Saudi Life: Guest Post #2 "Avoiding Abaya Meltdowns"

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I must say, I remember when I had to buy my first abaya!  I was terrified that the arms were too short or the length would be too short and I get in major trouble.  Wasn't even sure if it could have color at all!  But, well, we've moved on from there...this is a great story about life in the abaya...for the expat that is...

"One very important article of clothing for any female over 11 is the abaya.  I found out the hard way that is is very important to put some thought into acquiring this garment before it is put into use.
My husband purchased a beautiful abaya for me prior to my arrival in KSA.  While I found no fault with the visual appearance of this garment, it was seriously lacking some practical aspects.
First of all, it had snaps, not gripper snaps but little sew-on snaps down the front of the garment.  I discovered that any time I moved those darn snaps were popping open.  Here I am trying to get out of an SUV to go shopping at the Dana Mall and I am compromising my modesty by unwanted snap popping all down the length of my abaya.  My shopping companions wanted to know if I was OK, I told them no, I was suffering from an "abaya meltdown".
To avoid abaya meltdowns it is important to remember a few things when purchasing an abaya.  First of all, make sure that any fasteners are adequate.  Gripper snaps are good, zippers are better, and there are some models that just pull over your head.  No meltdown is possible with that model! Next, make sure that whatever you get is going to be comfortable when worn over your regular clothes.  While most of us don't want to look like we are wearing a Hefty trash bag, you need enough room to be able to move comfortably.  Finally, I found I needed to think ahead about what I was wearing underneath my abaya to make sure moving could be accomplished with a minimum of binding.  Cotton fabrics were less desirable than jersey simply because the jersey clothing items didn't catch under the abaya.
Some ladies have multiple abayas that they use for different events that they go to.  One of my friends has a "dive abaya" that she wears when she goes scuba diving.  She isn't crazy about the fabric, but it is sturdy and it has zippers in the front and in pockets.
Another of my friends simply wears her abaya as a "dress" when the weather is stiflingly hot (and it often is).  I would just make sure the fabric is sufficiently opaque  as to not create a scene anywhere.  I have often contemplated wearing my bathing suit under my abaya but never found an appropriate occasion.  Most of the time during the summer when I had to wear it I would wear a light, sleeveless jersey top and a jersey or chiffon skirt underneath.
Hope this is helpful!  If you live in the Arabian homes you can ask Azam, the bus driver, to take you to "Lady Street" (not the real name!!!!)on Sunday or Tuesday to go abaya shopping.  Many of my friends have more than one and some are really quite beautiful.  Just remember, trying it on can be an issue although my friends and I have gotten shopkeepers to model some for us if we figured he was the appropriate size! "

traditional Saudi abaya's (photo from The Economist)

abaya's found in a shop...lots of variety!  (photo from Susie of Arabia)



Hello, I am facing an issue trying to decide what sort of Abaya to get prior to my first visit to KSA and potential move there in a couple of months from Bahrain. Is color allowed? Good post, very informative :)


Hi Kristina! Yes, color is allowed...black is still the staple, but depending on your city you will see color. Jeddah is very "liberal" and you'll see all kinds of abayas. Yanbu and Riyadh are more conservative. I ordered my abayas from this website and they were all nice. :) http://www.eastessence.com/
Feel free to ask any more questions and glad you liked the post! :)

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