Flowing exotic fabric, luxuriant designs, sensuality, heavy beading and a fusion of wild bright colors; throw a woman in the picture, and she’s instantly transformed into Ramadan mode with a thobe (Arabic for robe).
With such vivid variety engulfing a Saudi woman’s sense of fashion, how does one decide and distinguish between what thobe designs work? What are the successful approaches taken today by different thobe designers? Why is there a need to experiment with tradition?
Traditionally, women’s thobes tell the stories of the women who wore them, their lifestyle and where they came from. Thobes were part of a woman’s everyday dress as they dressed according to context and circumstance.
The cut, color, pattern and fabric distinguished each thobe and the region it came from. Yet today, regional distinction isn’t what guides these thobes to be the highlight of Ramadan dress code. In fact, it is the claim of being in touch with “modest beauty and elegance,” explains Rabia Abbas, who also believes that thobes have a spiritual meaning behind them.
“Thobes are worn in Ramadan simply because they are intertwined with spirituality. Thus the loose, thrown-on, air lifting feeling a thobe guarantees.”
As an example of those who utilize tradition to create an elegant
” Her thobes tend and striking thobe, designer Rabia Abbas states, “I simply rely on what I know and who I am, and God guides the rest.to attain a certain vintage spirit joined with a touch of modern adaptations.
Her designs possess an exclusive superiority that is strongly influenced by her colorful heritage of Turkish, Persian, Arabian Gulf and Russian roots – which bestow a definition to her designs.
From her days as a catwalk stage designer to where she is today, Rabia expanded her love for the art of fashion through her current flame designing elegantly feminine thobes and abayas.
“Remaining feminine never goes out of style, and that in itself is an everlasting statement. It’s all about creating a piece that is authentic, regal and stylish.” She continues to emphasize on the importance of how thobes should work with the person wearing them, “the feel and fall of fabric are crucial to perfecting the right thobe design. In addition to the finish, these design principles are what distinguish a perfectly crafted thobe to a poorly cut one.”
Whatever the style, a profusion of shapely, sweeping, dramatic colors and cuts instantly throws a woman into another dimension. Hence, designers like Kindah Sais have decided to break with tradition and slice the thobe in half, weaving in authentic fabric and lining.
“Dress it up or dress it down. The style of a maternity top is perfectly catered for different women with different shapes and tastes where she is mostly covered,” adds Kindah on her rational behind her take on contemporary thobe design.
Kindah Sais, a self taught fashion designer, businesswoman and co-founder of Abazaarkm (a fashion group which houses exotic Arabian clothing and holds Arabesque fashion shows), gives us an opportunity to appreciate the thobe quite differently with her unexpected melodramatic cuts that still remain true to the Arabian enigmatic traditions of local clothing.
Kindah’s approach to the feminine thobe is one where modernity just manages to dominate tradition without eliminating the beauty of tradition. Boldly experimenting with a chopped knee-length thobe has proven to be a hit with customers. The cut, however, is not the only important factor for Kindah.
Particular attention is given to the fabric used in her designs. Her products feature various material such as silk, chiffon, camel hair, cotton and rarely used Assiri fabric, adding an authentic touch to an ultra modern thobe.
In light of it all, the thobe or robe hasn’t just survived time; it has always been and is still as solid as a rock in its symbolic beauty. A never-dying product, thobes are much like the environments they originate from – shifting. Women, who wear them, admirably make it a point to keep the evolutionary process going. The value they put could be argued in a multitude of ways; yet one fact remains, the Ramadan thobe represents an identity that is both spiritual and cultural.