Red Velvet Fancy Abaya for a Wedding by Fahima Miah

This is one of the most exciting pieces I have worked on to date: the red velvet ‘abaya.

This velvet ‘abaya was made for my sister to wear as a guest at a wedding. She had given me a lovely plum red velvet material, amongst other materials, a while back, with the hope of me making her a dress out of it, but we never really got around to turning it into anything. Fast forward a year or so to when my sister was telling me about how she had nothing to wear to an upcoming wedding and that she couldn’t really wear anything in her current wardrobe because it wasn’t really maternity-friendly. This is when we discussed the idea of me making her a fancy ‘abaya for the wedding out of her red velvet material she had given me a while ago.

Inspiration for the red velvet abaya

I had a search around to see what kind of look we could go for with this luxurious red velvet fabric and the following cropped up from Diya Online. I liked the gold motifs on the sleeves in the second image and the overall use of a diluted gold colour, as opposed to a harsh, rich, vibrant gold. My sister knew that she didn’t want an open jacket type garment, which would have been extra work anyways, as it would have meant that I would have had to create a dress to go underneath the jacket.

Fahima Miah Red Velvet Abaya Sketch

The process of creating a fancy ‘abaya for a wedding

In terms of the process, after having a rough idea as to how the red velvet material might work well as an ‘abaya, I began jotting down ideas. I already had a few ideas in my Fashionary, so I presented these to my sister and let her pick the design she’d like to run with. She decided she’d like us to run with the design on the right…

I then began creating the shell of the garment: the actual dress and sleeves. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the material (stretchy jersey velvet material), my sewing machine just couldn’t manage to stick any of the pieces of fabric together, which meant I had to end up sewing quite a lot of the garment by hand ?. Ah well… persistence is key. One thing I did like about working with this material was that it didn’t fray at all, which meant that it didn’t need a rolled hem along the neck or the sleeve or the bottom of the dress – which was a dream!

Motifs fit for a red velvet ‘abaya

We discussed the possibility of adding on extra motifs to add a glamorous touch to the ‘abaya. After a successful shopping trip to a whole street of haberdashery and fabric shops, I came across some beautiful embellishments, including opulent lace fabrics, big bold dress borders and dainty bejewelled ribbons. With my haberdashery in my hand, I then began the embellishment process.

This entailed a lot of delicate cutting and hand-stitching in place all of the motifs. I didn’t really like the gold mesh-like netting behind the motifs and thought it would be nicer if the velvet texture peered through the motifs, so I knew the gorgeous fabric had to be cut and harvested.

It was when I was adding all of the embellishments to the sleeves that I realised how hard this dress would be to give away. It was really falling into place and starting to take shape – the end was nigh.

I had a deadline looming over me, after all – it was made to be worn at a wedding. Because the fabric wasn’t working well with my sewing machine, it just meant that everything would take slightly longer than anticipated. I had to persevere with hand-stitching each of the embellished motifs onto the bottom of the dress until the wee hours of the morning. Nevertheless, I think hand-sewing the dress was quite befitting, as jersey tends to stretch and move around under a sewing machine, so doing most of it by hand gave me more control over the positioning of the stitches onto the fabric.

The completed red velvet ‘abaya

Like a true trooper, I finished the dress in the early hours of the day of collection by sewing up the side seams. Bloodied by the many stabs and jabs I had taken from the dress making pins (a.k.a. hijab pins ?) – ok maybe not bloodied, but I know a lot of you dressmakers will be able to relate to that – the red velvet ‘abaya dress was complete and ready to be worn.

Check it out…

One thing to note is that my sister didn’t actually give me any measurements to work with – she wanted a loose fit and wanted it to be longer than what would fit me, so it was all quite touch and go. I did pre-warn her that if it didn’t fit, she’d have to say it did because I couldn’t handle that ? and it would be her fault. Also, if that was the case, I would have gladly kept it for myself! ?