Tattoo Cyclist When Nothing Goes Right Go Cycle poster, canvas
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Modest but modern
Fashion, of course, is still the focus of the book and so is its celebration of the abaya and its evolution in Saudi Arabia. “When Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced in 2018 that the abaya was no longer mandatory, I thought I would be one of the few people who was clinging on to this black cloth. But I was surprised to see 99 per cent of women still wearing it,” says Mossalli.
What is interesting is how the abaya has evolved with this new spirit, she says. “Earlier, our abayas fit our lifestyle. They were very decadent. We were women who lunched and who went out for social gatherings after the sun went down. But now, with women entering the workforce, there is a focus on a more active lifestyle. So the abayas have become shorter, so it’s easier when you are behind the wheel of a car, because women now drive.
“We also have more Saudi girls working out and getting active. We’ve maintained our foundational fashion and the actual functionality of the abaya, but the silhouette has changed.”
Saudi fashion a decade ago was very similar to Lebanese fashion, she says, with a big focus on gowns. “Now there is a whole generation of street-style kids. It’s tennis shoes and sneakers everywhere.”
As avenues such as the Saudi Style Council are created, Mossalli says fashion in the kingdom will evolve, but in its own way.
“Saudi Arabia has always followed international trends. But Saudis have always dressed just like we do if we’re in Cannes or London. We’re always stylish, but we’re always covered,” she says.
“We are censoring ourselves. It’s not a government mandate, it’s individual. To be traditional is not mutually exclusive with being modern.”