When strolling around Algerian cities in recent year, a new phenomenon becomes apparent to the observer, the ever increasing presence of the colour black among women.
The little black dress has always been described as a must have in any wardrobe. So are black jeans or black tops, as these have the tendency to give the allusion that one is thinner than one actually is. As someone who has never suffered from excess weight, I never felt the need to acquire black clothes except for the odd thing or two; so I am not mad about this colour.
But the black thing that is parading in our streets is not the little black dress, but the abaya or the milaya as some would like to call it. After several years of the disappearance of the white hayek that women used to drape themselves in, and years of adopting the fashion that comes from the other side of the Mediterranean, our girls have found a new way to express themselves i.e. copy those from the Gulf countries.
Women after the independence started to conquer the work place and realized that the hayek was not practical, so they decided to opt for more practical clothes, those that allow the woman to move freely, catch public transport, and run sometimes to do that. This, in addition to the feeling that the hayek was a sign of backwardness, something the French encouraged by promoting the burning of the hayek in the fifties, contributed to its gradual disappearance.
When visiting Morocco, I noticed that women there were still wearing their traditional jellabah, young and old women alike. In fact, hardly any women were wearing the black abaya. The black abaya which made its way to the front of fashion in Algeria is a lot less prevalent in our neighbouring Morocco. I don’t know about Tunisia now, but last time I was there in 2007, there was no sign of it.
What I like to question here, is not the hijab itself but the fascination of Algerians by what comes from abroad. Since it was possible for the Moroccan kaftan to be adapted by top end designers around the world, and has become a must have item, why can't we have our own attire and develop it into something practical and fashionable? Isn’t the kablye dress worthy of developing into a modern fashion item? why not make the karakoo algerois a practical everyday clothing item? Have we no imagination or will do nothing but just import everything?