Lin-Yi (randomdream) wrote in little_details,

Burqua vs Abaya

Scene: present day central Texas, hot spring day at a farmer's market. A yuppie woman is confronted with a young lady dressed in striking purple Muslim clothing.

Search criterion: Burqua, Abaya, "Muslim clothing," "cultural etiquette of Muslim clothing"

Problem: I can't seem to find a resource that would help me figure out whether this lady would be dressed in a Burqua or an Abaya. I'm basing her character off a girl I once saw on a college campus. The defining characteristic was the fact that even though she was wearing this gorgeous draped purple fabric, she had an unfortunate pair of glasses sticking out over her eye-slit (which cannot possibly be the correct term...) That was all there was to her appearance, and I was very struck by it. But now I find myself facing the same assumptions for which I wanted to call out my yuppie character.

I thought it was a Burqua, but according to this, she was probably wearing a head scarf of some kind. But that won't work, either, because it was one single piece of purple silk draped over her body! The same site says that Burqua (what is the plural of this term??) conceal all of a woman's body including the eyes, which are covered with a mesh screen. So that clearly can't be what she is wearing. I thought perhaps Abaya, but the same source says that the Abaya is usually black.

Questions: First, what is the correct term for the item of clothing I originally saw? What's the plural for that term? What do you call the slit for the eyes, if anything? And then, if I had a witless whitebread American try to give the young lady a compliment on her "Burqua" if indeed it wasn't a Burqua, then how would the young lady react culturally? Would it be insulting to a cosmopolitan young lady from the "Arab gulf countries" to have her Abaya mistaken for a Burqua from Afghanistan? Is the dress itself considered sacred by some Muslim women?

Can anyone help me figure this out so that the author doesn't end up looking as idiotic and uncultured as the yuppie character she's trying to write? Many thanks in advance--I won't be able to reply until early this afternoon.

EDIT: One final question/clarification. I need to know the correct term for the item of clothing I originally saw and the possible countries of origin. I don't know where the original young lady came from, and it is pretty necessary to the story. Thanks again!
Tags: middle east (misc), ~clothing, ~religion: islam

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