Thursday, 17 July 2008

Fashion students design abayas

By Zinie Chen Sampson
May 13, 2008

RICHMOND, Va. - The assignment for Virginia Commonwealth University fashion students: design an abaya, an enveloping cloak worn by Muslim women, that is stylish yet acceptable in Arab countries.

The results: elaborately beaded designs, a flamenco-influenced abaya, a punk rock abaya - and perhaps a better understanding of cultural norms in the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar, where the university has had a campus for 10 years.

"We were trying to make a feeling of youth - but still be true to their culture," said Kendra Palin, a fashion design major who partnered with classmate Shelby Day to design an abaya with looped buttonholes, princess seams and a high waist. "Everything else had to be black, but the embellishment could be any color, and we used silver and blue."

The abayas were shown recently at VCU's annual student fashion show and are being shipped to Doha, Qatar's capital, for a fashion show at the VCU School of the Arts in Qatar.

Read the rest here.


Anonymous said...

Hello there Jana! I've been stalking your blog for a while.. amazing thing you got going on here!!

So I read the article and was really surprised by the comments that followed!! Some people seemed opposed to the idea of globalizing the abaya, even though I think it's a great idea! It bridges the gap between what abaya is to muslims and the negative perspective the West has taken about it. And furthermore, why not? Looking at the abaya in a fun, fresh way isn't such a bad idea! And I've seen more attracting designs designed by muslims in Damascus! In the end it's the choice of the muslimah to wear it or not.
Over all, I don't think this was a bad idea at all. It made the abaya more friendly, and relatable... I definitely prefer it to 'black widow' and the like!!!

Jana said...

wk2, thank you! I agree with you, I think it was a really good idea. So many people see the abaya as 'foreign' and strange, but this is great way to make it more accessible. And I couldn't see anything wrong with the designs myself - but people will always complain!

Anonymous said...

What a great idea! Though I think that stipulating that they must all be black is perpetuating the misconception that Muslim women cannot wear colour...

Anonymous said...

That picture of abaya looks hot. It shouldn't look hot...

Anonymous said...

Hi there! I was personally at the fashion show so I'd like to give my view.
I really enjoyed seeing what these non-Arab students designed. The project was an interesting cultural exchange between the American students at VCU-Richmond and the Arabs at VCU-Qatar (who were asked to design swim wear, if I remember correctly). And I personally think it's wonderful to see our cultural heritage with new eyes.
But, the objection to "globalizing" the abaya stems from the fact that different cultures have different sensibilities. People want to 'protect' the original meaning/purpose of the abaya rather than just surrendering it to the fashion world which can deconstruct beyond recognition. There is a fear of misrepresentation.

One of the abayas at the show had all-around slits up to the mid thigh. One had a sexy waistband that showed off all the body curves. You don't see this in the picture here, but it is what I saw. And they were very beautiful dresses--but not abayas. :D

inayah58 said...

Nice work,


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