The Abaya is a traditional loose over-garment like a long cloak or robe commonly worn by Muslim women around the world particularly by women in Arabian Peninsula and North Africa. It is one of the most popular Muslim dress for women around the world along with Shalwar Kameez popularly endured by women in the subcontinent.
Abaya is worn to provide significant coverage of the body only revealing the wearer’s feet, hands, and head. It is worn along with head covering called hijab and sometimes with a face veil commonly known as a niqab.
Abaya and Hijab are mandatorily required by law for women to wear in public in certain countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran however the trend and practice of wearing Abaya has also expanded to many non-Muslim countries as well.
Millions of Muslim women living in the west form a significant market for this type of clothing. As the Muslim population in Europe, UK, US, Canada, and Australia has grown over the past two decades so has the popularity of this clothing.
Abaya is a traditional Arabian cultural woman clothing, however, a significant women population in the west from subcontinents like India and Pakistan are also starting to adopt this clothing as fashionable choices of Abayas have emerged over the past decade.
The assimilation of various Muslim cultures in the west and middle east has contributed to the greater popularity of this clothing among Non-Arabic women around the world including the women from subcontinent even though the closed style Abayas aka Burqa in the Arabian Peninsula and subcontinent has its roots among the conservative population for centuries.
Types of Abaya
There are various types of Abaya and they come in different forms and designs including embroidered designs and ones with embellishments, such as jewels and lace with pleats, cutouts and graphics hemlines. While there are others with trench coat styles and belted design. They come in basic and luxurious styles with various choices of fabrics like georgettes and satin weave, offered in different color choices. Abaya also comes with matching Hijab. Below are some of the types of Abaya.
- The Closed Abaya. The closed Abaya is a traditional form of Abaya with no front button and it covers the entire body. You can wear a t-shirt inside and the Abaya will cover it. This is the most traditional forms of Abaya. It’s not convenient for nursing moms though.
- Open Button Abaya. The open button abaya comes with buttons along the front. This is more convenient as it resolves the restricted walking issue with closed abaya and also it’s more convenient for nursing moms. This type, however, requires wearing pants below for proper coverage of legs.
- Abaya Cardi – This is similar to open button abaya however does not have any buttons and instead is tied with a sash. It can be worn over t-shirt and pants and provides a more modern look. It is also convenient for nursing moms.
- Draped Abaya – Draped Abaya are ideal for special occasions and allow free movement however these are not breastfeeding friendly. These Abaya are inspired by Grecian draped gowns and require wearing leggings underneath.
- Sports Abaya is a robe, that has been modified in some way to make it suitable for sports or exercise. Special fabric designed to keep the wearer cool during exercise and a one that promotes evaporation of sweat.
- Two-piece Abaya – These Abaya styles allow wearing them as closed Abaya or an Abaya Cardi. The inner is sewed into the Abaya and are worn by slipping into the armholes. Requires wearing leggings or pants underneath.
- Kimono – Inspired by Japanese Kimono where one side crosses over the other. This Abaya type is similar to Cardi Abaya and is tied with a sash.
Famous Abaya Brands
Below are some of the famous Abaya brands.
- Bouguessa for their straight line abaya combining the global culture and world art.
- Ghudfah is a luxurious abaya clothing line with high-quality clothing and finishing.
- By Noumi is an internationally recognized fashion brand from Kuwait offering modern and unique designs with distinct embroideries catered to girls and women of all ages and shape.
- Haal Inc which is a Saudi Arabia-based brand offering contemporary designs and color choices with fancy details to clothing.
- Mauzan brand from Rafia Helal is another popular brand offering catchy and unique designs.
- Nafs Design offers a formal range of designs having pleats and cutouts with abaya that is suitable for both dressed up or down depending on the occasion.
- The Nora Collection, another prestigious Abaya brand from Saudi Arabia producing both modern and classic elegant eveningwear.
- Chador is another extraordinary Saudi Arabian brand offering contemporary Abayas with trench coat style and belted designs with the use of silhouettes.
- HF Boutique is one of the technologically advanced brands offering wedding abayas by experimenting with 3D embellishments. They offer cool designs with a variety of laces and formal looking textures.
- Chi-Ka Collection an Abaya boutique from middle-east that caters to various fashion choices for local customers
International Brand Adoption
To service to millions of Muslim women, popular fashion brands like Dolce & Gabana, Tommy Hilfiger, Mango, and DKNY have now started selling fashionable Abayas and Hijabs to their Muslim customer base who now make a significant percentage of the shopping revenues earned by these brands. These brands sell their Muslim clothing products in the Middle East stores as well as countries in Europe including Paris and London. We expect that other brand would also come forward with similar initiatives in the future.
Abaya clothing is a popular choice for Muslim women living in the West compared to Shalwar Kameez worn by Muslim women from the subcontinent. This is primarily due to the cold climate in the western hemisphere as Abaya offer different choices that can be worn over jeans and sweatshirts. Shalwar Kameez, on the other hand, is not very winter friendly as it’s not possible to wear underclothing without compromising the look and fitting. Moreover, there are many fashionable choices offered with different Abaya styles that can assimilate into the western culture of long skirts and gowns. One thing however one should keep in mind that the purpose of wearing Hijab and Abayas is to please Allah and the act should not be turned into a status symbol or a fashion statement.