Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The ABAYA Special

HALLOWEEN IS JUST around the corner and for sure, costumes will be donned and spooks will abound. In Riyadh though, if you're a newbie and you start walking the streets, don't blink twice if you think there are "black ladies" seemingly floating amidst. Yes, there are plenty of us who lurk almost everywhere in Saudi Arabia shrouded by a black cloth...some even covered from head to foot. But rest assured, we are not from the 'other side' (I hope).

It's called the "abaya" and it is the national dress for women here. It is a long, black fabric made of either silk, satin or cotton and is usually worn with a veil called "hijab" or what we call the "tarha". Everyone, even if you are not Saudi or Muslim, is required to wear the abaya anytime you go out in public. If you are a woman, you can get arrested if you tread the town in your regular clothes, let alone a fashionable outfit. However, it is interesting to note that apparently, the Qur'an does not mandate women to wear the abaya per se (see article that discusses that here) and yet Muttawas (the religious police) can scold and shame a woman should she not follow this "rule". Hmmm...any experts out there care to shed light on this?

As much as that previous claim may spur a debate among readers, let's not forget that this blog is about what is PINK (and/or Kikay) in our Riyadh life. And so, in true Pink Tarha fashion, the ladies and I had a 'photoshoot' a couple of weeks ago (o, nagmamaka-mowdels daw kami) in hopes to feature our abayas. There is a love-hate relationship with abayas for us expats here in the Kingdom. Sure, it hides a woman's potential fashionista; but then again, it also takes the pressure off of having to think of what to wear when going out.

Here are the Pink Tarha ladies revealing their very own abayas. Not so ghoulish looking, I suppose.

Sundrenched seen here in her favorite abaya. Long lines further elongate our already tall, Editor-in-Chief. Up close, the garment is treated with tiny beads along the chest and wrists following a light, black lace rim.

Shoegarfreeruby's (R) elegant abaya is shown here with heavy white embroidery lining from the neck down and along the sleeves continuing to the hem. It is a button-down type of abaya and the sleeves are sewn tight towards the opening.

R stands perfect along this bougainvillea garden wearing this very simple and dainty satin abaya adorned with velvet flowers and leaves that accent the cuffs.

This is my everyday abaya. It's almost plain and it doesn't attract much attention (which is really, one of the points of wearing an abaya). It's worn like overall, which I like more than the button-down ones because I wouldn't have to worry if my legs are exposed while walking or if my flabs are bulging when sitting down. :P

This is the abaya I wear to formal occasions. It makes me look regal worn with the proper shoes. There is a thick, silver-studded lining that runs through the neck and cuffs.

Here's a more 'decorated' abaya with several floral embroidery on the back, front and elbows. Comes with a matching tarha too. I don't particularly wear this as often but I enjoy the design.

Do you I look like a "hood-lum"? Haha. This is another style of an abaya that has a sewn in hood in the back that can act as your readily-available tarha. It's an easy pick for those who don't like the hassle of carrying around the tarha around their necks. Usually, expats wear this style.

And then there were three.
(Mary is still on vacation, we miss you M!)

Abayas have come a long way since the mid-80s. I still remember the ones I had to wear growing up wherein the trend on abayas were ones that you had to tie to a bow in the middle of your chest. Nowadays, abayas have been updated and made fashionable. Since it's the garment you get to wear everyday of your life here in Saudi Arabia, you might as well look decent in it (at the very least). I'd like to think that the key is in the 'subtle details'.

The abayas we own are all less than SR200 and the most common place we buy them from is a souk (market) called Dirah. The cheapest one with no design at all can come at around SR50-SR60. There are also several high-end fashion boutiques found all over the city with abaya's prices ranging in the thousands. There are even Svarovski-studded abayas made of the finest silk! But we have yet the privilege of entering such places. The most expensive abaya ever made is worth $350,000! That's over SR1.3 million. See that diamond-studded, white-gold encrusted abaya here.

