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Wednesday, 21st January 2015


A Sign of Abaya, Before and After

Semiotics is meant as a science of sign which this means studying

semiotics is equal to learn about the different signs. Like how to dress, how to
communicate, how to socialize and many others. Sign is a device used in
distinguishing things with others thing, it is the effort of searching for and finding
our way in the middle of the community. From some semiotic figures, there is one
very famous, namely Charles Peirce. Peirce viewed a sign instead as a structure
that tended to be motivated by some form of simulation (Danesi, 1946, 26). The
triadic model used Peirce (representamen + object + interpretan = sign) showed
the role of the subject in the process of language transformation. Peirce view sign
(representamen) as an integral part of the object reference as well as an
understanding of the subject of the sign (interpretan).
As I said before, the sign is actually scattered everywhere, starting from
when we say, when we smile when we cry, even from our clothes. Clothing is
more than mere bodily covering for protection. Clothes can be defined as signs,
standing for such things as the personality, the social status, and overall character
of the wearer (Danesi, 1946, 176). For example, clothes for an interview job
which neat, polite, and dark color generally. Clothes also can be defined as signs
extending the basic meaning of bodies in cultural context (Danesi, 1946, 179). Yet
every culture that exists has different ways to interpret the body.

This is one of example of clothes, it is an Abaya. Abaya is the long loose

black dresses which cover the whole body from the head to the toe except hands
and face. Most the dress worn by women in the Middle East and it is become their
daily clothes, yet it is a must for a country like Saudi Arabia. The dress people
believe that has deep connection with religion. Perhaps it is true or not, yet this
dress existed 4000 years ago in the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia (which is
now in Iraq). At a time when Islam came, then women are obliged to cover her
body. The dress color is plain black because it is the only color material that
existed at that time.
Others, some people wonder why women in the Middle East wear a long
loose black dress. In fact, most people in Indonesia, the wearer of black Abaya
that covered her body from head to toe, is always associated with extreme
religion. This perception arises because the black Abaya by contrast appears to be
different from other people of Indonesia how to dress in general. The black Abaya
wearer always considered exclusive, well out of the way of dressing and their
lives. Meanwhile Westerners alike often joke that women in Abaya are BMOs
(Black Moving Objects). The dress like that triggers many peoples mindset to
think the Abaya covers a weak woman who views herself as a sexual object that
needs to hide from men for honors sake1.
Wearing the Abaya was already known as a cover the nakedness, because
Middle Eastern majority embraced Islam. In Jahiliyyah days, women way of
dressing used to reveal their necks, chests and other parts of their bodies. They
also used to draw their veils to the back. Accordingly, when Islam arrived, they
were ordered by Allah SWT through Al Quran (The Holy Book) and Muhammad
SAW (The Prophet) to cover their bodies and hair in order to protect themselves
from the acts of disrespect2. Actually, religion only gives a warning to women to
cover the curve of their body in front of men that is not in her relation. However,
time has changes, so there is a new perspective of wearing Abaya which is not
1 (retrieved on Tuesday, 20th January 2015, 07.18 PM).

obligated to wear. However, it is still a traditional costume. People today

appreciate Abaya and have high regards on the women in Abaya, just like we are
grateful in every traditional costume for every cultures and traditions in this
In the past before Islam appears, it said that the women who were dressed
in Abaya were seen as luxurious women from noble families who did not have to
work. It is for distinguished from maids and prostitutes, who were not allowed to
cover their bodies. Times have changed, but according to my experience, until
today buy an Abaya could explain the status of the individual, because there is a
category. I mean, even if only one color but the quality of Abaya materials is
different. We can tell which Abaya's with mediocre quality and with super quality.
The super quality which is the best surely bought by among the rich.
At the time, the model of Abaya is actually just a piece of cloaks which are
not stitches and cover all of the body. This unique style is more likely to be
favored by the older generation of women in rural areas or nomadic. In addition to
following the rules of religion, the usefulness of the Abaya is as the protector of
women. Considering they live in the harsh climate in the Middle East such the
effect of the sunlight or frequent sandstorm. As time went on, the Abaya growing
and more and more style and color. Abaya which used to be a plain black but can
now be equipped with a wide variety of colors and styles, so there is no need to
hesitate to be style with Abaya. If we are going to buy an Abaya, usually it is one
package with hijab, a scarf to cover the head. The scarf is made with customized
with color or style of the Abaya. Although it remains the predominant color is
black which is known as an elegant, discreet and sexy color nowadays.
Previously, the Abaya worn at the time when they are out of the house or
meet with people who do not have a relationship with her especially men, now
Abaya can be used at any time and not necessarily in places like the Middle East.
2 (retrieved on Tuesday, 20th
January 2015, 07.45 PM).

For example, Abaya is already leapt in some countries this era, so there are many
future designers take great theme "Abaya" motivation for the design like they are
cheating the Abaya models for wedding gown (especially women of Islam)3.
Then, Abaya also can be worn to the parties, religious event, and so on.
According to my opinion, Abaya can be connected to another Charles
Peirces theory. Signs are physical objects which can be captured by the human
senses and it is something that refers to (represent) something other than the sign
itself. According to Peirce, sign consists three sections: the first is symbol which
is a sign that emerged from the deal, for example Abaya is only used for women.
The second is Icon which is the sign that appears from physical representation, for
example Abayas color which is black and elegant, very attractive the eyes. The
last is index that is the sign that appears from cause-effect relationships, for
example in some areas of the Middle East especially in Saudi Arabia, requires
women to wear the Abaya.
In conclusion, the main goal of making Abaya is for the convenience of
the women at the time. Then when Islam emerged, Abaya is becoming a necessity.
But over time, Abaya is not worn mandatory in some countries or places, but
Abaya still remains part of their culture or their state icon. Although the Abaya is
simply a cloak, but currently is the criterion of social status. Then, Abaya is
becomes trendy now because Abaya can be used at anywhere and at any time.
Later, Abaya made variations of color to the model and many people have already
started opening their mind about Abaya that is not forever closed like they have
been thinking before. However, Abaya becomes important clothes especially for
Muslim women. Because of the Abaya, they get their inspiration.

3 (retrieved on Tuesday, 20th January 2015, 08.27 PM).


Danesi, Marcel. 2004. Messages, Signs, and Meanings. Toronto:

CanadianScholars Press Inc. (retrieved on Tuesday, 20th January 2015, 07.18 PM). (retrieved on Tuesday,
20th January 2015, 07.45 PM). (retrieved on Tuesday, 20th January 2015, 08.27