Whether you call it a darra’a, jalabiya, kaftan, thobe, or anything else, you probably know what I’m talking about.
The jalabiya is a type of traditional dress that has been worn in the Gulf, and in the wider Arab region, for centuries.
In the past, the Khaleeji jalabiya was almost standard. It came in standard colors. It came with gold embroidery and sometimes polka dots.
In the last fifteen years, the darra’a has seriously evolved.
Some Forgotten Jalabiya History
Today, we are well-acquainted with global designer and high street brands. But jallabiyas used to be a staple in our female ancestors’ closets, as well as an abaya to wear on top.
Here’s a nugget of darra’a history for you.
In Kuwait and some other Khaleeji countries, a traditional wedding ceremony included a ritual called a yalwa. Women would gather on the henna night. The bride would sit in the middle of a circle of women, wearing a green darra’a and gold accessories from head to toe. The women would wave a large embroidered cloth, usually green, over the bride. They would also sing praises of her. Many people still hold this ceremony today.
They’re not just for Ramadan
Some people choose to wear jalabiyas when entertaining guests. Some only wear them during Ramadan. Indeed, wearing a jalabiya is a good way to get in the Ramadan spirit.
But the jalabiya doesn’t have to be limited to Ramadan or formal occasions.
The jalabiya is no longer standard. It is influenced by styles from all over the world. And it looks like Khaleeji designers are coming up with new designs and trends every Ramadan.
Previously, Khaleeji darra’a designs were limited by the textiles available locally and the cultures Khaleeji women were exposed to.
Nowadays, local designers are exposed to many cultures.
Jallabiyas come with kimono sleeves (available on KOOOT.com here).
Designers use Turkish, French, and Indian fabrics.
With the never-ending popularity of the Turkish series Hareem Al-Sultan, Ottoman inspiration has also crept into darra’a designs (Available on KOOOT.com here).
Of course, global trends also affect jalabiya designs. We now see darra’as with peek-a-boo shoulders and others with fringe (Available on KOOOT.com here).
It’s also much easier to find something that fits your personal style. A darra’a can be worn under an abaya or as a standalone piece. It can be form-fitting or loose. It can be modest or sexy. It can be flowy , perfect for the summer heat. Or it can be thick and cozy for the winter months.
But surely, a darra’a remains an expression of Khaleeji identity no matter how it has transformed.
The darra’a has made its way back to us in new form. And it’s time we embrace it in all its varied forms during Ramadan and after.