History And Evolution Of Abaya - The Definitive Guide

A long, Cardigan-like garment that has remained a symbol of Muslimah Modesty since the beginning of Islamic civilization. An elegant yet simple, loose-fitting robe that has stood the test of time over hundreds of years.

Abaya, as we all know it, is a graceful outfit that lets Muslim women blend in with religious norms and stand out with its sheer enigmatic beauty. While from the outside, it may look like a plain colored cloak that covers a woman from head to toe, this widely popular garment has a bazillion stories to share about its origin, history, evolution, and significance with cultural and religious aspects of the Islamic world.

Therefore, in this article, we will walk you through anything and everything you would need to know since the very origin of the noble robe. So, without further adieu, let’s get started?

What is an Abaya?

In the most basic terms, Abaya is a loose-fitting robe designed for Muslim women to wear on top of their regular clothes. The term Abaya originated from an Arabic reference for the word cloak, which means a loose garment.

This long cloak has long sleeves and the garment goes way down to the feet, to ensure that the whole body is covered. While Abaya is known for its plain black color throughout its history, it wasn’t until recently that modern fashion had started introducing colored variants of the Abaya.

As simple as it may seem, Abaya happens to be the most popular dress in the Muslim world. Its popularity is such that nations like the UAE, have constituted Abaya as their national dress. Its popularity can’t give rise to an “Intriguing” factor considering how comfortable it is to wear around and how it can be styled to suit a myriad of everyday events and occasions. 

Abayas have constantly been subjected to the ever-evolving fashion world. Designers have continually introduced different trends for Abaya without taking away its traditional outlook which symbolizes the modesty of a Muslimah.

In the coming section, we’ll explore in detail the History of Abaya and how it has evolved within different periods.

Must Read : Modest Long Dresses for Every Season: Embracing Comfort and Fashion

Omaniya to Abaya - A Glimplse into History

History can be often confusing. Seeking out the truth can turn out to be a tedious task when the truth itself unfolds into different pathways with no clear evidence as to which one holds the correct answer to our question.

In the case of the Abaya, there are 2 main assumptions or rather speculations on how the Abaya came into being as the epitome of Islamic culture.

First Case - Mesopotamia & Arabian Peninsula

The first case claims that the origin of the Abaya is rather vague and is said to have begun in the period of the Mesopotamian civilization. One has to comprehend the fact that the civilization of Mesopotamia dates back to over 4000 years.

History has further claims as well. It’s been documented in Islamic scriptures that women from the Arabian Peninsula had been found wearing a garment that looks almost same-to-same as the Abaya we know of today. This piece of clothing has been found to exist even before the inception of Islam as a religion or before Allah’s teachings were incorporated as a doctrine itself.

At that period, Abayas were mainly worn by women as a status symbol within the urban areas of the civilization. Later, it was adopted as one of the modest forms of clothing by society and with time, the Abaya slowly made its way into Islam as an ideal garment that synced with the teachings from the Holy book about the privacy factor for woman’s clothing.

Second Case - Introduction from Iran and Iraq

This is the most widespread claim as to how Abaya came into being with modern Islamic culture. A big part of the supporting group for this claim was learned historians from the current era.

The modern ways of digging up history and its high chances of accuracy are the main reasons for the credibility of this case across the world.

According to these contemporary historians, Abayas were initially introduced into Saudi Arabia less than a century ago, 80 years ago to be precise. These garments were brought by traders/travelers coming from Iraq and Iran. 

The nomads who wandered around the Saudi Arabian deserts adopted the garment as mainstream clothing in a very short period. The reason behind the fast adoption of Abayas was obvious since no other garment offered a seamless comfort as Abaya under the scorching heat of Arabian deserts. Abayas back then had long sleeves and felt extremely loose yet comfortable upon wearing. This was also matched with scarves that covered from head to face.

Now that you’re aware of the origins of this elegant garment, let’s go through Abayas within different periods of History.

Different Timelines - Different Abayas

Different Timelines - Different Abayas

Though the material and the plain design have stayed monotonous through the course of centuries, the cultural significance and the values these elegant garments symbolized vary within each major timeline.

After thorough research, we have divided these timelines into 7 major categories. We have explained each timeline and the values followed by the social hierarchy within every particular timeline in detail.


This part of the Abaya’s history deals with the earlier period when it was first used by people as casual wear. For example - The loose garments used by people from the Mesopotamian civilization resemble the long, sleek, and smooth design of the Abaya as we see today. 

It’d be better off to be termed as a first-generation Abaya.

