This review is about a site that I’ve been observing for quite some time. Lurking, poring over, contemplating, percolating ideas about what I might purchase for some super indulgence, a real treat for myself. The site in question? Wahat Aljalabiya. This site has some amazingly gorgeous “jalabiyas” or gowns that just make you drool and imagine yourself wearing the outfit dancing in some beautiful setting somewhere. They’re a little on the pricey side but not outrageous. They also have some designs which are unlike anything else I’ve seen available: pretty, unique, and luxurious. But also, wearable. Also they’ve been getting a lot of great reviews lately by bloggers that I enjoy following, including Muslimah in Reverie, Hijab Stye, Miss Hijabi, and Hijab Revival. Muslimah in Reverie recently reviewed one of my all-time favorites on their site. There’s nothing like a lot of good feedback, especially about the customer service and fitting, to alleviate some of the worry when you’re considering a purchase that takes a sizeable chunk out of the monthly paycheck.
I’ll make a confession here. Unlike some “fashionista” bloggers out there, of which although I do enjoy reading many posts, I don’t consider myself to be, I have rarely spent $100 or more on any item of clothing. Maybe a few times in my life. A good pair of riding boots may have made the cut at some point in the past. A really nice jacket perhaps. The point is it’s pretty rare for me to make a purchase of this magnitude, which may be small potatoes for a lot of folks out there! No, though I love to shop and try new things, I do try to bring a level of frugality to it and put my hard-earned money to proper use. I have no shame, for instance, in buying good quality used clothing. I like my clothes durable and long-lasting (same thing with many other household items, such as furniture… to me, secondhand means a) bargain! b) stood the test of time and probably will keep doing so c) probably better made than the currently available stuff :P). Also I have absolutely no concept or interest in the current “fashion trends” except as they relate to my personal interests: if long skirts are in, great! Time to stock up because they probably won’t be again for a while. If it’s a color I love (preferably that also looks good on me) yay! I enjoy while I can. If somebody tells me I’m “living in the 90’s” I actually have no idea what that concept means fashion-wise.
However, I do enjoy clothing that looks nice on me (in my opinion) and is comfortable. These are my main constraints. I’ll also throw in the caveat that, if it’s expensive, it also needs to be practical and something I’m going to get a lot of use out of! I decided some time ago that if I’m going to have nice things, and I do like nice things, I might as well use them and not have them languish in the closet/cupboard/what-have-you. Using them means they will be subjected to my actual life, which involves thing such as: contact with dirt, my clumsiness, walking around outside, doing actual work, spilling food, attracting cat hair and grubby little hands and feet :). These are part of my life. Fancy parties are generally not, as nice as they might look in my imagination. This is not to say I don’t enjoy dressing up or that I intend to wear the same clothes digging in the garden as I do in the office, but if it’s going to cost a lot I intend to use it with some frequency.
So: back to Wahat Aljalabiya! I picked 3 garments that I could see myself wearing in everyday life and using, that were also pretty, decorative and fun! Special treat to myself, courtesy of part of my tax return, and also as a reward for dropping 30 pounds and (most recently) getting through a stressful month!
To this end, I did not choose the beautiful silky black and white number I was drooling over that Muslimah in Reverie recently reviewed, though I think it’s really gorgeous.
Likewise, no airy and drapey chiffon. I love this dress, but it’s not my color (I can’t really do anything in the orange/yellow range without looking like I’m on my deathbed) and again, I don’t have any balls or weddings to go to. And while I intend to wear my finery at work, most of the other folks in the office wear jeans on a regular basis, so I am only planning to push it so far :P. I’m not sure the last time I saw somebody there in a suit besides the security guard (okay, I’m sure it happens, but suffice to say it’s fairly casual, and my department is even more casual than the rest of the company).
Also, I’ve never in my life taken something to the dry cleaners and I don’t feel this is the time to start (I do hand wash when necessary, but low maintenance is sexy :P. To me anyway.)
Service and Sizing
First of all, on par with the other experiences I’ve read about, customer service was excellent. I ended up contacting them a number of times for various reasons. One issue I contacted them about was sizing on the website. When I first started considering Wahat Aljalabiya, as I recall, they had specific garment measurement info posted on each item. However by the time I actually got around to ordering (I take a long time to decide on things…plus that stressful month got in the way), this was gone, and instead they had launched a new size chart which gave approximate person-measurements, the corresponding typical US/UK/Europe clothing size, and what size (S, M, L, etc) this corresponded to in jalabiya sizes. Also they no longer listed length information.
