Saturday, March 29, 2014

I am in love with abaya!

Abaya is a long flowing black dress worn over other clothes by females in most Muslim countries.

I just got back from UAE (I spent most of my time there in Dubai with a short day visit to Abu Dhabi).
I was blown away-in a good sense. The country was amazing! It deserves its own blog post, which I intend to write shortly.

But back to my newly found love-abaya.
Here’s a photo of Kim Kardashian wearing one (on her visit to Dubai).

I am not a big fan of Kim, TBH, but I chose this photo because I actually believe she didn’t wear it for publicity reasons. It doesn’t take long for a newcomer to Dubai to feel irresistible pull of abaya (as I found out myself) and obviously Kim was no exception.

Abayas come in all sorts of styles.
From plain ones to elaborately decorated.

 They could be somewhat tailored 

 or billowing

with opening in the front

or styled intricately

Originally abaya was meant to hide woman’s shape and flesh, but nowadays a lot of modern Arab women wear it as a statement supporting their heritage and country’s tradition.

I saw a beautiful woman in a mall wearing very well put together designer outfit: jeans, blouse, Louboutin shoes and Hermes bag. Over all that she wore abaya made out of sheer fabric with beautiful lace panels throughout sewn in at different angles. Her abaya was button-front and she wore it unbuttoned so one could see the whole outfit. The result was absolutely stunning!
This woman succeeded in putting together exceptionally sophisticated outfit and integrated her heritage into it in a way that was cohesive and made perfect sense.

A lot of women wear full face hijab (cover of the face and head so only eyes are visible)

many wear Sheila only (head covering that leaves face open)

the good article about various Middle eastern head coverings here and here
I saw several women who wore just abaya with no head cover at all.

I think in un-Orthodox ways, so when I first laid my eyes on abaya here’s what came to mind (I am sure every woman can relay to the following).

We all have those days when we just don’t feel like doing anything and lounging around the house in our comfy PJs or those really old sweats that one would never dream of wearing out, yet can’t bring oneself to throw away with hair in complete disarray and blotchy-looking skin.
Inevitably, at some point we find ourselves in need of cigarettes/snack/food/wine/whatever and dread the fact that we need to make ourselves presentable in order to run to a neighbourhood supermarket/dairy/take out joint.
This is made pain-free if one owns abaya: just throw it over whatever it is you’ve got on and voila-no one is the wiser. And if you live in Arab country, add full nijab and your hair and face is covered as well-no need to even run a comb over. Complete freedom!

In fact, on “lazy” days one can get away with putting minimal effort when going to work-just put your abaya over old jeans and T-shirt and you are ready! Very handy to those who often find themselves hitting the alarm too many times and then having no time to get dressed properly.

And just think about those "fat" days when you feel you look fat no matter what you put on. And those "special" says of the months when you really are bloated and nothing fits right.

A lot of women in executive positions find their male colleagues losing concentration during presentations and meetings as their eyes wonder over curves, cleavages, calves and skirts riding up.
Well, if the lady executive is dressed in abaya and sheila (head cover), man (and women) have nothing to distract them from what she is saying and the message sinks in much faster, hence boosting productivity levels.

I am sure all of us had those days when we just want to be invisible. It could be because we are going through something seriously upsetting in our personal life or just because we are plain tired and worn out. Yet we have to go about our daily business running errands that cannot be put off. Not to mention the times when we simply don’t want to be recognised and/or talk to anyone.
Well, abaya combined with nijab is just like invisibility cloak. It really is-I tried it and it worked! You become invisible and unrecognisable even to closest friends.

A friend asked me if anyone REALLY wears their comfy PJs under abaya in UAE. Well, honest answer is-quite possibly. Abayas worn by UAE women tend to sweep the floor with their hems, so if it doesn’t close up front (as this sometimes gives the glimpse of the clothes underneath) and is solid, no one really knows. 
I saw plenty abaya-clad women wearing flip-flops (jandals) on their feet, so it could all be very casual (Islam religion does not place any guidelines/restrictions on women’s footwear).

What I did catch a glimpse of under abayas were designer haute couture clothes and some very fancy shoes (Louboutins are a common occurrence) accompanied by Hermes, Prada and Louis Vuitton bags.
Most Arab ladies I saw shopped in designer stores. And shop they did-they would stroll through the malls leaden with bags from various brand-name labels (Chanel and Dior are especially popular followed closely by several others, just as famous).

These days, many haute couture designers produce sheilas (head scarves) with their logo on them: Givenchy and Hermes just to name a couple. Designer Sheila combined with bag and shoes from the same brand make a very cool outfit.

As you might have guessed, I have bought myself an abaya! I was very impressed, as I went into a local shop (where Muslim women go) and was treated with a great courtesy by the shopkeeper.
He was very patient, let me look through literally dozens (they were all so pretty and so different, I had really hard time choosing). Finally (after about 30 min) I narrowed it down to 3, tried all of them on and picked one. I wasn’t treated like a “stupid infidel woman”, not at all. The guy (shopkeeper) was genuinely helpful and gave me some really good advice. I wanted a full-face nijab as well, so he run to the next door shop and got one for me!
I am looking forward to wearing my abaya in New Zealand on occasion. I might even venture out in full—face nijab a couple of times-would be an interesting social experiment... Hehehehehe

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