OLD SCHOOL HIJABI HAS MOVED TO ITS OWN DOMAIN! THIS BLOG WILL NO LONGER BE UPDATED AT THIS ADDRESS…TO SEE THE NEW BLOG AND TO INTERACT WITH OLD SCHOOL HIJABI, GO TO WWW.OLDSCHOOLHIJABI.COM
Recently I was just doing some random searching online and came upon the Saudi Stepford Wife blog and this post which deals with public perceptions of women who wear overhead abayaat and the shoulder abayaat. <To read this post go here>.
After reading that I felt like I should share my own perceptions of how the overhead is considered here in my area of Saudi Arabia (although she lives in Al-Hassa which isn’t too far from where I am at, so I assume the conservative nature of this area is similar to her area) and my own perceptions of the overhead abaya and my experience wearing it.
Here in this end of Saudi Arabia the overhead abaya is extremely common. Although I have heard that the overhead is not as popular in the Hejaz region of the country, it remains common and popular in the rest of the country. Around the Gulf region, specifically Kuwait and Bahrain the overhead remains popular as well. Although overheads here in KSA do differ from the kind found in Kuwait and Bahrain. First and most importantly they are pieced differently. The Kuwaiti and Bahraini ones are more of the “old fashioned” sort, which means they consist of two huge pieces of thin crepe stitched lengthwise together in an S fashion and then the ends are brought inwards and stitched at the top. Forming a gigantic square. The seam would hit around your knees. There is generally no hemming at the bottom and any and all altering done to the abaya is done on this inside seam (Alhediya sells this type of traditional overhead). This style has a very big, billowy look and normally there are no snaps down the front. You just hold it closed with your hands.
Here in Saudi Arabia the majority of batwing abayaat are made from double width crepe and so the bottom is cut in the style typical of all abayat and there is no inside seam, usually there are snaps down the front or the abaya is made so there is no opening at all down the front (although this is more common on the sleeved overhead).
Take mine as an example… It is cut the same as a bisht abaya only it goes from the head and there are snaps going down the front and cuffs added to the edges of the abaya. It’s still a huge square but isnt as billowy and huge “looking”.
The Saudi overheads commonly have an extra piece stitched at the very bottom which I have fondly nicknamed a “dragger” and it basically facilitates the dragging of the overhead on the ground. I assume this practice is based off of the sunnah of women dragging their garments a handspan behind them. The “dragger” can be removed if desired, but I just kept mine.
The other popular kind of overhead is one which is cut like a shoulder abaya, only it flows from the head (like the first picture, above). The “sleeved overhead”. It fits closer to the body and is a bit less cumbersome for those who are not used to wearing an overhead. The sleeved variety seems to be much more popular than the batwing. I can only speculate at the reasons behind this, but again I think most women view the huge batwing as cumbersome so they will choose something which seems a bit easier to wear. Most of the sleeved varieties have fancy cuffs usually with rhinestones or embroidery and look practically like a shoulder abaya. These are really popular in the satin material and personally I think a matte sleeved overhead would actually work rather well in most areas of North America as a slightly more modest take on the shoulder abaya. But personally, call me old fashioned. I prefer the big, old batwing overhead to the sleeved variety. Although i’m hoping to get a sleeved overhead sometime in the next month or so.
The sister who runs the Saudi Stepford Wife blog mentions some perceptions along with pros and cons (according to her) of the overhead abaya, a few of which, I want to touch on. Now, I am unsure as to how accurate these perceptions are but, I will reckon a guess that they are fairly on target.
- That a woman wearing an overhead (of any variety) is a religious and traditional woman.
Yup, this seems like an accurate presumption. I have yet to see any Saudi women NOT in Niqab wearing an overhead. As far as Saudi women go…niqab and overhead go hand in hand.
- Shes not going to flirt and she MUST be Saudi seem accurate as well,
Although I have seen Saudi men trail after women in niqab and overheads, but it just seems as though the women in the overheads tend to be a bit less OK with nonsense of that sort and yes, people do assume all overhead wearers are Saudi. Afterall, they assume overheads are cumbersome so why would a foreigner wear one…right?
*Pros (according to her);
- Better airflow in summer; i.e. you stay cooler.
yes this is pretty accurate, if your wearing an overhead without snaps and which is closed up the front you can basically go out in anything under it and be cool, even in a snap front overhead a tank top and lightweight pants or a skirt is OK and particularly in batwings the airflow is really really good, especially if there is a breeze.
