A sports-friendly version of the abaya gown is fast becoming the new normal in Saudi Arabia, reports said.
Pictures of female athletes running in the garb in the Red Sea city of Jeddah went viral last month.
Designers such as Eman Joharjy are cashing in on the growing popularity of the so-called sports abayas.
“There is a big demand,” Joharjy told AFP at her fashion studio in Jeddah.
“Having them in different colors is empowering.”
Akin to a zippered jumpsuit, sports abayas envelop a woman’s body but offer greater mobility for sporting activities, in contrast to the classic baggy version where tripping on the hem of the flowing garment is a common risk.
The 43-year-old’s designs come in colors like pistachio green, beige and white — more tolerable in the Kingdom’s scorching heat — and she uses natural fabrics, including French poplin, that do not cling to a sweating body.
Joharjy has defied a popular maxim in Saudi Arabia: “If it’s not black, it’s not an abaya.”
Abayas have evolved over the years, with new patterns, fabrics and embellishments, and they are sometimes worn in the Kingdom with baseball-style caps over headscarves.
The latest fad is an eye-catching ensemble of “soccer-themed abayas” — in the colors of the local teams, a new way for female sporting fans to cheer for their favorite players.
At Joharjy’s studio, a longtime client Marwa Al-Hadi walked in wearing one of her designs with magenta sneakers.
“Abaya is like the Indian saree, it is part of our identity,” Joharjy told her, as they weighed in on the future evolution of the garment.