Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Gulf Styles of Niqab pt. 1... not to be confused with how to STYLE a niqab

Front veiw of an Islamic flip niqab (available with or without nose string) from Al Motahajaba store
One of the niqabs I wear most frequently simply because it flows beautifully, is light as air, and gives good coverage and decent appearence even without any additional styling of the shayla is my Islamic flip style flip niqab from Al Motahajaba. This particular one is without a nose string. I have another one exactly the same with a nose string from Habayeb in UAE. The Al Motahajaba one costs around 10.500 Omani rials. Which is around 35.00 dollars USD.
Side veiw of the Islamic flip niqab
While I did find that this style of niqab was the most popular with niqabis back in the West, most of the time the niqabs were not made wholly out of the same fabric as Khaleeji shaylas, as this one is. The face veil part is just two peices of shayla fabric made into a square and sewn inwards and then between the single layers of the shayla fabric for the flip. The headband is made out of folded double layers shayla fabric and is not backed or stiff at all, and ties closed. The veil itself is wider than say, an elastic face niqab because its edges are sewn directly into the flip part of the niqab, which gives it a longer durability than the following stringed styles I will showcase. Also, another MAJOR difference is the end of the flip edges are WIDER than the face veil itself and ROUNDED at the bottom so that when flipped back, they cascade nicely instead of being the square things flapping around in the back.
Design/construction of the islamic flip niqab.
Note the width of the flip being wider than the veil, and the rounded edge on the bottom. This is what gives the niqab it's nice flow even without styling.
Next up is a VERY OLD niqab from my closet (so if it looks worn forgive---I haven't bought another one is SOME time). Some people refer to it as a Saudi niqab style but it is actually a Bahraini one. Many Saudis vacay in Bahrain and adopt the look because it can be more stylish with make-up;).
Front veiw of a Bahraini strinnged flip niqab
This is the sought after "wide-eyed" string niqab alot of girl's like seeking a more tribal style though mine is old and not in good shape. The wide eyes are formed by the veil itself being narrower (the same width as an elsatic half niqab) and attached to the flip part by THREE strings. (Note, this niqab CANNOT be made without the nose string). There are two strings on either side to attach it to the flip, and one in the middle for the nose to prevent the niqab from slipping off entirely.
side veiw of the bahraini stringed flip niqab
I took this photo to illustrate how the strings are attached to the headband.
Bahraini stringed flip niqabs may or may not have a stiff backed headband. The better quality ones will not have a stiff headband and will be made of folded doubled shayla fabric.
As you can see, the face veil is MUCH narrower than the Islamic flip niqab style, and while both might support nose strings, this niqab cannot function without one.
Photo to show how the Baharaini niqab differs from the Islamic niqab in how the sides are sewn, and the width of the face veil itself.
A possible nose-stringless alternative to the wide-eyed styles of niqab would be the Saudi "widow's peak" niqab which has a peaked stiff headband and yet may have sides sewn like the Islamic flip niqab. I don't generally LIKE stiff band niqabs. The ones I own I seldom wear. Below is one that I do: even though my husband hates the big eyes---but the shorter veil is more useful if wearing niqab eating out and easier for carrying children and babies since they won't pull down on it in your arms.
Front veiw of a Salalah style stringed headband niqab.
The construction of the Salalah niqab is always a wide backed headband and a characteristically shorter face veil---from just below the chin to the collarbone. It comes into two styles, stringless (which the face veil will be a little wider and sewn into the sides of the niqab band---this style may ALSO have a nose string but won''t give you that wide-eyed look) and stringed with a thinner face veil attached with a string at each ear and one in the middle where the nose is. The veils may be additionally tribally styled  with additional frilly decorative veil on the face veil itself, but I don't own any examples of those since I am not from Salalah and so would never wear one. Some Saudis also wear this style in the South, and Yemenis too!
Side veiw of the Salalah stringed niqab

Design of the stringed Salalah style niqab.
