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I remember the very first time I came across an abayah like this. It was 2000, I was in San Diego at the time and a friend of mine had been given some of those new fangled, very very exotic “abayaahs” from Saudi Arabia by a women who was returning to her home country. My friend was/is much older than I and started to wear hijab about the same year I was born in 1980 so she had a lot more experience with different kinds of covering and overgarments than I had (at the time) but she really had no idea what these things were.
Anyway she ended up giving me something that looked like this mishlah from Tahura.
In this super shiny, super cheap-o polyester. It was such a strange garment to behold, we were both puzzled by it and neither of us actually felt comfortable wearing it.
Anyway I ended up occasionally playing around with it but much to scared to actually wear it, I think between now and then I put it somewhere and forgot about it. Hmm. *shrugs shoulders*.
So that my friends is what our lovely modern abayaah looked like before it became a T-shape. It was basically the shoulder to floor version of the overhead square abayaah (abayaah raas).Fast forward to today, I’ve realized my absolute favorite style of overgarment is actually THAT kind of abayaah, be it the huge square Mishlah, butterfly or some variant there of. I’m also really glad that these sorts of styles are very popular right now in the Gulf and Iran and the designs are gradually becoming more available here in the West.
Sunnah Style had a very nice bisht/mishlah abayah which is now, sadly, sold out-although I just got an e-mail from them saying they will be retocking them next week (yah!) and they also have many kinds of butterfly abayaat available. Tahura has that one above and 2hijab and Islamic Boutique, both based in Egypt have an Egyptian version of this called the malhafah and the standard butterfly.
I like them all because they are extremely well covering and now that summer has arrived are deceptively cool and comfortable. I don’t have a mishlah yet, though I do plan to purchase one this summer, I right now have 1 butterfly, 1 Egyptian style malhafah style abayah (below, the Dalia…which I *highly* recommend) and one Iranian style butterfly manteau and I really prefer them to the regular T style abayah because the air circulation is great, esp with the Egyptian ones. They are also extremely modest and well covering (as I mentioned above) and are kind of a “step up” in the covering department without looking so exotic and “strange” as an overhead abayaah or chador would be here in most American cities.
There is also another style that I am beginning to see a lot of, it’s similar to the mishlah above but has actual cuffs and usually there is a decorative “stripe” around the waist area, it doesn’t go all the way around, it’s just at the very front, so it looks like the abayah a bit more structure. Sofar I’ve only seen them sold on Afrian fashion.
At this point, I am prefering the plain mishlah/bisht and Egyptian malhafah style (like the Dalia one above) much more to the butterfly as there is no internal seam and I think they flow better and cover better. I guess I’m gettin’ old right…
Here is a picture of 2 women on a Gulf talk show wearing the mishlah/bisht style.