Lets talk about overhead abayaat…

I’m curious how many of you wear them on a daily basis and where your located.

Ive started to think a bit about the overhead style of abaya and while I do consider it the most superior form of covering, I realize that they are not for everyone and especially the batwing styles can be a bit difficult to wear and can really stand out in certain places. But, I still, I would like to continue wearing them–atleast the sleeved styles once we return to the US in August-although really, Im unsure how feisable that will be considering we are moving to a…gasp!  small town with a big University. Although I’m sure most of the students and people IN the town will be rather well educated and maybe well-traveled and open minded…Im not so sure about the people who live outside of the town. Hmmm…anyway, we’ll see how that goes.

anyway…so I’m just curious…I wanna get a bit of a discussion going about this (in comments…LOL)

If you wear them…how do you wear them and what style? What colors or fabrics do you prefer? Do you have any ‘tricks” for wearing them-like tie, elastic, gluegun (LOL!)…what did you think about them before you started to wear them and WHY do you wear them.

And lastly…ive started to see quite a few of these shorter style overheads around online-like calf length and they seem like they would be really, really awesome, esp when worn with a denim skirt or something. But, I donno.

anyway…any comments…


17 thoughts on “Lets talk about overhead abayaat…

  1. I don’t wear it daily here in Colorado – I feel uncomfortable about that, that I would stand out too much and that some people would misunderstand and draw some wrong conclusions about Islam and women, etc. Plus I just get a LOT more uneasy stares, foreigner-treatments, etc. I do wear abaya/jilbab out and about without any problem, but overhead, no.

  2. It would definitely stand out A LOT in the US (or here in Canada) but for a Muslim, it’s very suitable clothing. Can hardly get more modest than that in shape. I would personally not feel comfortable to wear it here… But that’s just me as a new Muslim who isn’t just yet wearing even hijab. I wish to wear hijab and eventually abayas but the shouldered ones. I think if I was in Egypt (husband’s country), I’d probably at least occaisionally wear the khimar, which is like an overhead but normally waist-length.

  3. I wear overhead abayas 50-75% of the time. All of them seem to have their flaws; I have made some nice ones myself but then, I am none too happy with the fabrics available here. I do like the shorter ones and I made a set myself with a shorter one and a matching flary skirt, unfortunately though my unpredictable iron was hotter than the setting is usually and burnt a hole in the overhead part at the back; nothing major but doh! Generally I do prefer the ones with the tie-back but if the tie-back is not done well; then it will not stay on properly, make the whole thing drape wrong and generally be a nuisance. Also some of the tiebacks are attached in such a way that the seam is extremely itchy. I did have a traditional ‘square’ overhead with a tie-back tacked on by whoever made it; and it didn’t work, plus it had that itchy seam problem, at all so I took the tie-back part off. The one big annoyance I have with the none tie-back ones is the ones in the length for me seem to work with the assumption that your head size goes up with your height(!); so while i see shorter sisters with the overhead fitting nicely around their face and in such a manner that it stays on well; for me a lot of mine the back bit that rests on your head is so wide and massive; that the front sides start about chin level when worn on the head; and it just doesn’t look as nice. I do prefer black as it tends to be more practical; although I do have a lovely brown (a very dark brown with no redness/maroon to it whatsoever) that at some point I intend to sew into an overhead inshaAllaah….

  4. I’ve never worn one myself, but I think they look great!! Depending on where you are in the US, it would stick out like, well, a sore thumb. But I still like them 🙂 I really like the idea of a calf-length overhead abaya to wear with a skirt. I guess that would kind of be like those really long khimars (which I’ve never worn either, but think they look great too!! haha).

  5. Okay, I haven’t seen them, but the idea of a calf-length overhead strikes me very funny/weird – kind of like highwater pants. 🙂

  6. salam aleikoum

    I don’t wear it daily in france, because it’s uncomfortable an it afraid people.(they don’t very understand this kind of clothe; it’s “extremism” for them; you know, french people have a problem with muslimat clothing…)
    So I wear abaya/jilbab/khimar out without any problem, but overhead no.Nevertheless I think overhead is soooooooooo beautiful…

    Fiamanillah! 😉

  7. assalamu alaikom,
    I am a revert to islam and I live currently in Scotland. Initially I was wearing hijab plus skirts/tunics, with the passing of time I switched totally to blacks/dark colours as I think they are as modest as you can get. I wear overhead abaya about 50% of the time, rest of the time I wear shoulder abayas with khimars. Overhead here DOES stand out and I never seen anyone here wearing it – except me – although we have here quite a big muslim population. However, I wear niqab so it doesn’t make much difference if I wear overhead or not, for the people here I am a weirdo anyway. Of course I get nasty comments quite often. But if we think about it- if I was black and the people here hated blacks, then should I paint myself white? I work (my employer didn’t mind me wearing niqab) and study and maybe some people on the street will hate me for being covered, but others who know me from work or uni will get to know that muslim women, even if covered, are worth respect. Muslim women should be proud of who they are. If others see that they are proud and do not care what the public say, then maybe muslimahs will get more respect – for courage. Whats more – people are often fascinated by muslim women, esp. those who cover more than others, so its often great opportunity to give dawah.