Two concerns arose; one, will the jalabiyas be long enough? One thing that had drawn me to this site was at some point in the past they listed all the lengths as 60″. I have a hard time finding full-length garments, even on sites selling abayas, so I was concerned that they might have shortened since this info was no longer posted. The customer service, however, assured me that all the sizes were still 60″ in length. To those who may say this is too long, I say, try it first :). I actually wondered if it might be a little long on me (I typically order abayas slightly shorter than that) but as it turned out, maybe because of the cut, it was exactly right, just brushing the top of my foot. In fact, if I wore heels this might be considered a little short and could sustain another inch or two! I’m 5’9″, and it was not tripping me in bare feet. In shoes, I needed pants underneath when walking (or tall socks, I suppose). Also Muslimah in Reverie made the suggestion in her review, in cases where the garment was too long, of gathering it up with a pin on one side, which I think would look great (on me this would make it too short though). Basically someone several inches shorter than me could easily pull off this length in these particular garments, and shorter than that could pin, wear a sash which allows the waist to be tucked up a little more, or get it hemmed (not difficult, I’ve hemmed a number of garments at home in fact, and tailors/dry cleaners will also often offer this service at low cost). On the other hand if it’s too short for you at 60″, I can only say, I feel your pain: I have run into this on many sites.
I also ended up contacting customer service about the general dress size, once my fears about length were laid to rest. As with many sites I’ve encountered, for some reason the dimensions given do not match up to the actual US sizes I really wear. I don’t know why this is exactly, if they’re actually inaccurate or it’s just me, but according to the chart my “measurements” indicated I would fall into a US size that was several sizes larger than what I actually wear. This is one reason (in addition to my height) that I really love when websites post actual garment dimensions. I speculate that Wahat Aljalabiya may have stopped posting these when they increased their garment rotation since they are posting new styles every week, which is understandable. This time, I availed myself of the online live chat assistance which was online. Unfortunately, they did not know the actual garment dimensions either, but they advised me to go with the smaller size which matched the actual US size I typically wear. By the way, they were right on :). So don’t hesitate to contact them with any questions, I couldn’t be happier about the fit!
I also contacted customer service about the payment (seriously, I’m not usually this much of an annoying customer!). The payment service is through 2checkout, and they have two payment options, either directly with 2checkout or using paypal through 2checkout. There was some site error going on at the time I tried to pay, which was resolved by the time customer service got back to me about it (which was very fast). I used paypal, as I have had bad experiences with my bank in the past using 2checkout’s direct payment service. My bank tends to think that overseas purchases through 2checkout mean that someone has hacked my account, so they shut everything down (this has happened twice). Very annoying. Hence why I went with the paypal option.
I have good and bad things to say about the shipping. First of all, it was amazingly fast considering it was coming from Saudi Arabia. It was faster than most orders I place within the US, even with accelerated shipping! I placed my order on a Thursday night (at almost midnight), and it was delivered the following Wednesday. Less than a week. That is… it was supposed to be delivered. Wahat Aljalabiya shipped within 2 days and sent me a tracking number with DHL. At this point I signed up through the DHL website for delivery and exception notifications. Unfortunately, DHL attempted to deliver while I was not at home (at the office) and did not leave my package!
This delivery service (among others) is an endless source of frustration for me. Having encountered such issues before from many different companies including DHL, I was careful to include delivery instructions with my address (the 2nd address line is a handy place to write this if there is no online form field for delivery instructions when placing the order) to please leave the package on the porch. DHL did not follow this (most delivery companies will tell you it’s up to the discretion of the package deliverer whether they do this or not). I think it’s ridiculous in the modern day when I can sign up for and track my package on their website and see when it is out for delivery and when they did not deliver it, that I cannot authorize delivery through the website. Or by phone. I did try both, for the record. They told me “this is our level of service” (to not leave the package? Not helpful service…) and also that even if I went to pick it up, I would not be able to do so until the following day. Or, I could sign the delivery receipt that was left on my door and they would leave it when they attempted re-delivery the next day. This is a step up from some companies that require you to be present at delivery or pick it up at their office (no leaving signed slips) but I still think it’s silly that I can’t authorize it remotely when I talked to them online and in person. My porch is private and secure, and if they’ll take my signed slip on the door they should be able to take my authorization online, since signing the slip requires that I will always get my package at least a day later!
