A Saudi Fashion Expert Weighs In Models present variations of abaya, the traditional long black Islamic overgarment. Saudi Arabia-based fashion authority Marriam Mossalli discusses the popularity of vintage abayas, Melania Trump and the Dior "Feminist" T-shirt. “The same way women love shoes and bags, we love abayas,” says Saudi Arabia-based fashion authority Marriam Mossalli, founder of luxury fashion consultancy Niche Arabia and the fashion blog Shoes and Drama . “That’s what เสื้อคู่รัก เสื้อครอบครัว you’re seeing everyday. It’s our national garment that we wear outside. We wear it [with pride] and it’s all about showing it off.” In conversation with The Hollywood Reporter’s senior fashion editor Booth Moore, Mossalli addressed a small crowd at Los Angeles' Mondrian Hotel on Thursday night for an event titled “Under the Abaya: Evolving Women’s Fashion in Saudi Arabia.” Offering up an almost glowing take on what seems to be a thriving local Saudi fashion scene (spurred in part by the rise of social media and a population that is 50 percent millennials), Mossalli turned her attention to the controversial abaya — regarded by many around the world as a symbol of oppression — which is the standard of dress for women in Saudi Arabia, the oil-rich kingdom where gender segregation is the law and covering up is enforced by religious police. “There’s obviously the idea that, OK, you don’t want anything that’s a forced garment on you,” says Mossalli, who has noticed a trend towards women wearing more colorful and deconstructed abayas in the city of Jeddah, where she lives. (The capital of Riyadh, in contrast, still leans toward more conservative styles.) “I think women in Saudi have accepted, OK, this is our society, it is a conservative society, but we can still be modern women and we can still be prideful wearing our abayas," explains Mossalli. "So they have done the best within their circumstances and now they are showcasing their talent, their expression, their creativity with their abayas.” (She also notes that women collect abayas; Mossalli owns one in all-denim from the NSync-era 1990s, her mother has an '80s-era Versace abaya and there are actually vintage abaya stores in Saudi Arabia.) The evening also featured a fashion installation showcasing up-and-coming designers from the Kingdom, including pieces by haute couture designers Norah Al Sheikh and Honayda Serafi and ready-to-wear from the likes of Abeer Oraif, Alia Oraif and Nasiba Hafiz. The event was hosted by the Washington, D.C.-based Middle East Institute and King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Which style icons strike a chord the most with Saudi women today?
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