Abaya today is an elegant feminine garment that becomes more and more popular among women all over the world.
Basically abaya is a long loose dress (gown/robe) with long sleeves. Abaya comes in various colors- white, beige, blue- any color.
In the Gulf traditional abaya is of black color. In my oppinion it's one of the most elegant colors - European couturiers often use it in their collections and black is very popular for evening dresses. Black is perfect for work or university, shopping. Black color is kind of more official and modest, classic than a bright yellow for example. Black abaya is an over garment Gulf Muslim women wear when in public. The bright, colorful dresses are kept for private life amongst their families, friends (and those dresses are colorful indeed- you can check them in my blog under the tag jalabiya
Abaya may be made of different fabrics, abaya comes in various shapes and designs. Gulf abaya designers are passionate about transforming a simple abaya into a sophisticated gown that could suit to be worn by a princess. Modern Gulf abayat are made of high quality expensive fabrics, embroidery, lace, Swarovski crystals and other elements are used for decoration. Qualities and prices of abayas vary.
Gulf abayat can satisfy women of different taste in fashion. There are elegant abayat for daily wear- they are more modest and simple in decoration, have a classic feel.
For teenagers there are abayat which incorporate fashion trends popular among the youth.
Active young women may wear an abaya with a front opening and wear trousers/ jeans underneath and sport shoes which is very comfortable for chasing children around, picnics in the countryside or for jogging. Abayas can be customized to suit needs of the wearer. Zippers can be added on the front for nursing mothers, pockets can be added.
There are very expensive heavily decorated abayat for special occasions- these may have a lot of crystals and embroidery. Party abayat made of thin chiffon and lace can be worn over an evening dress.
Modern Gulf Muslim ladies look great in their abayas- feminine and elegant, graceful.
I've met several non-Musim women who said they loved abaya and wished they could dress that way too but they were shy of what people would think. If you like abaya- don't be shy- try it ;) Maybe you'll LOVE it and feel comfortable in it!
You don't have to be an Arab or a Muslim to wear abaya as long as you like it. You don't even have to live in the Gulf to feel a little bit "khaleeji", to respect and love khaleeji lifestyle or just the black abaya. Don't be afraid of looking like an "Arab/khaleeji/emirati wannabe". Local Gulf Arabs should be pleased seeing foreigners being fascinated by their culture and their traditional clothes.
There are a lot of foreign Muslim women living in the UAE. Many of them wear black abaya. An European looking woman with blue eyes in abaya is not something strange here (at least it does not surprise Me :) Some of those women are married to Emirati men, others are married to Muslim men of different nationalities. Some of those women are not married- single. Some of them are not even Muslims- but they all love abaya and choose to wear it.
You don't have to cover your hair in order to wear abaya if you are not a Muslim. I have a gorgeous non-Muslim friend. She does not cover her beautiful blond hair and feels confident wearing abaya - sometimes she receives comments full of admiration from other non-Muslim expat women.
I want to invite ALL women of any nationality or religion to try wearing an abaya. If you live in the West you can opt for a non-black abaya (or jalabiya) if you are shy to look "exotic". If you live in the Middle East you may try khaleeji (Gulf) black abaya ;)
Here's an oppinion on abaya of an American expat in Abu Dhabi- I wanted to quote some things- but I'm lazy- too much to quote lol Read here her blog
There was another great blog of an expat woman from Qatar I wanted to quote- but cant find at the moment...