DOES MY BUTT LOOK BIG IN THIS ABAYA?
The latest abaya craze in Dubai is the "butterfly" cut, which flitted onto the fashion scene about six months ago -- though its inspiration, Al Hamly believes, is much older. "There used to be a one-piece abaya that older women wore," she says. (Meaning there was no separate head-scarf; you simply threw the fabric over your head.) The butterfly, it seems, grew out of that cocoon. Cut like a Batman cape, from behind, the butterfly abaya gives the appearance of wings. Al Hamly already has one on order: "It has gold lining around the edges. The head-scarf has different shades of bronze- and gold-colored Swarovski crystals to give it a metallic feel," she says, adding, "it will go really well with my bronze Balenciaga bag!" Still, she does admit to some trepidation over the new trend: "I'm not sure if I'll have the courage to wear it," she says. "The butterfly cut tends to look best on tall, thin girls. It might make me look wider."
Beyond the fashion deliberations, wearing a floor-length black robe does present certain practical concerns: Abayas tear easily -- especially if you're a working girl. "They get caught in the wheels of our office chairs, and you can't really mend them," says bin Kalli. As a result, women tend to buy new abayas monthly. "I have no idea how many I own," says Al Hamly. "More than 30, combined with those I share with my sisters." Adds bin Kalli: "How many do I own? How many pairs of shoes does Carrie Bradshaw own?"
Sex and the City aside, Emerati women pay close attention to global trends. "Westerners think we're oblivious to what is happening style-wise, but we're very keen on educating ourselves about fashion," says bin Kalli. "One of my favorite channels is E!, just to see what's going on and what Jessica Alba wore to the Oscars." Such informed consumerism has led to fashion-forward abaya trends not found elsewhere in the Middle East. "There's a big difference here," acknowledges Al Hamly. "If I wore an abaya with color on it in Riyadh, they would freak out!" "The abaya is our fashion, not just our religion," adds bin Kalli. "We even get compliments from Western expats living in Dubai. One woman thought my shaila was so pretty, she asked me where she could buy one."