The difference between a hijab and jilbab is primarily that the term “hijab,” as it is commonly used, describes a headscarf, while the term “jilbab” refers to an outer garment that is worn to cover a woman’s body. Hijab and jilbab designs can vary significantly according to cultural standards as well as the tastes and preferences of the women who wear them. Both hijabs and jilbabs are worn in conformance with Islamic standards of modesty. It should also be noted that in Indonesia a headscarf is known as a jilbab, although this is not a common usage of the word in other countries.
While “hijab” technically refers to the Islamic modesty code for both men and women, it is colloquially used to describe a headscarf or head covering used by many women to cover their hair, necks, and in some cases shoulders, chest, and torso. In some cases, the hijab fits relatively tightly around a woman’s head and provides minimal coverage around the neck, where it either tucks into a woman’s blouse or falls around the high neckline of a woman’s shirt or blouse. In other cases, the hijab may provide more coverage by loosely draping over a woman’s upper body. Some women may also wear a face veil, often known as niqab, in addition to their headscarf.
A jilbab is a garment that is designed to conceal a woman’s body. In some cases, the jilbab may be floor length, although some women may prefer to wear a shorter garment. The jibab is typically made from thick cloth and flows away from the body, concealing a woman’s figure. Many jilbabs resemble long coats or shirt-dresses, although some can be caftan-like in appearance. These garments typically do not provide coverage for the head or neck, requiring wearers to don a separate headscarf. Some women choose to wear a jilbab over other clothing, and some may also simply wear a sturdy jilbab over their underwear and either a long skirt or trousers to avoid discomfort in hot weather.
Individual women may choose to wear the hijab and jilbab together or, depending on their preference, may wear only one or the other. Women who wear only a headscarf may choose to wear a dress, blouse, or tunic that is relatively loose and that meets the standards of modesty supported by their community. Some women may likewise refrain from wearing a headscarf but will still wear a jilbab.