So for future reference for myself and any other frustrated receivers of DHL, their service department at length told me that I could in future leave in advance a signed note on the door with my printed name, signature, the tracking number, and instructions to leave the package there. It would still be at the discretion of the driver, but if it seemed to be a “secure location” (and I think my private, covered porch qualifies) they would leave it in this case. I plan to do this next time I have an order coming through DHL (I’ve tried simple written notes minus tracking number before and not all companies do honor this, and quite frankly… I wasn’t really expecting the package this soon!).
At long last, a day later, I did successfully and delightedly receive the package. And it was still pretty quick 🙂 I was gratified.
Here are my selections!
First, this beautiful one in pink, grey, and black cotton print has been on my list from the beginning. In addition to being pretty, it also looked comfy and wearable, not to mention easily washable.
The many offerings in cotton was in fact a very big reason Wahat Aljalabiya made the cut out of all the fancy and beautiful jalabiya and abaya retailers out there that I could have picked to reward myself. I have certainly owned a variety of different garments over the years and most of my “full coverage” options have been synthetic. It’s nice and drapey and all that, but depending on the material, it can also be hot or have an unpleasant texture. A lot of synthetics also do not wear so well over time… they snag, they pill, they unravel, the embroidery or decoration deteriorates. If you sweat sometimes they get hot or sticky or clammy or smelly… breathable and airy is not something I associate with polyester blends. Also they aren’t something I want touching my skin, so it requires even more layering. Even silk… yes its pretty and sometimes feels lovely, but it snags, it has to be hand washed, it stains easily, and I really hate the way it smells when it gets wet or sweaty. It really is for special occasions in my opinion vs everyday wear.
Cotton on the other hand is light, airy, soft, and just gets softer with wear. Stains can generally be removed easily, it doesn’t unravel if it gets a hole nor does it snag easily, it dries quickly and doesn’t make you hot and sweaty. It also doesn’t cling and depending on the fabric provides adequate coverage with one layer. It’s easy to take care of and the most comfortable thing I know to wear. I love cotton. Especially cotton that does not have stretch in it!
Anyway, with general wear as one of my goals for this set of purchases, I averted my eyes from the beautiful silky and chiffony options for my dancing on the sand fantasy and focused on all cotton garments that I knew I would be comfortable in on a daily basis and really get some use out of instead of just special occasions (note: There are a lot of lovely garments for special occasions if you do have one coming up! And the cotton ones are also suitable for that. Just not my current shopping goal. If I get married again someday, we’ll see! :P).
The beautiful pink, grey and black dress did not disappoint! As aforementioned, the length came out perfectly and the fit of the dress overall was excellent. It did not pinch or bind or make me feel like I had to sit in an uncomfortable pose to not have fabric clinging to me, and it was super comfortable, but at the same time managed to look very slimming and flattering. The cotton was thin, airy and comfortable. However, it was not so thin that undergarments underneath shown through.
The pink was considerably brighter than I had anticipated from the website photo. I was expecting it to be sort of a pastel pink on white background, it’s actually almost hot pink on very pale pink background. It was very vivid and cheery looking. The decoration was mainly printed on, in shades of white, grey, and black, with a little embroidery by the neckline. Also, this garment had some decorative silver sequins, pink rhinestones, and a large round metal ornament.
Normally I’m not a big fan of a lot of “bling” and did choose all three garments with that in mind, though knowing they had some decoration. However, I was impressed with the quality of the decoration. The sequins and rhinestones were all individually stitched on, not glued on like most of the ones you see in the US. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever seen rhinestones sewn on before (these ones had small holes in order to sew them). The sequins also were made of thick crimped metal, not the thin plasticy ones. They are definitely a lot more substantial and better looking than what I’ve seen elsewhere. I do not mind silver decorations and this is what came to mind. I was surprised at the quality of the decorations, and they were obviously hand-stitched on (the garment edges themselves were machine stitched).
I laundered the pink garment in the washer and dryer before wearing, to remove the general packing smell and creases and soften the garment. Also, I removed the large metal ornament before doing so. It’s actually a fairly nice medallion, but a) I wasn’t completely comfortable with having a large metal medallion on my chest at all times, and wanted to make it a bit more casual, and b) I knew that wasn’t going through the washing machine. It was easy to remove and I might reattach it with a crab claw for special occasions or string on a chain for a necklace because it is a nice medallion, of lightweight stamped metal with a pretty design.
