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Haute-Couture Abayas With Artisan Silver Jewelry

New Looks From Saudi Designer Amina al-Jassim

A growing number of fashion designers in the Middle East seem to be endorsing the somewhat modern notion that a woman who chooses to cover up and dress modestly can still express her individual sense of style. One such designer is Amina al-Jassim, who is known for creating conservative clothing with a flair of fashion. Some have criticized her eye-catching outfits, expressing the opinion that wearing an Islamic headscarf as a symbol of modesty with showy, fashion-forward attire is a self-contradiction. In a recent interview with CNN, al-Jassim contended that “Modesty is not the opposite of fashion, and fashion is not about showing more of my body.” Though she has designed artisan silver jewelry, most of her business is in haute-couture abayas. In al-Jassim’s home country of Saudi Arabia, abayas are mandatory for women, but an increasing number of conservative Muslim women are choosing to wear them in other more permissive countries, such as Egypt.

Even as recently as the late 1990s, it was relatively uncommon to see women walking the streets of the Gulf wearing oplulent artisan silver jewelry and decorative abayas with intricate embroidery and brightly colored accents. But these designs have been growing in popularity during the last several years, as the demand for increasingly elaborate and artistic clothing has grown.

"You can wear the colors of the season, the style of the season...you can get the traditions and principles right and still be fashionable," said al-Jassim, whose business has grown quickly over the past few years. She sells her abayas and artisan silver jewelry in three self-branded stores in Saudi Arabia, as well as at high-end boutiques across the Middle East. In addition to designing traditional clothing, al-Jassim also creates travel clothes and eveningwear that break Islamic dress code, intended for local customers who regularly travel to countries without fashion restrictions.


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