The abaya is a must-have for all women here in the Kingdom. It's not just a form of everyday fashion, it is a government-mandated outfit! Despite the imagery of creepy-looking black figures roaming around the streets, it's not a halloween costume. So don't be afraid. Unless someone strides behind you and says, "BOO!"



17 had something to say:

A-Z-E-L said...

i like the second to the last photo!

hehehehe! halloween na halloween! good thing we're not wearing Abaya here...

kawawa naman si S sa photo retouch! parang slave ng Muslim... no talking! hehehehe!

niqabi said...

The abaya with a hood suits me!.. Palagi kasi ako nakakawala ng tarha.. I already lost five since feb 2008..hehehe mega over careless :P

parang bigla ko naalala yung fushigi yuugi dun sa abaya before ng my hood :p

Theonoski said...

abaya + aviator = faboulous!

Sundrenched said...

@AZEL: Ang ingay ko raw kasi, manahimik daw muna ako, LOL.

Savvy said...

Abayas were never this pretty when I lived in Riyadh! no fair...

I love the first photo and the floral embroidery one...

I am having a flashback when I had the ugly old plain abaya that i tied in a knot at the front... so tacky compared to these ones!!!

isladenebz said...

Vogue calling! Hehehe.

Congrats for featuring the Saudi abaya. True, nag-evolve na nga sya ngaun. Akala ko nga dati, telang itim lang sya na isinuklob sa ulo. Until recently nakita ko na may mga designs na ung laylayan nila, ung manggas, etc.

I always wanted to ask this: is it comfy to wear an abaya?

The Pink Tarha said...

@ A-Z-E-L: Is that the effect of the bar on S' face? Wahaha. That wasn't the intention. XD

@ Niqabi: Are you an otaku? ;)

@ Theonoski: S sends her thanks. :)

@ Savvy: Yes, we're all thankful that those tie-the-know-in-the-middle versions are now gone (well, almost).

@ isladenebz: For the newbies, they might find it annoying and/or irritable to wear. But we're used to it. As long as you have the hem tailored properly so you can avoid tripping on your own feet and so as to not accumulate all the dust and dirt from the ground. It's comfy if you choose the right fabric and size.

sugarcoated cynic said...

I remember that you brought home an abaya that looked like the headmaster of hogwarts could wear it. Or was that not an abaya. Oh well. Anyway, I can imagine my aunts having to wear that. ^^

Women would find a way to be fashionable for whatever reason and in any situation.

They would take something that can be a simple of oppression i.e. corsets, bras and abayas and make it into something that men and women would fawn over. ^^

favorite said...

May I ask where Dirha is?

Thank you

Anonymous said...

can u pls help me find pics of nurse's uniform in king fahad medical city,riyadh...nahihirapan na ako maghanap eh...nid kong magpagawa kc coz papunta ako dun by next month f God permits...they told me mahaba dw ang sleeves at laylayan plus the pants at i nid to buy also abaya?pls

Anonymous said...

I like the one with hood. Can I have It Ms. R.

Anonymous said...

Hi as a newbie, I have one question. Does one have to wear the hajab, the veil/scarf or is it fine to just wear the abaya. I have seen some westerners wear the abaya and not the scarf so I was wondering. Thanks

The Pink Tarha said...

Hi, we suggest that you bring it along every time you go out. You'll never know when you'll chance upon the Muttawas. We normally have it in our bags and then we just wear it when the Muttawas ask us to. :)

Anonymous said...

Where's Dirha? thanks!

eyecandy23 said...

Dirha is at the back of Batha. Most taxi drivers will know where it is. :) @Anonymous

hanneymae delfin said...

merry christmas tpt! :) just want to know if where can we buy abaya with hood? been looking for 1 since jan 2011 but still haven't found one yet huhuhu hope to hear from u soon... thanks cheers! :)

The Pink Tarha said...

Hi Hanneymae, our hooded abayas came from our seamstress. We don't think they're for sale in the abaya shops in Riyadh anymore. :/

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