The pink garment was the first one I wore and it held up wonderfully to a luncheon and then walking and playing the park afterwards. I didn’t even iron it (I did remove it from the dryer immediately). I hate ironing. This garment was beautiful and made me look and feel fabulous, I stayed comfortable, relaxed, and well covered, and it was super low maintenance. I also vacuumed out the car wearing it. It did not mind, it did everything and still looked lovely. It was airy and lightweight on a hot and slightly muggy day, too. I wore white cotton pants underneath. Since the fabric is thin and lightweight I wouldn’t wear something particularly bulky like jeans underneath, but rather some thin drawstring comfy pants that have a smooth profile. Or you could skip the pants and wear a slip or culottes, especially if it’s longer on you (I pretty much always wear pants underneath).
Incidentally, one other great thing about this dress and the other two was the way the cut flares out at the bottom. I have a long stride, and as I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, I frequently run into skirts/dresses/jilbabs/etc that are cut rather narrow at the bottom so I can’t walk freely enough or take a long step. These dresses, despite looking slim and like there is not a lot of extra material floating around, are in fact generously fitting and do not have any issue with being constrictive at the bottom. In fact I was not only walking but running around in the park after my son with no worries at all.
My second purchase was this lovely blue and white cotton blockprint. I also machine washed and dried this one before wearing! The lace around the neck will require some remedial ironing after washing, but other than that it came out just fine. Incidentally, I think they do recommend dry cleaning for most if not all of their garments, but I checked with customer service beforehand to make sure all the cotton was preshrunk. They confirmed that. And true to word, it did not shrink anymore, which was delightful (I’ve bought other stuff and shrunk it before, not fun :P).
This was actually one of the cheaper garments on the site but the quality is superb! It was only $68 which is on the lower end for their garments, most of which are over $100. This is a more casual dress and I thought it was really nice and summery. I can totally see myself wearing this on a sweltering day or walking along the pacific ocean in it with my toes in the sand. Cotton is a great thing to wear to the beach by the way.
One thing I was slightly concerned about but I checked immediately was the transparency of the fabric. This garment has a blue printed floral design on a white background and white backgrounds are notorious for being “see through”. In fact, I don’t wear a lot of white in general, both because of the see-through issue and because it inevitably gets spills or dirt on it. However, cotton is also more durable than many fabrics in terms of treating and washing out stains of all kinds (including such delightful things as cherry juice or smeared-on grass!) and the print pattern helps with such things as well.
I was delighted (and slightly flabbergasted) to discover that this garment, thin, airy white cotton lawn though it is, does not show through. I even tested it with a fuchsia undergarment. Nothing. I’m psyched to wear this. Definitely on the next sunny day :). And maybe a trip to the beach :). And perhaps a barbecue or two… in a month or so :P. Update: I DID wear it on the next sunny day to a halaka and for a lovely long walk in a (slightly muddy) park, and it was soooo comfy and cool (also received some compliments :P). I wore black rayon palazzo pants underneath because they were really thin and light (and even though they were black… no show through! Whee!).
My last dress was this one in more subdued black and white with polka dots and stripes. I was a bit hesitant on this, but I decided to go with it as it was both cute and casual and a little dressy, but not too dressy to wear to the office. Another reason I picked it was with the black and white color scheme, I could wear it with a variety of different colored hijabs and also with more variety of patterned hijabs than the other two (though I will mix patterns on the other ones… within reason!). I almost never wear straight black or white hijabs by my face since I’m very pale and it does bad things to my complexion, but i knew from previous experience with myriad black abayas that black can be very versatile (and flattering) as a general body coverage garment.
I was much more pleased with this dress than I’d expected to be. The fabric was extremely soft, drapey, and comfortable. In fact, once I ran my hand over it I was pretty sure it was not cotton at all. In fact this one is mislabeled on the site, the tag revealed it to be “100% Viscose.”
Some other details on this one: I really liked the way the polka dots were done, the method of dying made the dots slightly irregular so it wasn’t the strict polka dots you sometimes see. They’re actually a little “quieter” than in the product photo. It also made me like polka dots a lot more than I thought I did :). In fact, I also bought a polka-dot scarf this weekend which may have been my second polka-dot purchase ever (I promise not to wear them together. Maybe).
The fabric feels really nice and soft, which is a big plus for me. It is definitely a little heavier than the cotton jalabiyas, but not hot. It was completely opaque of course. Due to the drapiness I wore with thin black rayon pants underneath which worked well.
I was a little more careful washing this since viscose fabric can be a bit more finicky. Some rayon can handle machine washing, others cannot. I ended up washing this in warm water, checked for shrinkage and hung to dry. It was in good shape. Once the rest of the load had finished drying and it was just slightly damp and relaxed on the hanger, I tumbled dry on medium in the already hot drier with a few other clothes for about 30 minutes, which did not cause any shrinkage either and got the wrinkles out of the fabric. Super easy care :). Rayon/viscose in general does require a little more careful attention since some blends can shrink in the wash, so violate care instructions at your own risk on any particular garment!
