Updated: Jul 19, 2018
HERE ARE FIVE THINGS YOU MAY NOT HAVE KNOWN ABOUT ABAYAS
First, the basics, an abaya is a long cloak that is placed over the shoulders, whether it goes over the head like a shirt or is worn like a jacket and buttoned or zipped up the front. It is not worn alone, but again like a jacket, it simply covers the street clothes worn underneath. Women cover their head with a Shayla, or headscarf. Some women also wear a veil or burqa, to cover their face.
While Islam does not explicitly state that a woman should wear an abaya, the religion does promote modesty, so the abaya serves that purpose. The traditional colour, black, allows a woman to choose thin, light material that won’t be sheer. The clothing also helps protect the body from the harsh environment – sun, wind, sand and dust.
Westerners always exclaim, “it must be so hot under there”. And yes, it can be, but abayas are made from many different types of material – cotton, jersey, linen, silk, chiffon, polyester, and more. A woman’s collection will include both “summer and winter” abayas, as well as every day and formal abayas.
While many abayas may look the same to the untrained eye, they are usually quite unique and different. Yes, they can be bought off the rack, but a woman often finds a good tailor, then selects the material, styles, cut, embroidery and/or embellishments like crystals, rhinestones or laces.
Modern abayas can be extremely fashionable and expensive. Top western and some southeast Asian designers as well as a host of Arab designer, have made beautiful pieces that cost thousands of pounds. Popular styles change, and new lines come out every year.