The Modern Abaya - A Reflection of a Changing Society

The Modern Abaya  A Reflection of a Changing Society

Abaya is a traditional Islamic garment, which is worn by Muslim women for religious purposes. In addition to its religious function, the abaya is also a symbol of social status and class. It is often worn by upper-class women who are religious or affluent. These women are expected to follow a specific set of rules for their clothing, while lower-class women are not. Thus, the abaya represents social, class, and racial disparities in the Islamic world. Moreover, it also reflects traditional patriarchal values and personality.


Historical context

The abaya has been worn by women in the Gulf for hundreds of years. But in the past few decades, the abaya has become a statement of fashion. As the GCC continues to develop and adopt Western trends, the abaya has also undergone a change. In the early 2000s, local designers experimented with the abaya. Some designers introduced new cuts, colours, and fabrics. These changes were influenced by a desire to blend with Western styles.

The abaya was initially a one-piece garment. It was primarily made of wool or silk. It was worn to cover the head and body. When the oil-boom began in the Middle East in the 1970s, the abaya was a part of the dress code in some cities. Abayas were often tucked in at the waist, and were sometimes made in a single flowing size. Many styles had wings and narrow belts.

The abaya morphed into a robe-like garment when the 1980s arrived. Women began to wear coloured abayas, which triggered controversy. This trend caused a conflict between Western values and Islamic modesty.

As the Gulf states started to incorporate western ideas into their design, the abaya took on a more cosmopolitan look. New cuts and colours were experimented with, and some designs featured hooded headcovers.

Younger women in Saudi Arabia started to inject Western symbols into traditional garments. This led to the rise of local designers. They worked to redefine the abaya based on the cultural heritage of the region.

Abayas have continued to incorporate embroidery and lace. But more recently, chiffon, cotton knits, and linen have been added. Fabrics have also been updated to include rhinestones and iron-on rhinestones.

In the United Arab Emirates, the abaya is a symbol of national identity. For young women, it helps them adjust to the fast-paced society. Often, it is paired with designer accessories to reflect the growing cosmopolitan Islamic identity of the region. Similarly, Dolce & Gabbana's Ramadan collection showcases how the globalized abaya is a reflection of the region's fusion of modernity and Islam.


Reflects traditional patriarchal values

The abaya is a classic example of a Middle Eastern dress code that has undergone a renaissance. Today, it is not only the most fashionable garment in the region but also a symbol of national identity. As in many parts of the world, the Gulf states are attempting to strike a balance between modernity and Islamic tradition. In particular, Gulf states have embraced Western models of architecture, retail, and restaurant design, while at the same time retaining the essentials of their cultural heritage.

In addition to the abaya, Middle Eastern women have been known to wear a variety of other modestly priced apparel, such as the shayla. Shayla is a religious symbol of devotion, as well as a symbol of culture. Its name is derived from the Arabic word shaylah, which means 'uncovering'.

One of the most important uses of the shayla is its ability to conceal a woman's head. Its talisman function may have been less obvious in the past, but today it is a symbol of devotion to one's religion.

Although the abaya has been in circulation for centuries, its latest iteration is a streamlined high-end version of its predecessor, with a number of bling bling designs to boot. While abayas of the past have been black in color, abaya fashion is the stuff of the future.

While abayas of the past may have only been a novelty, today it is a mainstream item, albeit with a hefty price tag. Abayas that cost upwards of a few thousand dollars can be a hard sell, especially for the poor and middle class. Yet, despite its price tag, it has become the newest fad, and is expected to grow exponentially in the coming years. However, it remains to be seen whether this new wave of fashion abayas will prove to be the next big thing, or whether the abaya of the future will be relegated to the back-burner.

Abayas are a good way to demonstrate to young females the intricacies of contemporary culture. For instance, fashion abayas that are aimed at women in the Middle East may be the first step in the long march toward an egalitarian society, or at least an egalitarian dress code.


Reflects personality

The abaya, a traditional black garment worn by women in the Persian Gulf region, has evolved into a stylish robe for women throughout the region. As a fashion statement, the abaya has become a reflection of a changing society. From its inception in the 1930s as a loose-fitting garment in Saudi Arabia, the abaya has evolved over the years to become a highly sought after item of clothing. Some contemporary styles feature floral embroidery, jewel-toned shades, and athletic stripes. Others are sheer in fabric, while others are embroidered with pearl beads.

As a fashion item, the abaya reveals the allure of extravagance and luxury. It also represents a growing cosmopolitan identity among Gulf women. Many designers in the region are experimenting with different styles of abayas, varying from a classic black to a colorful, embellished design. In an attempt to balance modernity and Islamic traditions, some Gulf states are even using Western models of cars, architecture, and designer stores to promote their national identities.

For instance, Dolce & Gabbana's Ramadan collection, designed to celebrate the holy month of Ramadan, demonstrates how abayas can be integrated into a globalized fashion design. Fashion historian Reem El Mutwallli, who is based in the UAE, has been collecting Emirati dresses and putting together exhibitions at the Cultural Foundation in Abu Dhabi. She has written a book on the abaya and has amassed an impressive collection of dresses for the region.

However, religious scholars may view fashion abayas as a negative development. These clothes are costly and they can be considered as a tool for promoting class distinctions and the hegemonic order of Islamic patriarchy. While the abaya has gained popularity as a fashion piece, it still serves its original purpose of a modest dress. Perhaps, it will eventually be replaced by native fashion designs that more closely reflect the cultural values and traditions of the region. But until then, the abaya remains a significant fashion symbol.

As a part of their mission to become highly developed nations, many Gulf states are trying to balance modernity with Islamic tradition. For instance, the United Arab Emirates' National Vision of 2021 is a testament to the country's commitment to both Islamic and national values.