Fashion in the KSA (Saudi Arabia)

Viewed by many governments, groups, and ordinary citizens in the Western world as a form of suppression of women by men, the abaya has evolved. Some other names by which the abaya has been called are chador in Afghanistan and jilaba in North Africa. 

Note that the abaya is not to be confused with the hijab. Today’s modern woman uses it to express her highly fashionable personal style and individuality. The abaya is everywhere in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and has been for centuries already. It has and continues to hold cultural, historical, and religious roots. 

History of the Abaya

The original abaya dates back to Bedouin society. It could only be obtained by the wealthy and those of ‘high society’. This first use of the abaya was as a symbol of status in the Bedouin community, who were also the accepted rulers of the day.

The traditional abaya was made from camel or goat wool. It had a square shape and was dyed with indigo to produce its deep navy blue or black color. This would all change as society came to be affected by industrialization and mass production. At this point, all abaya were manufactured in black. They were available to any woman, hence there was no longer a great status attached to the garment.

By the time the 70s arrived, manufacturing had improved, so more options were available. More comfortable materials were used. But in the last year of that decade, an insurgency group of extremists captured the holy mosque of Mecca. The royal family came down hard on them and assumed the role of guardians of the Islamic faith. 

Along with this decree, the royal family instituted harsh new laws to control the population. The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice was given the duty to enforce these new tenets. All modernization became taboo, movie houses were shut down, and males and females were not permitted to mix socially or even religiously. 

The abaya became a symbol of the oppression of the feminine at this time as women were forced to wear it in any public areas. There was no longer a choice of styles, textures, or colors, and the abaya could not be decorated in any way. 

Evolution of the Abaya in Saudi Arabia

As the 1970s ended and ushered in the 80s, the abaya Islamiyah and the Saudi aba were introduced. The former garment was very modest, with a small aperture for the head and neck. The latter item was styled as a coat with tapered sleeves and was worn with a head scarf.

The 1990s saw a glimmer of hope for fashion as the abaya was adorned with rhinestones, embroidery, and lace. Over the following two decades, new cuts and styles were designed, such as wider sleeves and wings. 

2016 was the start of real change. The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice was shut down so there was no longer a religious police force. 

The Current Women’s Fashion Scene in Saudi Arabia 

Despite no longer being forced to wear the abaya, Saudi women viewed it as a part of their cultural history and self-identity. Nowadays, the abaya is worn in many styles and colors, adorned, and teamed up with other garments to make a fashion statement.  Saudi fashion for women will continue to evolve and Saudi Arabian women can use the namshi coupon to get discounts on their desired clothing. 

Fashion gurus will continue to find new ways to style the abaya.

Staff Writer

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