  8. I don’t own one. Just shoulder abayas, and jilbabs. I do own one of the long khimars, that come down to the floor, I’ve worn that with a skirt out a couple times, but I mostly wear it when someone knocks on the door, or in the apt building when doing laundry or getting mail.

    • Oh i wanted to add that if I had one I would wear it to the masjid and/or Islamic functions for sure. Probably not out and about running errands.

  9. Salamoualeikoum,
    I wear the overhead abaya daily in France and have no problem with people until now, just some curious or contemptuous glances but i really don’t care. I wear the kind without sleeves like the butterfly abaya and black because i love black! No tricks to wear it, it tied behind the head so abolutely no risks that the abaya slides and it’s very comfortable, i do everything with it. What i think about it before i started to wear it? I saw some women in the street who wear it and think MachaAllah… Now i wear it because it’s the jelbab the most near of what wore the Sahabiyats (peace on them) and it’s the most “mastour”.
    And yes, mine are calf-length and have matched very large skirts so it’s pretty much the same look that the one-piece abaya but more pratical because you can adjust the height of the skirt: Let it touched the ground or raise it when it ‘s raining. Voilà!

    • Just want to add, please stop to think about what the no-muslims will think/understand/misunderstand… It has no importance. If you feel the need to wear the overhead, don’t give up just because the no-muslims don’t like it. The not-believers will never be satisfied with you on the condition that you give up your religion.

  10. Aslkm, I would love to own an overhead abaya perhaps when I go to Makkah for Hajj this year inshallah I will get one. I mostly wear butterfly/bihst abayas and normal abayas with embelishments on the sleeves and on the shayla (dubai style).

    I found an amazing abaya shop called Al Helwah in the Burj Al Bait shopping centre when I was there in Jan. The fabrics are amazing not the conventional crepe everyone has.

  11. Assalam alaikum. I live in the UAE- it’s normal to wear an overhead abaya here if a woman wants to or has to. When I first moved here my dh gave me money and told to go buy an abaya. Naturally I bought a shoulder abaya. When I came back he said: it’s not abaya, not the one local women wear. Later we went to the souq together and he bought me an overhead abaya. I did not question wearing it. If that was what local women were wearing- I was ready to do it. It was uncomfortable- too long, I had to hold it with my hands not to stumble, it was not staying on the head- had to reajust it. And in addition I looked simply very ugly in it (+ niqab). I did not complain. I was used to it. Later I had some other more comfortable overhead abayat. I wore it for about 2 years. Later I had my baby born- I started to wear a shoulder abaya because it’s more comfortable for nursing and carrying, holding the baby. Later whenever I put an overhead abaya- I felt a great difference, it’s uncomfortable and it looks worse. From one hand I detest overhead abaya- especially in cases when a woman is made to wear it and cannot remove it (in the family of one BIL all women wear overhead abaya- if anyone wants to start wearing a shoulder abaya- they cannot do it. Forget the embroidery and Swarovski). I know my dh loves overhead abaya- I could wear it for him… but this sacrifice on my part is not really necessary and won’t be appreciated- he’s a man, he’ll never know how an overhead abaya can be iteratively uncomfortable and hurts my aethetic feelings. If all women in the UAE wore overhead abaya- I would not complain, I would wear it too. But when the majority wear shoulder abaya and it’s not a big deal in this society- so why do I have to suffer the discomfort, and make myself look bad. It’s not logical. Many times when I put an overhead abya on, at the very first moment of discomfort it gives me (like when you get in the car and have to stretch abaya from the back and up) I just start fuming inside, I get angry and irritated. Why do women have to bother themselves? Is it really necessary? What’s the point? to make some strangers perceive me as a more religious and respectable woman? To make my husband proud of me because of this uncomfortable piece of cloth?

    From the other hand- I agree that an overhead abaya is a superior dress in covering the shape of the body well. Sometimes when I wear a shoulder abaya and I see some women in overhead abayat, I feel envious and wish I wore it too 🙂

    Long time I have not worn it… Sometimes I think of buying a new overhead abaya for me… at other times when I am wearing one I dream of taking it off, burning it and never ever have it on my head again.