 Now, if I style my niqabs, I usually only do so two ways, which I'll post about later inshaAllah, but I never wear my headband or half niqabs without the end of shayla flipped up over the top of niqab and pinned secure at each side with stick pins as pictured below. Just because I don't fancy the look without. The most common way I wear niqab style is with the loose end hooded and flipped up over top:
Note: the shayla used to flip back over the top of the niqab has a rounded edge on the bottom, instead of a square. I also do the look with square edged shaylas.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Where do I shop for abayas these days?

Back when I lived in Canada I bought most of my abayas online from places like & . didn't exist back then right.

Now, surrounded by many places to get gorgeous abayaat from, I shop in majority from the local Omani tailor shop designs. I have quite a few favourite tailors, 3-4 in the BACK of the famous Mutrah souq, 2 in the Seeb Souq (1 from the Seeb mall, and one along the highway near a Turkish restaurant), 1 in Al Ghubra near the Bank Muscat down a little back alley who can basically copy any thing you give him a photo of beyond hand embroidery... There's alot of choices. If you know your fabrics and how to barter, and are up to speed on your abaya fashions and finishings, you can get an abaya as good as the designer brands for 1/4 of the price when you deal with a tailor give or take hand embroidery. You DO HAVE TO know about prices for fabrics and the cost of the latest designs though, because bartering is a must, and most tailors will guage you until you become a repeat customer unless they instantly like you;). We Canadian girls seem pretty lucky with this, poor Boxie aside.
My second favourite places are Boutique brands. These abayas often DO have handwork and are in the latest styles and are priced according to the work plus around 10-15 rials more than souq abayaat just because they usually don't stock anything "so 2007" in way of abayas. My favourite shops?: Abayat Al Princessa in Al Araimi complex in al Qurum even though it doesn't look like much from the outside, the boutique shops in Al Bahja... and Wala Boutique in Barka on the way to barka souq in the same strip mall as the Ajmal perfume shop (the only out of Muscat shop I like so far---Barka is famous for tailoring). I also love "Abayaat Al Shamkha" in Madinat Qaboos area of Muscat. I AM SORRY though, my Omani sisters, an abaya from Seeb Mall in the Seeb Souq IS not a Boutqiue brand just because the tailor shop has delusions of grandeur. Boutique shops are about the finest in quality and design. They don't make cheaper versions like tailor shops do though maybe they can make without beading in places to get the price more to your range or less crystals ect. .
I DO like the shaylas from Muscat's branch of Emirati brand "Al Ghatwa" but the guy who works here is a jerk, unlike the fellows from the Abu Dhabi store, so I just don't get my abayas from him,, whether I like them or not. AND he overcharges saying "we're a branch of Khunji". Like that means wearing Al Ghatwa is on par with wearing Khunji. NOT.
I really do love the quality of the handwork on Al Motahajaba abayas and shaylas but because of the prices, tend to go boutique for similar designs and quality workmanship. I can't live though, without Al Motahajaba shaylas and niqabs. I buy the 10 rial niqab here. And wear it too much. Al Motahajaba in Oman is located in the Seeb City Center Mall. They are also the only branded store that sell "gashwa" veils.
I often peruse the plain black abayas at Hanayen as well as the colourful logoed shaylas. Everything else is either too expensive, too blingy, or too tacky, for me. Staff are efficient and not rude here though;), Seeb City Center Mall.
While I haven't bought anything from "First Choice" in years, they still have lovely shaylas, and super nice customer service, Seeb City Center Mall. I don't usually do "Khunji" because their abayas are way overpriced but they often have innovative cuts. I promise to highlight more abaya brands that I love but I will start with Muscat's oldest favourite darling:
"Dar al Princessa" is located in Al Araimi Complex shopping mall in Al Qurum. Their abayas carry a heady price tag but are worth it for the fabrics, cuts, and quality of any handwork. My dream abaya of each season always lies here, hauntingly unaffordable. Their customer service is super friendly despite their success (an Omani thing) and they can always offer one less expensive options on a favoured design. Their in house Iranian tailor is amazing. One I recommend.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Khaleeji Abayas: What's In My Closet In Terms of Fabrics and Cuts

Asalam alaykom ramatullahi wa barakto. This post is to show ya'll a few styles of abayaat I am not alone in wearing here in Gulf. Please, just a sidenote, don't copy the pictures here to repost without getting my okay first? Thank you! I'd like to document cuts, fabric, pricing, and where to get 'em just so people not living abroad in the Khaleej like myself, know what they're doing when they are buying abayas.

