Also known as the garment of modesty, the fashion world today has made a huge impact on the story of the abaya particularly through international bloggers and social media channels such as Instagram.
There are many tales about the black abaya, however my favourite one goes something like this:
“Sometime in the eighth century, a merchant selling cloaks ran out of all the colourful ones and was left with only black ones that no one wanted. Out of despair, he visited a poet friend and asked him for help. The poet then composed a poem praising the beauty of a woman cloaked in the “mysterious” black garment, a colour worn by only the rich and noble. The story ends with how women descended on this cloak seller and bought all the black garments, leaving him rich, and the women feeling rich.”
Traditionally, this garment is recognised as a religious symbol, fulfilling the criteria for Islamic dress code. For as along as I can remember, the abaya was always black, loose and simple; covering the woman so not to reveal her body shape or what she was wearing underneath. It allowed Muslim women to blend in and stand out at the same time.
In the last couple of decades the abaya has developed culturally to identify or express oneself; whether by personalized initials embroidered on the cuffs or adding some sparkle of Swarovski crystals. More recently we have seen abayas being constructed from more than one piece of fabric, with attention to detail on cut and tailoring. However, one of the biggest shifts in abaya fashion is that it is no longer necessarily black in colour; women across the Middle East are now opting for an array of colours when it comes to abayas, from khaki green and dove grey to pastel pink and dusty cream.
Although fashion allows one to be creative about how they wear their abaya, the key thing to preserve the values of this legendary ‘black’ dress is to maintain modesty. Here are Haute Arabia’s top picks!
White embroidered abaya by Endemagé
Taupe abaya by Hessa Al Falasi
Windows print and striped abaya by Aywa
Geometric laser cut abaya by Hessa Al Falasi
Beige and black floral abaya by Homa Q Abayas
Giving the abaya a creative edge, I think will encourage more women to dress modestly and journey their way to adopt the abaya into their wardrobes. No doubt that in the mean time, there is no shortage for choice when it comes to abayas.