    • wow, can I share my astonishment that ur in UAE AND wear the overhead! I thought the overhead “abaya ra’as” was pretty much dead in UAE. Ive never been there, I’m IN KSA and it seems like only Saudi women and Bahraini women stil wear them-or so I thought. wow…I thought all Emirate women went for the bling and glam abayaat and that there werent the conservative familes that wanted their women to wear the ra’as and NOT the qajaf styles! wooow!

      well, Im here in KSA and although here its the norm-in the area where Im at. I also wear them too…id say like 85% of the time. DH doesnt care either way, but I prefer them as skeezy guys really, really tend to stay away from you and I donno I like how they feel, all encompassing. I dont wear it with niqab…just a black scarf or a colored one….

      BUT, I put elastic inside my overhead…like Irani chador style It stays on like its super glued to my head and actually because of the elastic and it not moving around, its really a lot more comfy to wear, I can get groceries, carry stuff, eat, push a cart, whatever and it stays put. I suggest u think about putting elastic inside yours it…it’ll really help. I also handle it like its a chador, so I hold it a certain way when I sit down or get up or walk up stairs, etc etc. Also I try to get the heavier crepe ones in the batwing style as I feel they have a better drape and the weight is distributed better.
      (If you go back a month or two, I did a post about overheads here in KSA and I put in pics of the elastic inside inside my ra’as abayaat)

      Does anyone wear the sleeved ra’as in UAE or is that a KSA thing?

  12. Thank you for the reply Umm Ibrahim! yes, there are conservative families here… they are a minority now… I really don’t know how to feel about it: to be happy or sad. If women are not harassed and treated with respect in shoulder abaya- it’s much better than a society where a woman has to wear an overhead for the sake of keeping the flirters away. Both young and old women wear overhead here. Wives of my husband’s friends are from different emirates, most of them wear an overhead abaya. Many of my husband’s nieces wear an overhead too. But then there are families where even grandma don’t wear overhead abaya any more. It depends on every family and on every particular father’s or husband’s wishes. Every time I go to Dubai malls- I see some (few) women in overhead abyat. There are more young women in overhead abaya in Fujairah where I live.

    I truly have a love-hate relationship with abya raas. I know about “elastic” trick 🙂 After I learned about it, immediately I attached elastic to all of my abyat raas and could not imagine wearing it without an elastic at all! My very first overhead abya- was kind of bisht overhead, with 2 snaps at the front. Later I had a bat-wing abaya (which is closed from the front completely, no opening with snaps)- I like the way it looks the most! You know, overhead abayat are rare to find in the UAE these days. Few shops have them, of course they can be made upon request but I don’t like to order like that. If a shop normally does not make overhead abya then I’d have to give them a sample abaya.. or otherwise I just don’t trust them- as they can make something different… I hate the overhead abya some grannies wear here- the one made of two pieces of fabric- sewn together horizontally in the middle.. it makes abaya look very poor.

    The last abaya ras I bought was made in Qatar by request from al-Motahajiba store. Somehow I believed that a famous brand had to have nice looking abayat raas. I was mistaken. They had sleeved version of abaya raas. That time I did not know the difference. but the moment I put it on, I felt something was wrong with it, I looked in the mirror and it just looked so ugly (like it was written on your blog- like a child who pulled his shirt on his head for fun). Nevertheless I ordered it and was wearing for some time. Later thanks to your blog- I realized what was wrong- it’s the sleeves- that changed the proportions and made it look worse. Actually just before yesterday I took that abaya to the tailor, so that they turned it into a shoulder abaya.

    I really like the batwing style overhead abaya. I wanted to go to Ajman to order buy a new one for me. I like the batwing overhead which you have in AT! The moment I saw it- I thought: that’s exactly what I want. I even thought of ordering it from you although I live in the Emirates and can buy it here- but I have to search a shop. You know, there was a new abaya shop opened in Fujairah- with a big ad sign saying something like “Gulf Islamic Abaya” …I thought- oh, they must have all the good Islamic stuff- instead they had the glitter abayat lol

    I need to think about your batwing overhead a little more – maybe I’ll order it from you….

  13. Otowi; the calf-style overhead (or sometimes knee-length) is actually the most common style of overhead in North Africa; they wear most often a style like this with a matching skirt, sometimes their one is made closed up to the chin but on other occasions it is very much like a shortened Saudi abaya which is open from the chest up. I believe it originated in Morocco and Algeria as the traditional full body coverings there are like a big sheet (known as a Haik) and totally impractical, as the sister in France who commented said its much more practical as you can adjust your skirt to the length you want; and you don’t have the problem of the bottom hem of the abaya tripping you or getting dragged through wet puddles as it is two seperate garments but with the look of one. I do think it would be odd to wear a shorter overhead with tight jeans or any kind of trousers for that matter; I have seen it actually and it does look strange….but with a matching skirt it looks fine…

  14. Assalamu Alaykum,
    I’ve been searching online and i can’t seem to find the knee-length overhead abaya i was wondering what online shops sell it?

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