Sunday, 8 July 2012

Overhead Abaya!

Asalam waliykum sisters,

Just wanted to do a post about the abaya. In particular a new style that i have become fond of over the last few months, its not new but it is new to me! Its the Overhead Abaya, I first came across this style while out and about in London. I saw many Somali sisters wear the black over head abaya, which has a long v neck, and sits on the head or ties behind the head. All the sisters i have seen wearing this wore black, and the material was very heavy crepe/polyester/nylony... looked nice and cosy for winter. One thing I disliked was how it dragged on the floor behind them. This is a thing that we should avoid as muslimahs and one thing which will ruin your abaya. Not to mention the obvious  hadith regarding dragging ones garment, it being a sign of arrogance, plus getting it dirty, tripping over it etc etc.

It is a very modest outfit and it complies with the verse in the Quran when Allah commands women to wear an outer garment when going out.

In the Quran, Surah al-Ahzab ayah 59 (33:59) says:

"Ya ayyuha an-Nabiyy qul li azwajika wa banatika wa nisa al-mu'minin yudnina alayhinna min jalabib hinna; dhalika adna an yu'rafna fa laa yu'dhayn. Wa kana Allahu Ghafur Rahim"

"O Prophet! Say to your wives and your daughters and the women of the faithful to draw their JALABIB close around them; that is better that they will be recognised and not annoyed. And God is ever Forgiving, Gentle."

Inshallah I will do a separate post on this subject.

Onto the overhead abaya! I ended up looking online for one, and being put off by all that fabric. The sisters I had seen wearing this on the streets of London looked so elegant and so modest and even though they stood out you could not help but show more respect, and i think you appreciate their seriousness in modesty. I liked a lot. Just could not imagine me in that, and how practical it would be? I can imagine times i would wear it especially in Morocco where you need to cover PROPERLY otherwise you get proper harassed by men.
After a bit of research and asking my sister in Law (She is Iraqi) i found out that actually this style is very popular in Iran, Syria, Turkey and the middle east in general not just with Somali sisters. It is something muslimahs of the shia sect tend to wear, but also Sunnis wear it too.
Here are a few photos of the overhead abaya being worn by sisters from all walks of life:

There are several variations of this design, some have sleeves, some are bat wing, some are completely open. Some rest on the head and due to the weight stay put, some have elastic and tie backs. I was so intrigued, so shopped around for one. I found many with huge price tags and I can appreciate why, there is so much material so it would be expensive. I ended up coming across one sold by a sister on FB, her shop sold mainly normal gulf abayas and she only had one of these overhead abayas. It was £30 and I thought I will get one to try it. I got a size 58. 

When it arrived i was taken aback by the sheer weight of it. Quality material heavy but instantly imagined how hot I would get under there. I opened it and unfolded it. It was huge, and super long. I wore it and took me ages to figure out where to place it on my head. It was a lot heavier then i had originally thought it would be. It was super long waaaay to long. And needed to hem it a lot!

As with any new jilbab/abaya I get I gave it a trial, first thing try walk in it with shoes... epic fail I have to carry the dang thing to stop fallen over. second thing try pray in it, another fail, the part that rests on the head slipped off either backwards or forwards, I wore a 2 piece cotton amira hijab which has grip but still moved about.

I pinned it in place and tried again, this time the fabric tried to slip back, it moved a little and pulled on my amira which was very uncomfortable. I really have no idea how these women wear it, and are comfortable. I could not imagine walking outside and using the tube and shopping in it etc.
I looked at the reviews and a lot of the sisters loved theirs, so it was not the abaya it was me!

I tried to wear it outside, I live on the first floor on our building so did the stairs test, again super difficult and slipped all over. I tried slides and straight pins even safety pins. Just was not working.
Perhaps the shape of my head? I managed to get outside and did the weather test.... it was extremely windy and I thought due to the weight the fabric would not move much. It moved a lot especially around the head area, the fabric kept blowing around my face and I had to keep holding on to it.

Fortunately, I did not take photos it was hilarious for my husband... not for me.
I was quiet saddened as I really wanted it to work, I loved the look of it, but just didn't work for me something ill keep to pray in at home. I may add elastic or some fabric ties to secure it in place so it moves about less.
I gave up on this design, however found another very similar to this which i will blog about soon inshallah!

Are there any sisters who have had a similar experience? or a different one, and have gotten on very well with the over head abaya? Please do share in the comments or drop me an email.

Jazakallah khier

Wasalam -x-


  1. I'm sure you can get light material ones.. I really like them too, but don't think would be able to wear one. Lol at your experience :)

    1. hi was just seeing if you minded a comment. i like your website and the thme you picked is super. I will be back. Traditional Islamic Clothing

  2. Salam sis,

    I hope my experince did not put you off lol. Perhaps, I only looked online and this is the one i could find within my budget. Maybe down whitechapel?

