular sweater fabric (not jersey) cable knit out of small gauge cotton yarn. I just noticed the description on the site said the hood is lined, it’s actually not though on the model I have, it’s all knit (actually, having it lined might be kind of weird).
The sweater is super comfy and generously sized. In fact, I found myself wondering if I should have gone down to a small (though I have other SHUKR tops in medium that currently fit), however considering the arm size issue on the small jilbab I tried, that might end up being too short or tight in the sleeves. It’s more likely that since this is a sweater, and it’s knit which results in a fair amount of give, it’s just a lot looser than say, my denim button up shirt. Slightly oversized or not, I love the sweater and am very happy with the purchase, which is serving to bridge the gap until (hopefully!) they come out with some 100% cotton jersey hoodies again. Please, SHUKR!
I also got a skirt at the same time as the sweater, it’s a really basic closet staple as I was cleaning out my closet of clothing that no longer fits and that included a lot of my skirts. I already have some denim skirts which I ordered recently, but was missing a dress-up/dress-down basic skirt that wasn’t denim. I chose the one below, but in grey (currently out of stock). The fabric is a great soft cotton twill, smooth and comfy, and goes with pretty much anything, and the perfect length.
If you shop SHUKR (which, despite the whole non-cotton jersey disappointments lately, I still recommend for other items! Or if you like stretch fabrics, go for those), they have some great deals. Sign up for their newsletters, and keep an eye out for sales and coupons. Pretty much all the time they have free shipping if you go over a certain order size and they send out frequent coupons. As aforementioned, they are very good about either refunds or store credit on returns, and due to the craftsmanship and dependability, I order from them a lot, knowing that I won’t be afraid to send it back and I’ll be sure to order something else from them soon anyway. Most of the time, the orders are quick to deliver (and don’t require signature, always a plus) and their customer service department responds to inquiries and problems helpfully. They recently launched a feature on their blog and on facebook where you can view styles under consideration and give votes and feedback, please do! Often these styles are not in the final colors.
As an overall note, stock sells out fast on SHUKR! There are some styles they bring back again later or carry for a longer time, or they bring back in a new form/color later, but don’t count on it. All their styles as far as I know are made specifically for them and unique, so if you see something you have to have, I suggest not dilly-dallying or it may sell out before you know it. I have had many occasions like this :P. Combine that must-have item with some great wardrobe staples by browsing their clearance and sale sections on the site, which have huge markdowns. Often they have deals to get a free hijab on orders over a certain amount as well, and I’ve tried many of them over the years this way. Their hijab styles vary quite a bit throughout the year and are seldom restocked, so I just check this section all the time to see if there’s a style I like. Another tip is sign up not only for their email in your country (they have multiple “sites”, US, CA, UK and international). Sometimes this will allow you to preview new styles that are coming out on the UK site before they hit the US site, so you can be ready with debit card in hand 🙂 (of course, following their facebook page is also a good clue, they post about all three sites there). It’s possible to order from their other sites in some cases (if the item you want is in stock in one country and out of stock in another) but of course the shipping cost will be quite high in that case. Their site recommends contacting customer service if you want to do that. This is one site where their prices (if you’re not shopping sale or clearance) can be on the high side, but their quality actually DOES make up for it (I’ve heard other sites claim this, but SHUKR actually delivers in this department). Several-year-old clothes in my closet will testify, as well as those I’ve outgrown and given to friends and family to make room! I have non-muslim family members that love the styles as well and order from them :).