Fashion Students Designing Stylish Cloaks for Muslim Women

May 13, 2008

Author: Staff Writer

Source: The Dallas Morning News

Wire Service: AP

The assignment for Virginia Commonwealth University fashion students: design an abaya, an enveloping cloak worn by Muslim women, that is stylish yet acceptable in Arab countries.

The results: elaborately beaded designs, a flamenco-influenced abaya, a punk rock abaya – and perhaps a better understanding of cultural norms in the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar, where the university has had a campus for 10 years.

"We were trying to make a feeling of youth – but still be true to their culture," said Kendra Palin, a fashion design major who partnered with classmate Shelby Day to design an abaya with looped buttonholes, princess seams and a high waist. "Everything else had to be black, but the embellishment could be any color, and we used silver and blue."

The 10 abayas were shown recently at VCU's annual student fashion show and are being shipped to Doha, Qatar's capital, for a fashion show at the VCU School of the Arts in Qatar.

The project is among a growing number of collaborations between students and faculty at U.S. colleges and their overseas campuses. In Doha, VCU's arts program is part of a higher-education consortium largely funded by the Qatar Foundation, a nonprofit organization run by the nation's ruling family. The consortium, called Education City, has its own 2,500-acre campus that also includes Texas A&M, Cornell, Georgetown and Carnegie Mellon universities.