- Ones body is hidden better (she uses the nursing baby or pregnant scenario)
Yes, very accurate, although in a sleeved overhead if you are on the bigger side or extremely pregnant this is more noticeable, also women with a large rump or chest are usually advised to stay away from the sleeved overheads. In the batwing overheads everything is very well hidden, regardless of body size.
*Cons (according to her);
I’m C&Ping them all..
- Hard to look left/right, up/down without the stupid thing needing to be either held on or readjusted.
- Once you get up from a seated position you gotta hoist it back up onto your head.
- Hard to carry stuff on your shoulder (purses, baby bags) without yanking it off your head.
- Can’t manage carrying a wiggly baby/toddler with all of the above issues.
well, on most of these I do disagree, because really it comes down to how you wear it. I have a few neat overhead tricks which I use to make my wearing one a snap, plus, like most things the more you wear one the more skilled you’ll be with with one.
So now let me share my take on wearing an overhead and some neat tricks I’ve learned which make wearing one a lot more comfortable.
Ive had overheads for years, and my longest wearing one was a Kuwaiti style overhead from AlHediya. It’s a pretty comfortable overhead but because the fabric is extremely thin and slightly slippery the thing slides everywhere. I found that stitching a piece of velour or cotton gauze inside the head area really helped to keep it on. Also like anything else when I first started to wear one I was a huge mess! The thing would fall down, drag, I’d trip, I’d sit down and it would slide down, oh what a mess! Before coming here I normally reserved wearing an overhead for Iran and of course in the US would stick to the more appropriate shoulder abayaat (or jilbabs or tunics…or…or…) but even then, I usually picked up near wearing tricks every time I was in Iran. The first was how to keep one on your head.
Basically…just do the easy thing and stitch a piece of elastic into the head area! LOL…it makes wearing an overhead (or a chador) a piece of cake!
Here are some pictures of the elastic inside my Saudi batwing abaya.
With elastic inside the head piece…come hell or high water the overhead WILL stay on your head with minimal effort!
The elastic can take some getting used to. You need to place it correctly and position the overhead on your head properly so it’s comfortable and since it doesn’t slide around as much, the overhead (or chador) can feel heavier. Although with time, these minor “issues” go away as you get used to wearing the overhead like this.
For the past month and a half pretty much anytime I go out, I wear my Saudi overhead. Since that ever so traumatizing experience with the groddy Saudi dude in the abaya shop and my ceasing with wearing niqab I completely switched my clothing style to tunic and jeans with overhead abaya. I prefer the switch and am much more comfortable in the overhead. I feel like it does a good job of keeping me comfortable but covered and tends to keep creepers away (usually)…or well, atleast better than a shoulder abaya would. Also wearing the overhead with a colored scarf or even a black scarf but sans niqab really tends to stand out so people KNOW your an expat, which definably has it’s perks. And, I love the unique look…overhead with colored scarf. Another perk is my husband breaths easier knowing I’m not trying to buy a new abaya every week (teehee) and of course he loves the look (chador lovin’ man that he is!). So all in all…it’s a win-win situation. LOL
Some other tricks Ive learned is…keep it simple under the overhead! Since I tend to leave the snaps open and pop one arm out and just hold the abaya in my hands (like a chador) stick to tunics and jeans under the abaya. A lot of women wear jalabeeyas or skirts under theirs but I think it’s a bit excessive and also can cause tripping (although Saudi women don’t seem to ever trip…go figure).
Also…learning how to maneuver in one is key. When you sit down you gather it up before you sit, when you stand you do the same thing. You don’t just plop down and hope for the best. There IS a method to wearing one! Ive also found that watching others and then mimicking them is best…
As far as carrying purses, bags and pushing strollers or carts…well here most women keep their purses on top of their abayaat, BUT, since I prefer the batwing and my purses aren’t generally huge and stuffed to the max,I wear mine UNDER my overhead. ala’ Irani chador style. It keeps people from trying to snoop in my purse (not that I think anyone would try anyway) and more importantly is a lot more comfortable. Ofcourse you might have a strange bump but really, who cares…
…Oh and you can hide small purchases under the abaya so like when you go into the grocery store you dont have to go to the customer service desk first and have them hold it for you while you shop. muahahahaha
As far as pushing carts and strollers go, women here normally hold the abayah in 1 hand as they push the cart, yes both hands push the cart but under 1 hand is some of the abaya so there is no wheel catching and soforth.
I shall end here, I need a caffeine fix…