Studies have found that Abayas from those times weren’t any revealing as the ones Muslims started adopting in the Post-Islam era. However, the earliest Abayas in the Pre-Islam period didn’t specifically mean anything and were merely used for convenience in their everyday lives. It wasn’t until a few generations later that Abayas became more of a status symbol within the elite community who lived in Urban parts of those civilizations.

It was the abstinence of religion and faith that led to these garments being worn for showcasing luxury, status, power, and wealth. (Abstinence of one means always paves entry for something else)

Does it seem like humans always required something to fill their void?

Maybe. Who knows?

However, these elite women wore Abayas along with a veil to symbolize the fact that they weren’t working-class women. The veil was sort of expensive back then and therefore not everyone could afford a veil with an Abaya.


The concept of women covering their whole body became a mainstream thing once Islam came into being and Quran was revealed as God’s word for Muslims.

Its significance only increased with time in light of the Quranic verses that emphasized Muslim women to cover their bodies from head to toe, including their faces. They may be allowed to do otherwise with certain limitations when with certain people like their Husband, Infant baby, and their parents.

There is a hypothesis that the garments of clothing utilized by Muslim ladies to cover themselves after the approach of Islam might have been enlivened by the abaya-like piece of clothing of pre-Islamic times, and it is at this timeframe that the abaya procured the strict undertone that most Muslims associate with till date.

In conclusion, the garment called Abaya had only been looked upon as something of higher value or purpose with time. While women from earlier times used Abaya for convenience, it later got promoted as an elite class status symbol and later on as something of religious importance by safeguarding the modesty of Muslim women.

That’s it with the influence of Abaya before and after the inception of the Islamic faith among the common public of those times.

Now we move on to the prominence of Abaya in the modern world and how its influence has changed within a timeline of the last 50-70 years.

Connecting the Dots - Abaya and the Modern world

Multiple Arab nations across the Muslim world have made Abaya more like a societal norm for their deep devotion and as a symbol of esteemed Arabic culture. 

Countries like Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and UAE are a few to name that adheres strictly when it comes to following their religious beliefs.

While most of us know Abaya as the multi-colored fashion statement that it is today, it wasn’t always the case. For most of history, Abaya was simply a plain black robe that remained monotonous since the beginning of Islam as a religion.

It wasn’t until recently that the modern fashion world started introducing different designs and variants of Abaya that can be availed in the market. From then on, Abaya has been on a revolutionary ride to leap a step ahead from its stagnant state throughout all these years.

With that said, let’s take a look at the different ways Abaya has evolved since the early 1900’s across the Arabian nations and throughout the world.

Must Read : From Abayas to Hijabs: A Comprehensive Guide to Styling Islamic Women’s Dress

Evolution of Abaya - One Leap at a time

As we had mentioned earlier, Abaya was never in the history of its existence, been taken down, or fell from the glorious position it held within any society or civilization at any given timeline.

From merely being a garment used for convenience by Nomadic travelers in the Arabian deserts to being used by the elite class to separate themselves from the working-class women and finally being the epitome of Islamic culture to safeguard the modesty of a Muslim woman, Abaya has only leaped a step above throughout the wheel of time.

As we are well aware of the prominent changes that occurred in the case of Abaya within the timeline before and after the inception of Islam as a religion, let’s skip that part and dive straight into the evolution of Abaya in the contemporary era.

Pre-Oil Era

In the period before the Arab world became oil-rich, a Bedouin having a place with the privileged would wear a dark abaya called the 'laff' that was square-molded with two openings for the hands (this is supposed to conceal the arms).

It also had a wide brilliant trim around the neck area region. A typical Bedouin lady would wear a huge twofold width headscarf or Shayla that circled the whole upper piece of the body and worked like an abaya.

The 1970s

By the 1970s when oil was found in the Arab world, the abaya turned into a subject of a few trial and error with various sorts and loads of luxurious material dominating the Arabic fashion industry. 

Towards the late 1970s, the abayas didn't cover the entire body. They were clustered up at the midsection region and one side was tucked under the arm, to such an extent that the garments worn on the lower side of the body were visible.

The 1980s

It was during the 1980s that the shoulder abaya was introduced to the Arabic nations. The shoulder abaya was a long dark shroud-like piece of clothing that covered the entire body. It had appropriate full sleeves and was supplemented with the smaller styled Shayla that covered the head.

Trial and error went on with various sorts and loads of silk along with various styles of weaving and enhancements on the abaya. Fabrics such as Crepes, chiffons, and georgettes were likewise utilized because they were flowier.

The 1990s

With time, the abaya proceeded to develop and evolve with various fashion trends that synced with its enigmatic beauty. 