I haven't purchased alot of new abayas since 2010. So the following two, my current faves, were gifts from my super sweet Sister-in-law KH.
This abaya, knowing my sister-in-law (she's the trendy Omani girl in the city) likely was from a Boutique store in Al Bahja Mall in Seeb, in the Capital of Muscat, of the Sultanate of Oman. All my abayas except for those from Abu Dhabi, are from Muscat. Knowing the price ranges in the boutique stores in Al Bahja, this abaya probably cost around 40-50 Omani rials. That is usually X 3.4 to get the USD prices. This abaya is made of a thin lightweight Korean crepe in the arms and the base, and a high-quality jersey stretch in the bust and at the wrists. Barter, barter, barter, even in the boutiques, and ask for a discount in older styles, knowing the pricing for fabrics. Nida and stretch aren't expensive abaya fabrics.
A-line abaya with crepe balloon sleeves
This is your basic A-line closed-style abaya with balloon sleeves. KH had the extra tight jersey-stretch fabric added to keep the balloon sleeve from riding up to show more of the arm. The abaya has a very fashionable and yet casual silloughette that I adore, the fabric doesn't need ironing and hangs modestly, and design of simple felt beads and piping on the seams make it a perfect abaya for wearing out for work or chores or just to hang out with the girls. As for the "Chanel" logo, that isn't fake, it is a necklace that broke from the 30s that belonged to my grandmother and I thought it looked cute there so sewed it on myself.
This next abaya probably originated in Al Bahja Mall too, but since they were gifts I'm not going to ask. What I love about it, beyond the nice quality of effortless lightweight fabric (a harir-crepe), is again, that the design is wooden and metal beads and embroidery thread, not over-the-top crystal bling bling, so you get away with more design, making the abaya not just an evening-occasion abaya.
detail of the design on the shayla. Note: when I wear makeup on my eyes I usually cover with sunglasses rather than niqab. Sometimes I wear oversize sunglasses instead of niqab.
This abaya, because of the ammount of fabric, probably ranged from 50-70 Omani rials depending which branded tailor she got it from. I love how the design is different on each sleeve and carries down to the side of the abaya. This style is an A-line close front abaya with kimono sleeves and it has a zip along the side of the neck to the shoulder for fastening, as well as some good quality snaps on each wrist to make sure that the wide sleeves don't splay open. This is a very modest and breathable abaya and so I love it.
A-line closed-front abaya with kimono sleeves.
The next abaya is one of the few I have purchased recently. Since I haven't been working since I had my daughter, there hasn't been a huge need, but I got this one tailored in the Seeb Souq for the purpose of job interviews. It is made out of nida fabric (not the more expensive better quality super-nida) and cheap stretch fabric (not jersery stretch). It cost 15 rials to tailor. I absolutely love the cut (though my husband does not like the thinness of nida fabric) except for the fact that I SHOULD have gotten extra stretch fabric added at the wrists to prevent the balloon top from riding up towards the elbows. As is, I wear a top or cuffs underneath, to prevent any hijab-don'ts.
This abaya is an a-line closed style, but with a full balloon top that goes all the way across the rib top down to the hips. I find it an elegant design, with the flaw of the sleeves riding up.
A-line balloon top abaya style.
