Innovations in Abaya Design: Modernising Traditional Attire

Abayas are now one of the most versatile clothing pieces. Over the years, it has evolved into a modest artistic canvas for designers to showcase their ideas and innovations.

In recent times, contemporary abaya designers have been pushing the boundaries of traditional attire, introducing new designs that blend originality with modern aesthetics.

Understanding the Abaya: A Closer Look at the Traditional Attire

Abaya is a traditional, loose-fitting outerwear garment worn by women as a coverall. A full-length robe-like dress, which was usually available in black. However, in recent times, abayas have evolved and are now available in different sizes, colours, styles, and patterns. Women wear the abaya over regular clothing and often pair it with a sheila (headscarf) to cover the head and hair.

Tracing Abaya's Tale

During and slightly before the 1960s, abayas characterised simplicity and basic functionality. Craftsmen made these using locally sourced materials, mainly cotton and wool, to provide comfort during changing seasons.

The abaya design was simple, square-shaped, and made with black colour fabric. Sometimes there were large gold accents on the neckline, but these embellished abayas were only owned by upper-class women. The fitting of the abayas has always been loose and full-length to offer ease of movement.


The traditional abaya evolution

The abaya designs from the 1970s to the 1990s underwent a notable evolution. Abaya designs now clearly reflect the changing times and trends, particularly craftsmanship and choice of fabric.

Black silk and less opaque materials were gaining popularity. Women wore more structured compositions with tailored cuts and defined silhouettes.

From the onset of the 1980s, global fashion trends influenced the designs of abayas. Fitted to batwing silhouettes, different sleeve lengths and sizes with padded shoulders were the new normal. Pastels and jewel tones with embroidery and beadwork also gained prominence.

However, asymmetric cuts, layers, lighter fabrics like crepe and chiffon, collars, and buttons only gained fashion popularity around the 1990s.


Contemporary Abaya Designs

Colossal transformation can be observed in the modern abaya designs. In comparison to the olden times, abayas today have a greater diversity of fabrics, cuts, colours and embellishments. The modest essence of the traditional abaya is still maintained.

1. Fabrics and Textures: Modern abayas use various fabrics, including lightweight materials like slub, chiffon, satin, and jersey. This departure from the heavier fabrics contributes to a more comfortable and breathable garment suitable for various climates.

For example, our Cotton and Linen blended abayas. The Colour Block Abaya shows dual tones with a white border to provide more structure to the overall design. Made of slub material, it is a perfect example of a contemporary fabric abaya

2. Cuts and Silhouettes: Contemporary abayas come in a variety of cuts and silhouettes. Classic straight-cut abaya, A-line, flared, jacket style, kimono style and many more variations. These designs offer a more tailored and fashion-forward look.

The  Contrast Trim Jacket Abaya from the Kaleidoscope collection is a modern masterpiece of chic cuts and jacket design. With a sleek silhouette and sophisticated contrast trim, it fuses modernity and traditional elegance.


3. Colours and Patterns: The colour palette has expanded beyond the traditional black. Modern abayas come in a spectrum of colours, including pastels, jewel tones, and vibrant hues. Patterns, prints, and embroidery have become more intricate and diverse.

Another example from the Kaleidoscope collection showcasing new abaya patterns is the  Contrast Trim Printed Abaya. This carefully crafted abaya with a geometric print seamlessly blends style, adding a fashionable twist to traditional attire.

4. Details and Embellishments: Contemporary abaya designs often feature elaborate detailing and embellishments. Beads, sequins, shiny fabrics, lace, unique sleeves, uneven hems, and fancy cuffs add a modern touch to the traditional outfit.

The  Glossy Crinkled Abaya stands as an authentic piece of art designed to be glossy and extravagant. It features full-length sleeves with slits on the cuffs and comes with a matching colour sheila. Its simplicity, paired with extravagant details, makes it the go-to abaya for the fashionable.


5. Influence of Global Fashion: The influence of global fashion trends is more pronounced in modern abaya designs. Contemporary styles may draw inspiration from international runways, incorporating elements such as ruffles, pleats, and modern tailoring techniques.

Reflecting the ultimate global fashion marvel is another piece from our kaleidoscope collection -  Dobby Printed Reversible Abaya. This abaya showcases a sophisticated dobby print and boasts a reversible design, offering versatility and style in one.

Innovations in abaya design reflect a broader trend in the fashion industry, blending tradition with contemporary aesthetics. Contemporary abaya designers are redefining the visual language of this traditional attire and fostering cultural exchange. The use of colour, innovative fabrics, cutting-edge silhouettes, and cultural fusion has elevated the abaya into the realm of high fashion, preserving its cultural significance.

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