The square style of overgarment



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.

(Mishlah from

(Mishlah from

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.

(Desert Sands Bisht Abaya from

(Desert Sands Bisht Abaya from

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.

(Dalia abayah from

(Dalia malhafah style abayah from

(Om Habiba abaya from

(Om Habiba malhafah style abaya from

(Butterfly from

(Butterfly from

(fan butterfly abayah from

(fan butterfly abayah from

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.

(Bahraini abayah from afrian fashion)

(Bahraini abayah from 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.



10 thoughts on “The square style of overgarment

  1. Be careful with the totally square Mishlah style; unlike when the similar style which is worn on the head; the Mishlah type nothing to rest on and drape down from; so can be a bit of a liability! Especially if it is made in silky fabrics; you’ll find it slips all over the place and the headholes tend to be large so you’ll find it falling backwards or off the shoulder; and if you are wearing something less than modest under it it may well expose things you don’t want exposing! I used to have one which would have been super fashionable now, and it was just such a hazard I ditched it; a decision I don’t regret.

    Meg that is a caftan, I think imported from West Africa (or at least it is that style); and would be worn under the abaya in the gulf countries. Talking of the Bahraini abaya Arabic dresses with the same thing going on; but in printed fabrics are popular now over in the gulf countries.

    • Actually the sateen bisht abayaah I got here in KSA has a small headhole and it snaps down the front, so absolutely no slippage going on there. It depends on where you get them.

  2. LOL you’re not old. I am twenty three and that is my absolute fave style for the same reasons….:D

    • Um, those are called ABAYAT! They are not “burqas”…burqas are what is the traditional covering garment of Afghan and especially Pashtoon women. Get ur terminology right…please!

  3. Assalamu mariyam.. I wanted help badly!! I hv been searching fr bisht everywhere..buying online wont be so easy.. I wish someone who owns a bisht would let me know the pattern so that i could get it stiched on time for my wedding..(btw its within a pleeeease)… I wanted to make some changes in d pattern so please guys..tell me hw many meters required and also a rough outline for getting it stiched…pleeeeeeeease!!! Thanx

    • salaam…sister your IP address is IN Saudi Arabia. Just go to any local abaya shop and ask for a bisht abaya! They sell them everywhere there. best of luck.

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