Now, the following abaya I didn't really want to spend that much money on, but I was told by my work that nothing less than something catwalk would do for meeting a Prince, so I chose this Hanayen brand runway number under pressure from my Omani co-worker and friend S;) [who mashaAllah just got engaged-mabruk]:
The wonderful thing about Hanayen is that they are very innovative in coming up with new abaya fabrics, and the shine and lightness of this abaya charmed me. The 300 Omani rial price tag, of course, did not. Also, I don't like blingly crystals all over my body for the daytime or for work, so I got it made for me without. In the end, the style cost 120 Omani rials. And the ironic thing is, maybe a Princess would notice a brand name abaya, but a stylishly cut Souq abaya for around 60 Omani rials would register the same as a 500 Omani rial one to a Prince. That's just a fact. Anyways, this is an a-line style alot like a "farasha/butterfly" but totally different in that the oversleeves are set in inseams. I tried to show what the two layers (of the exact same fabric) look like in the diagram below. The effect is the abaya "flutters" when you walk. It also carried me rather well through my pregnancy;)
A-line abaya with pleated in-seam 'wings'
The next abaya was purchased when these were just coming into fashion but the style in coloured printed jersey is getting to be a little old and blase now. You have to go for black with embroideries or crystals or plain plain these days to handle this design. The plain printed jersey balloon sleeve in an a-line cut is out. I still wear it of course, because it is perfectly comfortable, and in good shape. I just wouldn't wear it to impress. I got it for 15 Omani rials from a tailor shop in the Mutrah Souq.
The lovely thing about Jersey balloon sleeves is unlike balloon top styles the sleeve doesn't ride up on its own. I have shown in the picture below the hijab DON'T girls do in the GCC, and especially UAE, of pushing up their abaya sleeves to show their forearms+henna+bracelets+watch. It makes a lovely shape but isn't hijab or jilbab anymore. Perfectly lovely and fine when just hanging out with the girls at home but when I wear this abaya I out I make sure my arms are covered like below:
The abaya body is made of a cheap but light-weight fabric like Nida but a little shinier and heavier [cheaper thus] and printed jersery "stretch". Stretch abayaat should never be expensive because the fabric itself is BEYOND cheap.
A-line closed front abaya with balloon sleeves.
The next abaya is pretty much that average abaya that is in style for girls in the Gulf. Tight-fitted french cut sleeves are seen as backwards "village girl" unless paired with a giant Gamboo3a hairclip and too much makeup (which in Oman, is seen as slutty and classless anyways, beyond not hijab-appropriate so I'd rather you go "village" or "bedu" than fall into that). The abaya can be front-open or closed in style, it doesn't matter, but the sleeve should be wide sleeve (or another fancier shaped style). I was told by my girl S though, that Omani girls would never be caught dead wearing the colours of Oman's flag like I do;)
This was a boutique abaya from "Al Shamkha", a Bahraini brand in Madinat Sultan Qaboos area of Muscat. The fabric is some kind of Harir [meaning silk, but not a silk at all], and it is the best best best abaya fabric I have ever encountered. It is strong, it is lightweight, it is not hot, it does not need to be ironed. The abaya was on sale for 40 Omani rials, and is my most "blingy" abaya. I tend to wear it when people are more blingy than me so that works, or for sports, simply out of love of the fabric.
A-line front-open abaya with snap closure and wide sleeves
Well, just because a less fashionable sleeve abaya is not considered "en vogue" in the GCC, doesn't mean I don't wear them. 
I love my "Islamyia" side open abaya for its ease and modesty. I call it "my village abaya" and wear it whenever I want to be comfortable and not make a fuss. It is perfectly fine for rural Oman but "please please don't wear it to the mall" begs my Sister-in-law KH. This particular "Islamyia" is ancient. I've had it longer than I've been Muslim and I bought it in Mutrah souq for 3 Omani rials. It was pretty fashionable in Canada in the Island-without-abayas. But how can a girl not love it when she can wear it hiking, swimming...
...mountain climbing...
...And through-out the whole of her pregnancy? I have to have some love for my "islamiyia" because that side open style makes her an active abaya style, yet very loose fitted, concealing, and modest.
So yeah, despite being "village" for it, I can't seem to retire my "Islamiyia" ;). I wear it alot. Every girl needs something where she can sit down without worrying about dust.
