The grownup Indian princess
By Carolyn Bick
Massachusetts, United States- When she was a little girl, Farhana Cannon wanted to be “an Indian princess”.
“I started dressing myself when I was four years old,” Farhana says, clasping her hands around her knees, as she sits on a sofa in her parents’ Quincy, Massachusetts, home.
She is wearing a light floral top, paired with simple white pants, set off with bejewelled shoes for a bit of flair. “I used to always want to wear saris,” she says.
Farhana has since toned down her look to an extent, but is still known in the family as the fashionista, and admits that, sometimes, her definition of “simple” is “someone else’s wedding outfit”.
The 33-year-old comes by it honestly, though: she has interned at several fashion publications, including Vitals Magazine, and went to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, where she earned her undergraduate degree in fashion marketing.
She says her cousins always wait to see what she will wear, at holidays and family gatherings. But Eid al-Adha is different for Farhana. Instead of her normal, eye-catching glamour, she wears more reserved garb. She says she does this, because the holiday “is more humble – it’s more like a sacrifice”.
This year, she is having trouble choosing between two outfits for the holiday.
One, a simple black number with delicate beadwork around the neckline that she picked up at the Islamic Society of North America’s annual conference, is a more traditional looking outfit. The other is a flowy, flowery piece that weaves old American Hollywood style with Muslim tradition, dressed up with a sparkling necklace – her “little bit of bling”.
“It’s an interesting cut, and it reminds me of a Jean Harlow, very glam, old Hollywood-type of look,” Farhana says of the dress, referencing a famous American actress from the 1930s.
“It’s still a little warm, too. Having something a little bit more flowy and floral fit the essence of the season.” Today, she favours the flowery dress, and is eager to put it on – “never too old to play dressup,” she jokes, as she heads downstairs to change.
But it’s more than just playing dressup, for Farhana. Her Eid outfits are reflections of her young American Muslim identity, which she has not always been able to show.
Her mother, Shareda Hosein, remembers one instance in which a young Farhana came down the stairs in a beautiful Indian garment – but, because it was the 1990s, and the family was living in a fairly conservative part of Indiana at the time, Hosein made Farhana change into a more “normal” outfit.
“I didn’t want people staring at her, and looking at her strangely,” Hosein recalls.
Though she no longer wants to wear saris every day, Farhana has embraced her Muslim heritage, drawing on diverse cultures for her Eid clothing.
“Being an American Muslim, you’re not just surrounded with one culture. The mosque [we attend] has people of Lebanese descent, of Syrian descent, of Pakistani descent, of Bengali descent – so you’re with all these cultures,” Farhana says.
“Most of my friends’ parents were from other places. So my Eid outfit isn’t just one culture. It’s the unity of a lot of different cultures.”