Oppressed or Overdressed: Fashionable abayas

Saudi Arabia in the past was a very common place to see women dressed in all black everything, from head to toe, revealing only their eyes. Some places of Saudi Arabia still have strict cultural norms requiring women to wear the niqab (think piece of fabric covering the face) to feel comfortable. However, now that the haia (religious police) have had a reduction in power many women have confessed that they feel more comfortable removing the niqab. 

In addition to less niqabs, I see more colorful abayas. I came to Riyadh in March 2016 seeking colorful abayas, and didn’t find many. Since then the religious police seen a reduction of power. Now I see that, while they stock primarily black abayas, a lot of stores have a small section for pink, grey, beige, white, blues, and purple abayas, many with fun designs. Personally, I own a purple abaya and my best friend owns a red one with a design.

A few weekends ago I was at a festival, and I saw a lady with a white abaya. She looked radiant, beautiful, and colorful. I was so excited I snuck a photo of her (protecting her identity though) and sent it to my friend, as she and I always swoon over colored abayas. img_6023

I really hope that in the future we continue to see more colorful and beautiful abayas. It’s a great way for women to express themselves through their fashion, and a way for many expats to feel less restricted.

Shiana wears a burgundy abaya. 




3 Comments Add yours

  1. klsargent91 says:

    Can you explain a little about the haia having a reduction in power? Were there policy changes that shifted things a bit? I’m super curious!


    1. To be honest it was kind of a surprise to everyone when they saw a reduction in power. The order came from the royal family- some people think it was to try to distance the country from Wahabism, and to clean up their image a bit. At first some citizens were angry about the reduction of power, however no one is complaining now =) especially not the westerners.


      1. klsargent91 says:

        That’s really interesting!


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