During the 1990s, though the essential style and state of the abaya continued as before, more weaving and enhancements like ribbon and stones that could be pressed on become a standard add-on to the garment.

The Shayla was generally finished with the abaya and regularly matched together in the business sectors and souqs with comparable plans and enhancements. A recent trend of abaya was additionally presented during this time. It came from Oman and was known as the 'Omaniyah' because it was like the tunics worn by the men of Oman. It likewise came to be known as the 'Islamic abaya' since it was shut from the front side, didn't open like the past abayas, and could without much of a stretch be slipped over the head.

The 2000s

In the first ten years of the 2000s, the trial and error of the abaya took on another prominent turn with the introduction of various styles and cuts, some too blingy, some absurd, and some even rather strange.

A few abayas had bats, butterflies, or anything that had wings. Strange, isn’t it?

A few abayas even had waistlines that were stressed by various sorts of wide or restricted belts that complemented the body shape and even conflicted with the reasoning behind the sole purpose of an abaya-to not flaunt the body shape. All of this was done to mix in with the western way of dressing.

Key Values Behind Wearing Abaya

While the real values and rationale behind Muslim women choosing to wear Abaya is a discussion that could go on forever, let’s skip to the good part with some of the best answers you could find to this question.

Shall we?

“When did the act of wearing an Abaya begin?”

It goes as far as possible back to Muhammad, Islam's most significant prophet. Muhammad requested that his spouses wear Hijabs/abayas to separate them from others. It was to ensure that their unique status was implied.

Muslim ladies choose to wear Abaya for a wide variety of reasons. Some consider it to be an indication of their entry into adulthood. Others wear it to distinguish themselves as Muslim and show social, cultural, and religious pride.

Many additionally wear the covering to esteem family customs or neighborhood events. Numerous Muslim ladies decide not to wear an Abaya as well. It's all a matter of what Abaya means to each Muslimah on an Individual level.

For the same reason, it'd be wrong to state out a generalized perspective of the exact rationale and value behind wearing an Abaya.

Islamic outfits are frequently misconstrued by individuals outside of the Arabic countries. Certain individuals imagine that Muslim ladies are compelled to wear it. Others are befuddled about the strict significance behind outfits like Hijab and Abaya.

Nonetheless, as more individuals find out about the Abaya and Islam, acknowledgment and understanding of the greater good behind these customs continue to spread throughout the world.

Abaya’s Very Own Religious and Cultural Significance

The abaya is more than a simple design articulation in the Arab world.

The abaya is a social and strict image. It doesn't simply fit the measures for the Islamic clothing regulation yet it is additionally an exquisite and classy social personality for each Muslim lady.

Previously, Muslim ladies wore the abaya since it revealed nothing under because of its dark tone. It was initially associated with Islam and it satisfied the reason for not revealing anything.

Yet, these days, it's generally easy to get them in various styles, implying that some are tight, which doesn't seem to be a good guarantee enough to associate it solely with religion.

Must Read : The Evolution of Abayas: From Tradition to Trendsetting

Although explanations behind wearing the abaya might differ marginally from one lady to another, the most convincing inspiration comes from a combination of religion and culture. The abaya, whether traditionally basic or with a spot of expensive detail, can combine age-old strict and social images with contemporary style. It is this perfect balance of faith, tradition, and relevance to modernity that has helped Abaya sustain itself through all these centuries with its plain, simple and sleek design.

Therefore, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that an abaya is like a bridge that connects the religious and cultural aspects of Islam by maintaining a perfect balance between the same.


Today, the abaya isn't just another comfy garment, it has risen above its sole purpose and has turned into a unique way to express the individualism of all Muslim ladies out there.

Abaya creators have taken the garment to an unheard-of level with accentuation on worldwide style all the while being aware of changes in the global shopping experience and trends within the Fashion Industry. Be it the most renowned ramps of the world or the international fashion collections by exquisite designers, Abayas stand out as a style statement for millions of people out there with its elegance. 

The good news doesn’t stop there. Hang on.

You needn’t indulge in the hassle of shopping for Abaya from various malls, souqs and bazaars, but you can now have them custom-made by an abaya designer from the comfort of your home at mybatua.com.

Why us?

With a lot of options to surf through the Internet, we stand out for a simple yet unavoidable factor. 

Mybatua.com empowers you to observe different styles and plans of abayas on a similar stage, where you can purchase as indicated by size, texture, style, plan, tones, and event inclination. 

This will assist with keeping away from the battle and make your abaya shopping experience better than ever.

So why wait? Head over to mybatua.com and grab your favorite designs now!


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