Jazzing Up the Abaya

June 24, 2009

Author: Stephanie Hancock

Source: BBC News


Few images shout Middle East quite like the abaya - the long, black overgarment worn by millions of women across the Arab world.

The design has remained pretty much unchanged for centuries, but a crop of young new designers in the United Arab Emirates are now giving the traditional dress a modern-day makeover.

Nothing is off limits - designers are experimenting with bold colours, materials like lace and leather, and even add sequins, embroidery and daring slits to jazz up the often-uniform black robe.

Reem and Hind Beljafla began their abaya-design business, DAS Collection, 18 months ago after realising the market for high-end design for Muslim women in Dubai was woefully underserved.

Their abayas are very much haute-couture - everything is custom-made and prices start at $1,000 (£606).

The young sisters say that as long as a woman's form is still covered by the abaya, there is no harm in having a bit of fun with the design.

"It never loses its identity - the target is to cover the woman's body so there is no harm in playing with the fabrics," says 24-year-old Reem.

"We thought why can't we take our abayas and make something to suit the modern girl, but still keep that conservative style."