Sleeveless Cloaks

With minimal shaping and stitching a range of cloaks can be created such as the aba, burnoose and milaya lef.

These garments address both the environmental conditions - that is they keep out dust and heat during the day and cold at night and they are loose and allow air flow - and modesty considerations in that they fully cloak the body.

Simple, non-shaped or sewn cloaks are listed under Unmodified Rectangles

abaya, bethlehem 1938.
Bethlehem 1938
abaya, Iran 1921.
Iran 1921
aba, Arabia 1909.
Bedouin 1909
burnous, morocco 1935.
Morocco 1935
woman in milaya, Cairo 1920s.
Milaya lef
Cairo 1920s

Aba or abaya Arabic.

The aba consists of two lengths of fabric sewn together lengthwise. Then folded in and stitched across the shoulders with slits for the hands forming square sleeves. It is open at the front. It can either be held closed by hand or by a cummberbund (hijam)

It tends to be worn by people of high rank - peasants would wear a much shorter garment. The black colour harks back to the use of double indigo dying. Bedouins tend to wear a striped version.

Urban women these days would wear the aba over Western dress. Bedouins would wear it over a thobe and siwaal.

Tilke, Eid, Britannica, Anawalt


Burnous Arabic.

An upper class semi-circular wrapped cloak with square hood and a single (front) closure. It is commonly camel hair (beige or brown), white or black. However brightly coloured examples also exist. burnous.

The hood includes tassels and the cloak is often embroidered around the edge. Men tend to only wear the hood in bad weather but many women use it as a veil.

In Morocco the closure is worn at the front and of the front can be thrown over the shoulder to free the arms. In Tunisia the closure is worn behind the head causing the front to ride up. Parker, Tilke

milaya lef.

Milaya Lef arabic

A traditional milaya lef consists to two lengths of black cotton fabric sewn along the long edge then wrapped about the body over normal clothing. It was worn by Egyptian urban women especially in Cairo and Alexandria until recently.

It is held under the armpits at one end with the other end draped over the arm. This exposed end was sometimes a special piece with additional shaping and texture. The milaya could also go over the head forming a veil.

Here is more information on its use as part of a theatrical dance tableau.

Other general types of clothing:

unmodified lengths    cloaks    sleeveless tunics    skirts    men's headwear    women's headwear

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