The abaya through the years
By the 1970s, when oil was discovered in the Arab world, the abaya became the subject of some experimentation in which various types and weights of silky material prevailed. By the late 1970s, the abayas did not cover the entire body. In fact, they were close to the waist and one side was tucked under the arm, exposing the clothing worn on the lower part of the body.
It was in the 80s that the shoulder abaya was introduced. The shoulder abaya was a long black cloak-like garment that covered the entire body. It had decent full sleeves and was completed with the narrower shayla covering the head. Experiments continued with different types and weights of silk and different styles of embroidery and embellishments were also introduced on the abaya. Chiffons and georgettes were also used as they were more flowing.
Over time, the abaya continued to evolve, although the basic style and shape of the abaya remained the same, more embroidery and embellishments such as lace, iron-on stones became the norm. The shayla was always complemented by the abaya and was often combined in the markets and souks with similar designs and decorations. A new style of abaya was also introduced during this time. It came from Oman and was known as the 'omaniyah' because it resembled the tunics worn by the men of Oman. It also became known as the 'Islamic abaya' because it was closed at the front, did not open like previous abayas and could easily be slipped over the head.
In the first decade of the 2000s, experimenting with the abaya took on a new meaning with the introduction of many different styles and cuts, some too blingy, some over-the-top and some even rather bizarre. Some abayas had bats, butterflies, or anything else that had wings. Some abaya even had waistlines emphasized by various types of wide or narrow belts that accentuated the body shape and contradicted the rationale behind the abaya - so as not to show off the body shape. All this was done to blend in with the western style of dressing.
Today the abaya is not just a body-covering garment, it has transcended only functionality and has become an expression of individualism and has taken on a prestige of its own. Abaya designers have taken the abaya to a whole new level with an emphasis on global fashion trends along with an awareness of changes in the environment and the world in general.
The abaya industry has evolved just like the abaya itself. Not only can you buy an abaya in various malls, souks and bazaars, you can now also have them custom made by an abaya designer, which is becoming a trend in today's world.