    Yeah was hilarious now thinking back to it. :D

  3. asalaamua alikum...sis thats cuz you dont know how to wear one. LOL. Ive worn them for many many many years and although I dont wear them every single day...I do wear one atleast once or twice a week-I have both the batwing and sleeved sort and you have to learn how to wear one. There are tricks to it, you cant just pop an overhead abaya on and rock it, it takes practice and a lot of wear. What figures in is cut, weight and if its the right size...also I do the Iranian thing where you stitch elastic into the head area for under the abaya, around the head which helps to secure it. Obviously the overhead you got was not suitable to you...sorry to say. Also I wish you have linked up to my blog here as it seems like you probably got inspired by some of my posts...LOL. If you scan my archives I have many overhead related posts.

    Just as a sidenote...I know several sisters at the masjid I attend get inspired by my overhead style and go off and buy them only to be unable to wear them and need my help. LOL...I guess I should start a class! LOL

  4. Waliykum asalam sis.

    Please do a post on how to wear them. How to add elastic or ties. If I can add elastic or ties I may wear it. Just want it ti stay in ny head.

    I even checked on you tube nothing regarding it at all. So please do a post :)
    I have the overhead jilbabs and I wear them fine mi probs at all.

  5. sister I have old posts up showing putting elastic in them...just look through my archives. Also even with elastic you need to learn how to wear them as even though they are more secure you need to move differently in one. The French overhead ones are very easy and require no thought...LOL which I like but I find the gulf overheads much more graceful. So it boils down to personal taste.

  6. Salam sis,

    I could not find the post you are talking about. Could you please link it here in the comments or email me it. I really would like to know how to do it. Inshallah practice makes perfect.

    yeah i agree the gulf ones are very graceful as mentioned in my post but i do not know how to wear them. The french overhead ones are AMAZING. Inshallah going to do a long post on those, i have worn them a lot. They are so cool to wear in the summer and very modest and i think they look pretty elegant too :D

  7. With regard to dragging the garment it is permissible for women to shorten their garments by one fore arm span, which is around 12inches, below their ankle bone. This according to the Hadith on dragging the garment. It isn't allowed to lengthen the garment any more than this but it would be completely impossible to walk in anything longer than that anyway. The thing with overheads is many of the designs and cuts if they are not dragging on the ground when walking slowly or standing still then they will be too short and when walking more briskly or lifting your arms the bottom hem will ride up sometimes even to knee length or shorter. Also where the overhead is very long at the back it kind of anchors the overhead Abaya and helps it to drape properly when walking and not bunch up and trip you from the front. The best overhead abayas I have found are the traditional batwing type from Egypt and the more modern design with a tie back from the UAE or Yemen, the Yemeni ones are so lightweight that you don't feel you're wearing an over garment at all but at the same time they are not clingy or static either. There's a sister in North London who sells the Yemeni ones from home but as the sizing is not consistent you really need to go over to hers and try them on until you find the ideal one for you

  8. Asalaamu alayki again sister

    Not sure if my previous comment went through or not as sometimes they don't when sent from my phone. I just wanted to share a couple more tips with you Ummibi has already given excellent advice. Firstly there are tailors in London who can deconstruct and reconstruct these gulf overhead abayas and make them work better I know a sister who uses tailors to do this if you're interested I can find out their details. It may seem a bit drastic but the fabrics used on these overhead abayas are so amazing and so impossible to get hold of on the roll in the west that it's often worth it. Another tip is change the position of the abaya on your head, it can make a huge difference, some overhead abayas are designed to be worn very far back on the head to the point of almost falling off, some are designed to be worn in the middle and some further forward with the flat part at the top actually peaking out over your forehead. I've worn overhead abayas for years ( mainly the traditional batwing types) and I have only really fully realised this recently and what a difference it makes. From what you're describing with the abaya you bought it sounds like its possible a bit too big/ long for you and so there is excess fabric? An abaya that is right will have a lot of fabric, yes but you won't feel like you're drowning in it so a tailor may come in handy for this. Also does sound as though it might not be positioned correctly. Another thing is maybe try it on top of one of those thin crinkle rectangle scarves that are about, the cottony ones. I wear these under my overheads and no matter how silky the overhead material these really do act like Velcro. You wouldn't think it but I actually find al ameerahs and other jersey hijabs the least ideal for under an overhead.

  9. Salam sis,

    Sorry the commetns need to be approaved and i have been MIA for a few days. I have a lot of things to do, sorry.

    I wish i could show you a photo but its not just dragging slightly its waaay to much like an extra 6inches. I choose size 58 which i am with all abayas and over head jilbabs. But this one has the Tag saying 58 but the length would suit a woman who is perhaps way over 6'

    The thing is i do not know where to get them from and i do not know any friends who own them. So i looked for the cheapest one which was on FB. lol

    I do not even know where i could buy them from online that are good quality, or from london.

    jazakallah khier sis. I would love the details please :D

    I do not know what the fabric is of mine. The seller said it is made in the middle east but she did not say what the fabric is or which country. its very thick and heavey. Feels like nylon, just extremely thick.

