Pin It
Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

Fashion in the Arab World

By

I admire traditional attire from many ethnic backgrounds. The Indian sari, the Sudanese tobe and the Arabic abaya are some of them. Occasionally I wear the abaya, during Ramadan for family gatherings as well as the complicated tobe, since I am married into the culture. It’s feminine and girlish fun, reminding me of dress-up games as a young girl.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Walking down any mall in Dubai, you cannot fail but notice the exquisitely dressed and groomed ladies wearing this traditional garment. It intrigues visitors and tourists as well as residents of the city. I love observing the individual designs that are as much a reflections of the ladies character as the way she wears her shayla.

 

shayla

 

Photo courtesy: sharepoint

 

Some opt for more modest, simple styles. Simple cuts, nothing flashy or eye catching and a black, gracefully wrapped veil.

 

Simple abaya

 

simple abaya

 

Photo courtesy : she9

 

Others, on the other hand, express their individuality through this garment that has made strides in the last few years, with new abaya designers popping up all over the city. Fashion shows geared exclusively to the abaya market have become extremely popular. I have been invited to a few. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend but plan to remedy that oversight this next fashion season.

 

 

abaya3      abaya2      abaya1

 

Photo courtesy: abayacollection.com

 

The abaya continues to fascinate me—the sway and rustle of the soft garment as the girls move gracefully on sky high Jimmy Choos like proud swans, heads held high, the exquisitely embroidered shayla adorning a perfectly upswept hairdo. Their arms swing in rhythm of the dangling adornments, the pompoms and tassels. Their kohl lined eyes look confidently ahead.

 

Now, as in all fashion, there is a hierarchy in the booming abaya and shayla market. From tens of thousands of dirhams on a unique designer piece to a couple of thousand for mid-range, and then a few hundred for the lesser known designers or lower quality material.

  • Silk is one favorite. It feels smooth and cool on the skin, especially in the heat of the summer. Linen and cotton as well as crepe, sometimes with added spandex for comfort, are also popular materials.
  • Traditionally embroidery is sewn around the neckline or the opening of the garment. Gold or silver thread is used to intertwine and create them…each more beautiful than the other.

 

Entwined Abaya and Shayla - Akhawat

 

Photo courtesy: americanmuslimfashion

 

  • Crystals are added to the patterns as well as to the shaylas.
  • Clusters and corsages of little and big flowers adorn the front and sleeves.

 

flower towel abaya

 

Photo courtesy: glitterandbukhoor

  • Leather is featured as well as pearls, buttons, beads, pompoms and feathers.
  • Glass beading and sequins in a diversity of vivid colors.

 

Serenity Abaya and Shayla - Akhawat

 

Photo courtesy: americanmuslimfashion

 

 

tiger abaya

 

Photo courtesy: tiger abaya

 

It seems the abaya designs are becoming bolder and more inventive each season. It is as if each girl or woman wants to declare her individuality by inventing even more daring, quirkier designs. Most Arab women have new ones made for Eid celebrations or for weddings depending on their financial ability. Like women everywhere, no matter what dress code they choose, a little healthy competitiveness ensues.

 

Admiration, but also a dash of envy, fuels a healthy dose of creativity and resourcefulness.

© 2013, Zvezdana Rashkovich. All rights reserved.

More Great Stuff You'll Love:


Are Germans Really Rude?

This German dad shares his thoughts

Around the World in One Semester

Welcome to our newest blogger--a world traveling, homeschooling mom--to the InCultureParent family!

Arranged Marriage 101

Everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask

Circumcision Wars

She fought her Turkish in-laws on it--did she succeed?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Zvezdana Rashkovich was born in ex-Yugoslavia to a Serbian father and Croatian mother. At the age of seven, she started her lifelong nomadic journey across Sudan, Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Qatar, Dubai and the United States. A fluent Arabic and Serbo-Croatian speaker, she has worked as a medical and legal interpreter for refugees in the United States. Owing to her eclectic experiences, she has developed an intense zeal for multiculturalism. Zvezdana currently lives in Dubai with her Sudanese husband and four children. She is the author of Dubai Wives and is working on a memoir Africa in the Way I Dance.

Leave us a comment!









Notify me of follow-up comments via e-mail.
Or leave your email address and click here to receive email notifications of new comments without leaving a comment yourself.

Get weekly updates right in your inbox so you don't miss out!



Why I Travel 13 Hours Alone with My Kids Every Chance I Get

Travelling with children, while definitely more of a mission, contradicts the old saying that “life is about the journey, not the destination.”

A Diverse Book for Preschoolers in Celebration of Multicultural Children's Book Day

A book that honestly and simply celebrates the every day diversity that children experience.

Why My African Feminist Mother Gave Me the Identity of My Father's Tribe

She gave me an identity so different from her own.

2 Children’s Books about Jamaica

Explore Jamaica with your child.

Costa Rica with Kids: Two Weeks of Family Travel

Two weeks of Pura Vida in a country with so much to offer families.

Should I Worry about My Child's Accent in Her Foreign Language?

See why Dr. Gupta takes offense to this question and where children learn accents from

How to raise trilingual kids when exposure to Dad's language is limited

My kids only get 1-2 hours of the minority language per day-help!

What Cultural Norms Around Bare Feet Taught This Mother in Guatemala

Her baby's bare feet ended up being a lesson on poverty and privilege.
Hi Kim! I am so glad that this article was useful for you and made you feel validated as a parent. It's not often in this judgmental world of parenting we get that, right?! That's the main reason...
From The West’s Strange Relationship to Babies and Sleep
I love reading your work. I can olny imagine what it would be like to have such beautiful customs and true community. I understand why it is so very very important to keep these traditions alive. Be...
From No Kids Allowed: How Kenyan Weddings are Changing
Your mother in-law seems somewhat reasonable. Many Chinese Mother In-laws are not. In their scenario, they would be number 1 to the child and you would be number two. Many want to have a bond closer...
From How My Chinese Mother-in-Law Replaced my Husband
I think Konstantina is actually responding to what is probably more familiar/praised/or preferred socially as well. I was an English teacher in Poland with a distinct accent. I struggled to get Engl...
From Should I Worry about My Child’s Accent in Her Foreign Language?
Noor Kids' title "First Time Fasting" is another great rea...
From 6 Favorite Children’s Books about Ramadan
This article was shared in a community I run to connect globetrotting parents and everyone LOVED it. You should join us! We all relate to your experience. Many of us, including me, are in the same b...
From Why I Travel 13 Hours Alone with My Kids Every Chance I Get
Please help: I Love my wife and my son. I am also EXTREMELY involved as a dad. I had to move to china ( in a tiny tiny town) where I am the only foreigner so that my wife can take over the family bu...
From How My Chinese Mother-in-Law Replaced my Husband
Thanks for writing this!! My baby is 7 months, and I love having her sleep in my room. I don't mention it too often to people who have had kids because they seem a little judgy on it. So tonight I...
From The West’s Strange Relationship to Babies and Sleep
Honestly, it looks like the author married into a very backward and old fashioned family. Not stimulating children's curiosity, differences between boys and girls, and women slaving in the house, wh...
From French versus Italian Parenting in One Multicultural Family

More from Our Bloggers