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News > Sport

Sporty Saudi Women Give Traditional Clothing a Makeover

  • Eman Joharjy has received enormous support from shoppers who previously chose conservative black floor-length gowns.

    Eman Joharjy has received enormous support from shoppers who previously chose conservative black floor-length gowns. | Photo: Imnstagram @emanjoharjy Follow

Published 20 April 2018

The floor-length outfits resemble jumpsuits and allow for plenty of mobility while offering women a modest alternative to the traditional black gown.

As healthy lifestyles continue their upward trend, one Saudi seamstress is cashing in on the fad by designing abaya-styled sportswear for Muslim women.


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Hitting the market with olive greens, blues and whites, 43-year-old designer Eman Joharjy says her sportswear has received enormous support from shoppers who traditionally opted for the more conservative black floor-length gown.

"There is a big demand... Having them in different colors is empowering," said Joharjy, from Jeddah, who defied the traditional national maxim 'If it's not black, it's not abaya.'

The floor-length outfits, which resemble jumpsuits, provide sporting mobility while offering women a modest, conservative alternative to the traditional gown whose extraneous material translates all too often into tripping hazards, among other difficulties.

The sporting attire is made primarily from natural materials to provide relief from the scorching Saudi Arabian sun.

Though some conservative groups have condemned the sportswear, other prominent figures have defended it.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told CBS Television: "The laws are very clear and stipulated in the laws of Sharia: that women wear decent, respectful clothing, like men."

Joharjy said: "There was a little bit of rebellion, but I designed it for myself because it's practical. You zip up and are ready to go."

In an interview with AFP, Muslim cleric Sheikh Ahmed bin Qassim al-Ghamdi explained: "The cloak is meant for maintaining a modest look and it does not have to be black."

Despite the onslaught of criticism, both positive and negative, Joharjy defended her product: "Abaya is like the Indian saree, it is part of our identity, but at the same time, if God did not want women to do sports, we would not have muscles or a body.

"It is no one's business to stop and question what I'm wearing."

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