"Islamiyia" cut abaya
Now, this next abaya I keep in my closet for three reasons. #1, the handwork and originality of the design of work are exquisite. #2, the abaya itself is made of Saudi crepe and will thus retain its quality for ages. #3 it was a gift from my mother. Purchased somewhere in 2006-8ish from the brand "First Choice" when front-open French-cut was all the rage, I gave my mother my more modest requirements measurements and this is what she picked out for me:
detail of the handwork on the abaya sleeve
Now, it is an a-line front-open style with french-cut sleeves (that I got made pretty loose by French-cut standards). If I wear it open it is pretty modest while not "en vogue". Thing is, it only has fastening at the top until the chest, so I have to find the perfect maxi to wear under it and haven't found this yet so I am sure once that happens I will wear it alot more. It cost 38 Omani rials back then but would probably cost 80 Omani rials now, for the same ammount of handwork and Saudi crepe fabric at "First Choice". 50 Omani rials from a regular non-boutique tailor shop.
A-line front open abaya with french-cut sleeves
Next up is not worn at all by stylish or trendy GCC girls, but the religious and/or traditional ones (albeit, not traditional for Omani girls) is the Gulf-style abaya-ras. Mine is made of silk and embroidered in a Bisht-style. I got it from the Mutrah souq but did the embroidery myself. It cost 30 Omani rials forever ago but would cost alot more now.
Gulf-style abaya ras with Bisht style embroidery-fastening
Below: a shayla from "Al Gatwa" brand. Purchased in Abu dhabi in 2010? I still wear it and love it.
Below: Puffy silver-threaded shayla from the shopping fairs at the Seeb Exhibition center, in Oman.
No, lol, I am not wearing Gamboo3a, this is just a really interesting shayla I picked up practically as a steal from the shopping exhibition in Seeb (best abaya and shayla prices ANYWHERE in Oman, but only at certain times a year)
style of abaya sleeve. if I were to tailor this abaya I would get the winged sleeve made of the same chiffon as the shaylas are made out of but since it was a gift, who am I to complain right?
I honestly don't know what this style is called but it is from the UAE. A random tailor gave it to me as a gift for helping his sister in Abu Dhabi. I don't really wear it anymore because I feel the sleeves are not practical, and it is out of style. Too costumey almost. But I always end up urged to keep it on those days when I get stuck wearing it out because everything else is on the laundry line, when Omani women come up to me and droves and ask me where I bought it from. Even the rich girls. So I guess it is still in. Or so out, that nobody can tell?
Emirati chiffon overlay attached to narrow sleeves of a front open abaya.
This abaya I don't wear at all really anymore though I DID love the skirt because the shoulders were never properly taken in at the tailor and the mandarin collar was unbearably stiff. The skirt had a perfect and totally lovely flow to it though and I have contemplated getting a better quality tailored one made for myself. Purchased in Sheikh Zayed souq in Abu Dhabi 2010ish, United Arab Emirates, for 12 Omani rials.
Balloon abaya
Some abaya styles I do want to get tailored:
1.) The fishtail cut abaya in a high quality plain black fabric with a balloon top. It is just the cutest design.
2.) In style more for 30-40 year old women but I love it anyway, the belted and draped bisht. I want a yellow silk-satin belt.
3.) Absolutely in style but usally immodestly worn, the open-style "diamond" cut cocoon abaya. I want it in Bahraini silk, plain black, for special occasions. It functions like a more modern abaya ras over jalabyias and floor length evening gowns though hijab don't is to pair it flapping open with leggings or jeans.
4.) Not in style AT ALL, but I want a traditionally embriodered Bahraini bisht. Just cuz I like it.
5.) A drop-waisted stretch abaya. The drop waist prevents it from clinging. Plain black I think. Am not sure yet. People keep doing a-line stretch abayas. That's a hijab don't. If you can see your thong, or the brand of jean from the embroidery on its pocket caressed by the stretch of your-aline abaya back, honey, it ain't abaya any longer.

So those are the in styles (and the ones I want just because). The Grecian style is also in (and if I do that I'll buy from D.A.S in UAE or my friend Buthaiyna, and shoulder pads (but I can't do that look).