According to many esteemed historians who have preserved history for our future generations, the Abayas, which are basically the long black cloaks worn by Muslim women all over the world and especially in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was introduced around 80 years ago. In the Kingdom, some 50 years ago, you could easily see Western women, especially Americans walking out in knee-length skirts in the Al Qatif, Al Khobar and Al Hofuf regions. However, these days, the situation has changed drastically and things have become very different. Now every woman, be it a Saudi or non-Saudi, have to wear the abaya when they are in the Kingdom. Some Arab merchants brought back Abayas from Syria and Iraq. The Saudi women in the era used to wear vibrant and colorful clothing, and when these Abayas were introduced, not everyone was expected to wear one.
The surge in abaya sales and the mandatory wearing of them has allowed many fashion designers to create different Abayas. Hana Samman, who is one such fashion designer, stated that nowadays women work in Abayas and hence there are business Abayas and casual Abayas which look different. She adds that the abaya has become a work uniform for all the women. The fashion designer states in her interview that even housewives have different types of Abayas which are suitable to be worn at different events. Another fashion designer by the name of Samira Noorah added that the color of the abaya, which is generally considered as black only, is not the case.
Abayas can be worn in different colors. When Saudi women go abroad they don these colorful Abayas so that they stand out amongst the crowd and keep in touch with their heritage and culture. Afaf Al-Madani, who is another prominent fashion designer in the Kingdom, said that fashion designers can add several different types of accessories on to any abaya, and the most common addition by fashion designers these days are precious gemstones.
The fashion designer adds that the abaya necessarily does not have to be a black robe and can be turned into a piece of art with the help of a little creativity and innovation. Many women like Al Madani love to wear their Abayas all day long and they do not even take it off when they go to weddings. Al Madani stated that she is proud of the design of the abaya and hence does not want to take it off.
Dr. Abu Bakar Baqadir, who is a renowned sociology researcher in the Kingdom, has stated that these fashion designers have helped change the image of the Abayas so that more and more women wear it proudly and willingly. The doctor said that women love to look beautiful by Nature. Every woman looks for a trendy and stylish abaya without breaking the rules of their heritage, culture, and religion.