Whether you prefer an Iranian manteau or a Lebanese jelbab, it's very easy to find what you want with the plethora of online stores out there. You don't necessarily need to wait for an overseas trip to find what you're looking for. There are even sportswear jelbabs coming out now!
From pinstriped office-wear manteaus to glittering Emirati abayas, a sister's options are endless. However, we still need to make the right judgments when making a choice. Not all the designs, fits, or colors are appropriate for wearing in public. The more elaborate abayas from Dubai are a perfect example of that. But they are beautiful to look at, aren't they? If you have a very fancy abaya, save it for a ladies-only gathering.
Button-down abayas or manteaus are also useful for ladies-only gatherings where you will want to easily remove your abaya upon arrival.
In any gathering, jelbabs or abayas with closed fronts are the most versatile for creating different outfits. The Hijabstyle.blogspot.com blog post gives an idea of how to wear a tweed jacket with a black abaya. Many styles of jackets, cardigans, and trench coats can be paired this way. So can colored shawls.
Closed-front abayas also save you from having to worry about coordinating your pants, which would show through any side or front openings. You could be wearing your pajamas underneath and nobody would know!
Where to Shop?
There are many stores, based in North America as well as in the Middle East, which are offering innovative yet modest takes on the abaya in addition to traditional designs.
The most comprehensive online store directory Style Watch came across, with many useful subcategories, is this. (Note: Islamic Insights does not endorse any of these businesses and is not connected to them in any form whatsoever.)
If you have tried any of these retailers, feel free to share your experiences with fellow readers in the Comments section below. The WeLoveHijab.com and Hijabtrendz.com blogs have mentioned a store that sells abayas for under forty dollars. (See http://welovehijab.com/2009/08/07/hijab-style-finds-abaya and http://hijabtrendz.com/2009/05/21/great-finds-abayas-for-under-30) Has anybody tried them out?
Make Your Own!
If you want to make your own abaya, an Ehow contributor has provided directions and diagrams.
If you are a full-time abaya-wearer, easy ironing is especially important. For convenience, you should also make sure you can wash your daily-wear abayas in the laundry machine (on a cold-water delicate cycle, and in a mesh laundry bag if it has decorative work, or turned inside out). After washing, it's better to let your abaya air-dry.
When wearing an abaya, another Ehow contributor reminds sisters to "Gather and hold the ends of the abaya up while on escalators, elevators or getting in or out of a vehicle."
And while you're out and about, don't forget to make sure that the sleeve cuffs are secure at the wrists, or that you are wearing sleeves underneath, so your arms don't accidentally show. If the cuffs are secure, a t-shirt will be fine to wear underneath. If the abaya sleeves are loose, you can wear a matching long-sleeved tee if you don't like hijab-sleeves.