The History of the Abaya

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If you take a moment to browse the Cover Me Collection, you will see that we have several types of Abaya available, all in different colours and styles.

However, those who aren’t familiar with modest fashion may not realise that the Abaya is an ancient garment with a history that stretches back for thousands of years.

In this article, we’re going to unravel some of the history of the Abaya, in addition to examining its importance, particularly to those of the Islamic faith.

 

What is an Abaya?

Traditionally, Abayas are loose fitting robes that women can wear over their regular clothes. They have long sleeves, and are almost dress like, though they cover more of the body than a traditional dress.

The Abaya is a popular dress item in many Middle Eastern countries, as it only leaves the hands, feet, and face exposed. Many complement their Abayas with a niqab or burka. However, this is by no means essential, particularly for those who do not follow the Islamic faith.

The Basic History

As with many garments, the story behind the Abaya is somewhat clouded. It is believed that the garment has existed for over four millennia, as there is evidence of ancient cultures using it. In particular, the Mesopotamians appeared to wear garments that are similar in style and length to the Abaya, though the clothes wouldn’t have carried the same name at the time.

The rise of Islam in the seventh century gave more prominence to the Abaya. The religion adopted the veiling practices that we know today, with some speculating that this may have been influenced by the existence of garments like the Abaya at the time. Regardless, it is during this period when the Abaya gained the religious connotations that many attach to the garment today.

Interestingly, many believe that pre-Islam Abayas were much more revealing than the ones we see today. It was not until the rise of Islam that wearers were required to draw their veils and ensure the Abaya covered as much of their skin as possible. This was done to protect women from disrespectful acts.

Some scholars also believe the act of “veiling” was as much about status as it was religion. For example, in pre-Islam times, veiling was seen by many as a sign of luxury, with women who didn’t need to work often wearing veils alongside their Abayas. These women used the veil to distinguish themselves from the working women who couldn’t afford something as impractical as a veil to cover their faces.

But that gets away from the point. The Abaya is a garment that has a rich history. Naturally, it has also undergone several evolutions over the course of 4,000 years.

Today

Traditionally, Abayas came in black only, but designers have become more conscious to the fact that wearers enjoy a little flair with their Abayas.

In the modern world, the Abaya is both linked to the Islamic faith, and a fashion statement in its own right. The rise of Islamic/modest fashion has brought it to a new level of prominence, and it is not uncommon to see women who do not practice Islam wearing the Abaya.

We hope that you found this article informative, and now understand a little more about the history of the Abaya. We encourage you to browse our collection to see how many different styles this traditional garment comes in. Keep an eye out on our new winter collection coming soon.

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