The Abaya Throughout History
“Abaya: a simple, loose over-garment, essentially a black robe-like dress, worn by some Muslim women in the Arabian Peninsula, North Africa and the Middle-East.”
The Abaya is known by various monikers namely kaftan, djellaba, gallabiyah, umaniyah – and this piece has witnessed many transformations throughout history.
Origins of the Abaya
The origins of the Abaya remain vague, but according to some historians, it dates back to the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, around 4000 years ago.
However, contemporary historians affirm that the Abaya was introduced in Saudi Arabia around 80 years ago, bought by travelers coming from Iraq and Iran. It was immediately adopted by nomads in the desert who previously wore long, loose colored dresses with matching scarves to cover the head and face. Then the Bedouins brought it to cities.
In the GCC, the Abaya is popularly considered as a piece of cultural and religious heritage, and has become the national dress for their citizens.
Evolution of the Abaya
More than just a heavy black robe, the Abaya comes in many shapes and forms, with styles, colors, and embellishments differing from one region to another.
During the pre-oil period in KSA, the traditional Bedouin abaya was in black wool worn over garment and adorned with a wide gold trim at the central neckline. Only those at the higher echelons of society, such as the wives of sheikhs or merchants could afford to buy it. By the end of the 70’s and in the 80’s, the abaya was worn draped from the back of the head, bunched at the waist and tucked under the arm, showing off the lower skirt part of what is worn underneath. Later on, in the 90’s and beginning of the 2000’s, the abaya started to take a new shape with more ostentatious iron-on rhinestones and sparkle, adorning new cuts and
styles. In the last twenty years, the abaya has emerged as a statement fashion piece, becoming a new trend. Indeed, this traditional garment underwent another drastic transformation with the waistline emphasized by wide belts and various designs. Thanks to emerging local designers who redefined the Abaya based on their cultural heritage, adding to it a western touch, this piece started to have a standing of its own, leaving its oriental birthplace for international catwalks.
The Abaya by Orient 499
In line with fashion and modern women needs, Orient 499’s contemporary abayas are made with different kinds of light, flowing fabrics like silk, crêpe georgette, and chiffon in vibrant colors. Enhanced with high-end designs using embroidery, lace, or colorful stripes, the new abaya stands out as the luxurious ultimate piece of fashion. From Orient 499’s several ateliers throughout Lebanon to the high-end boutique in Beirut, we are keen on promoting original talented Lebanese handicrafts who bring to life our creations.
For Orient 499, designing abayas encompasses a meaningful purpose. By building a like-minded community of people who have a passion for luxurious & sustainable slow-fashion, Orient 499 will continue on supporting local artisans and empowering women, making sure they pass on their valuable art for generations to come.