Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Color, glitter enliven Saudi women's black abayas

I've posted the work of plenty of Saudi abaya designers, and here's an article that looks at the new abaya trends in KSA:

1 October 2008

JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — For years, the only thing sold openly in Saudi stores selling women's cloaks were of the all-black, drab covering variety. Now, streaks of vibrant color, bands of glittering crystal — even sheaths of sexy leopard skin prints — are showing up on the racks.

And that's not all. Women are snapping them up and even sometimes wearing them in public.

For stores to openly stock the new generation of cloaks, or abayas, and for some women to wear them in public are not just fashion statements. They are risky acts of defiance in a nation where the powerful religious police have for years raided stores to confiscate "illegal" abayas as part of their mandate as guardians of the kingdom's rigid interpretation of Islamic teachings.

These days, the "legal" abayas that conform to the strict standards of the religious police have been relegated to the back of many stores in major Saudi cities. In their place are the new ones.

While salesmen and designers say women are snapping up the new abaya models and feel pressured to produce more styles to meet demand, some Saudis are unhappy that what is supposed to hide women's curves and detract male attention is becoming a fashion statement sure to turn a man's head.

Read the rest here.


Zaenab said...

i say go them!! woo woo! to the saudi women fighting oppression! :D

Celeritas said...

Confiscating sparkly abayas? Are women allowed to confiscate men's swimming shorts?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

At first I agreed with the article, then I had to think back a few years when I went to Saudi Arabia -there were plenty of "outrageous" abayas with colors and sparkles and all. Infact I still own a VERY glittery Abaya just passed one with COLORS and flashy sequins on to a friend for Eid. Take what you read with a gran of salt.

I love your blog by the way! I stop by often.


Pixie said...

Zaenab----knwoing a TONNE of saudi women and being related to them, THEY are not suppressed whatsoever.Most are 100% more spoiled than you and I. Of course, there are poor women living in Saudi without citizenship and often these ladies are suppressed. As far as colour and a little decoration and different shapes to Saudi abaya, hey, that is cool (and doesn't make you a man magnet no matter what some religious pamphlet says) but overly glittery and tight fitted ones? That does!!!!! They become either an item of taburrujj, or too tight to cover the precepts of hijab. These ARE bad innovations to the Saudi abaya, but giving women individuality never is.

Jana said...

Spoiled? Let’s see so in Saudi women are forced to wear an abaya, often punished when they are raped, forbidden from driving and so are either forced to get into a car with a non-related man every day (if they can afford it) or simply rely on their male relatives to take them everywhere if they cannot, run the risk of being married off as children because there are no laws defining the minimum age for marriage, must always have written consent from a mahram before travelling, are banned from many jobs, and basically treated like children (and lots more is detailed here), and this is not even to speak of the social restrictions which are often worse. Wow they sound pretty spoiled to me...not. So some of them maybe rich enough to buy designer clothes everyday and have maids and servants, but no matter how you sugar coat it, this is not freedom. I really wish people would stop romanticising life for women in Saudi - individuality is a luxury when you don’t even have basic rights. I’d never live in KSA even if they paid me – I’d much rather have my autonomy and dignity thanks.

Pixie said...

I know a tonne of Saudi woman and they HATE it here in the West Jana. They love their lives there and that is NOT sugar-coating it. It is truth. They want some things to change but in general the majority are 100% happy with life the way it is no matter how you veiw them: D

Pixie said...

Saying that still, I disagree with a tonne of things in KSA like forced jilbab. Huh? What is the value of forced anything?

Jana said...

Obviously there will be women who do like life there, depending on their lifestyle. But it’s absolutely absurd for you to say that majority are 100% happy. Do you have any evidence to back up what you are saying? The fact is, the rules in the country treat women like second class citizens, restrict their freedoms and deny them basic rights. The society is corrupt and hypocritical in general, but what's worse is that it is paraded as 'Islamic'. You can't deny the facts of life for women in Saudi, and just brush them under the carpet. You are doing a HUGE disservice to Saudi women by failing to recognize the disadvantages they are living under. Here’s more evidence about just how wonderful life is for ladies in the Kingdom. The last link is particularly informative:

ameerah said...

I think the best one who can describe the situation is the saudi women them selves. So.since I'm a saudi young woman actually (21years old)I will give you a clear description for the situation as much I can. I think till now with all these informations and reports about the saudi woman no one can imagine the situation till he/she came and look closely to the situation. the all world think that all saudi woman are forced to wear their hijab and treated as a second class citizen but the reality is so much deferent. Most of saudi women here live a normal life and
the majority of them like their life style. As all women in any society the Saudi woman has her problems that need to be solve but hijab is not one of these problems . actually the majority of the people here have strong connect with religion so they do a lot of thigs that other people(non muslims or non saudies) look at as a strange and hard thigs while we look at as a natural things because this is a part from our religion . Some people think saudi people live like that because there is a religious police forces them to do things that they don't wont but actually this is a very wrong idea because it's impossible
for any government or religious force to play this role for 100 years and the people don't do any thing toward this situation. Actually people here like the way of living agree on this kind of laws because they are an Islamic laws and that what they want.

Jana said...

Ameerah, thank you for your input. But I'd disagree with several points.

You say "all world think that all saudi woman are forced to wear their hijab and treated as a second class citizen but the reality is so much deferent"

Firstly - women in Saudi do have a dress code enforced, so yes, they ARE forced!

Secondly, it doesn't take a genius to realise that women are treated like 2nd class citizens. When there is such a HUGE discepancy in the way men and women and treated, that's discrimination. When women are constantly at a social disadvantage because of their gender, that's discrimination.

And I don't even consider hijab/abaya to be a worth problem either personally, but the other laws certainly are. Who are you trying to kid that these laws are Islamic? No where do I see it in the Quran saying that women should constantly live under the mercy of their male relatives, be they tyrannts or not. No where does it say they should not be able to get around freely. No where does it say they should endure punishment for rape.

And for you to allege that Saudis are happy with the situation totally contradicts the evidence that shows that Saudis DO want and are working towards change. If you are lucky enough to have the priveledged kind of lifestyle where your male relatives do allow you to pursue your life as you see fit, then good for you. But that doesn't give you the right to claim that all Saudi women are in the same fortunate situation. The vulnerable ones are the ones that suffer, the ones who have less chance of their voices being heard.


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