    I have only tried amira hijab underneath and i tried to place it right at the front, then middle and at the back. But i will try crinkle scarf i have a few of those!!

    I did tell the sister about the sizeing and she said thats how its meant to be? and i do not know any better :/

    Do you not add pins to secure it?
    Inshallah i will give this a go and will get back to

    jazakallah khier for all the tips and advice :D

    wasalam -x-

  10. There's a shop in Tottenham who sell the exact same Yemeni overhead abayas I mentioned previously, for £29.99 and they also sell a couple of other styles. They are online but like any kind of overhead abaya it's best to try on in real life if you can. The shop is called Arabian luxuries. Also some of the Somali shops sell really good overhead abayas you know the shops where they sell Somali foods, carpets and random items? I don't ever pin my overhead abayas if the fit is appropriate there is no need to. From what you've mentioned vis a vis the sizing system and the material used I reckon Al Athari got the overheads from either Dubai or Kuwait. Most countries state the actual back length of the overhead abaya minus the drag piece added on to the back if there is one. The only two countries where they give you the sizing as what you'd normally wear in shoulder abayas are those two. Personally I find overheads from those two countries a bit hit and miss.

  11. I am surprised these abayah's are nick named 'Somali' as since I ( a Caribean) have been muslim (13years)I have been Muslim before Somalians opened up abaya and jilbaab shops in Birmingham it was the Caribbean and revert sisters in general who made these style abayah and rocked them beautifully mashaAllah. They do take some time to get used to and if they are made poorly with excess amount material it just becomes silly and unsafe 1 lol But when you do find tailored overhead'S with realistic measurements they are wonderful. I wear the light material one's and if anyone knows any UK sisters making and selling them please let me know as I am after some......I may resort to making some myself the rate I am going!!! lol

    1. Sorry for the late reply! Really? they are really popular in the middle east especially Iran and Turkey. I think they have been adapted from there. But I guess everyone has there own take on this design. They now have the more recent style overhead Abaya which is from North Africa again another take on this.
      Sorry I don't know anyone selling these, recently moved out of London so I am not much help. I think it is best to make yourself you can get the right material and have the correct measurements, you can ask the sister above @umm Ibraheem to give you some pointers she is a bit of an expert.

  12. to make one? Can anyone please share! Thanks! :)

    1. Sorry I don't know how to make them. I got mine on Facebook a while back and I don't like them so I wont be repurchasing them. Sorry Check out Oldschoolhijabi BlogSpot she may be able to help you further.

  13. Salam sis. How are you? I am still waiting to see the post on the North African style jilbabs/abayas. I am keen to purchase as I don't like the Somali style at all, style is not practical. So please post it soon!

    1. Salam Marwa, Thank you for all the comments.
      I am really trying my best to find a good day to have a little photoshoot with me trying them on. I will be doing a post next week introducing the style of Jilbab. So stay tuned, I am back logged with requested posts and I am finding it hard to do more then one post a week with work and family etc. Alhamdulillah. I will try soon so please keep your eyes peeled.

  14. As salaamu alaikum
    I bought one for the same reason. I feel I could never wear it out. I was too unsure and uncomfortable when I tried it on in the privacy of my own home.

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  16. asalaam alaykum sis i kno this is an old post and i just came across it because i have a couple overhead abayas that i purchased because, i too, loved the look and style of them only to realize that i have no clue how to wear them and i think i have only worn one once. any update to since you last posted this have you mastered the overhead abaya. mine is exactly like the one in the second picture you have posted the sister on the right is wearing. i tried wearing a ninja scarf underneath since the abaya is so open at the face and it wouldn't stay on my head and i didn't even know where to pin it so i just gave up and don't wear them. =( i feel your pain! lol

  17. Salaam sis i think im late here too urm i wore the overhead few times i tripped 2 times in a shopping mall! :( as im quite short and petite its hard for me to get around with it so i had to trim it untill it turn out to be too heavy for me as the material was made of polyester in summer it was so difficult to walk in it my opinion to this is its not about beauty its more about modesty even all these sisters in the above pics look good i think its not comfortable i was really upset about it untill i thought you need to wear something comfortable in order to feel good about yourself i just will stck to khimar and cotton jilbab as it makes me feel comfortable and happy and i dont think you need alot of fabric to drown yourself in you just need to wear something modest and comfortable which is easy to get around with i dont know how other sisters feel but i prefer something comfortable :)

  18. Salam aleykom sister. Do u have a internet/fb page. .where is can buy them.

    1. Asalam Aleykum warahmatulahi Wabarakatu Sis, over the last 10 year we sell them, made to measure,London, Harlesden, AhmedTailor. Welcome to our shop, we just open our instagram account too ahmed_tailor_london

  19. Salam, hi I love your post about this abaya

  20. just came across this blog about jilbabs and Abayas..come and visit our shop in Harlesden NW10, London - Ahmed Tailor


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