The top part was a little blingy. This one does not have decoration on the cuffs, but it does have sequins and rhinestones (the good kind, like the pink and blue jalabiyas) around the neck and silver thread embroidery by the neckline as well, as well as a little black velvet detail. I did make an alteration to the black dress which was to remove the dangly beads on the front (before washing, obviously if you leave this on don’t even try putting it in the machine). Again, not trying to draw a huge amount of attention to my chest and this little decoration was just not “me” :P. I had already anticipated removing this prior to ordering it, in fact. I saved the beads for some future project (I like to make beaded bracelets).
With this extra bit removed, once I put on my scarf most of the decorative yoke was covered anyway, which toned the overall look down considerably, to my satisfaction. This could be dressed up or down depending on the occasion easily as a result. The lace decorations on the sides and the sleeve tab decorations were cute and drew compliments, the overall effect being a bit more fun and retro and not as sedate as I thought of it on the site (perhaps I was just mentally comparing to the many fancier options on the site initially!). The white part of the garment is more of a slightly off-white/old lace color rather than bright white, which was a positive thing. The roll tab sleeves are functional (in that you can unbutton them and fold them down to be longer), however, the end of the tab then still hangs out slightly, so I don’t think it would be desirable to actually wear them this way. Also if you undo the tab you do not have the decorative cuff.
In fact, on all three dresses (but this one slightly more so) the sleeves are a bit short on me. They fall at what I think is termed “bracelet length”… longer than 3/4 but not really full. I notice that I tend to have this problem on a wide variety of clothing brands, however, so I’m not sure that everyone else, even of my height, would actually have this trouble with Wahat Aljalabiya. (In fact, what is usually considered “3/4 sleeves” on clothing looks like half sleeves on me, and I plain don’t wear them. I have been bemoaning the tunic trends on the market this year, because, although I like tunics and might otherwise buy some of them, 90% of them seem to be made with too short sleeves).
General website notes….
There are quite a few garments on the Wahat Aljalabiya site which have true half-sleeves or even shorter, and I passed up a number of dresses (like the one below, which I would have bought in a heartbeat otherwise) for this reason. Unfortunately a lot of their more casual cotton styles fall victim to this.
Since I want my arms covered all the way, I just try to avoid buying things that don’t unless it’s something like a tee shirt that I will wear underneath another garment. As for dresses or tunics, I’d rather not be tied into layering, and I don’t really like wearing long-sleeved tee-shirts (which work best in such layering scenarios) anyway because of the way tight sleeves feel. And it’s hot to do so.
I’ve been bemoaning the trend of short-sleeved sweaters this past winter for the same reason. I saw many lovely long sweaters in the stores… with short sleeves. Who wears short-sleeved sweaters anyway? If it’s cold enough for a sweater, it’s cold enough for sleeves…. but I digress.
I’ve already mentioned my preference on very specifically noting length and clothing dimensions by garment, if possible, which would improve the shopping experience (despite the helpful customer service), but one other thing which is slightly confusing on the site is the way it’s organized.
The dresses are categorized into New Arrivals, Casual, Occasion, Traditional, Luxury, Limited Edition, and Nightwear. For many of these categories, I’m not really sure how they are distinguished (it’s not by price). For instance, my two cotton dresses were under “Occasion,” and the polka-dot viscose one was under “Traditional.” To me it would make more sense to combine Casual, Occasion, and Traditional (simply because I don’t see the actual dresses in those categories really falling into any one in particular), and also combine Luxury and Limited Edition. Nightwear and New Arrivals stand on their own of course. I do like the way the site is organized in general, and how you don’t have to go to multiple pages within a “category” but can see all the dresses at once, and I like the other features like the wish list, but it did get confusing sometimes trying to find a dress I saw before when I couldn’t guess which category it belonged in.
In addition to the beautiful dresses, I also got some free gifts with my order! I intend to pass them along to a lucky fan on Facebook 🙂
First, I got a choker and earring set. This is in silver, which I love, and each earring and the choker has little bells (the kind with two halves like an open shell, and no clapper) along the bottom which tinkle pleasantly.
This was a surprise free gift included by Wahat Aljalabiya. The gems also look sort of silvery in the picture but they’re actually sort of a reflective black. The choker design is pretty neat, I have not seen one like this in the stores here. It is a flexible wire so it would be comfortable on any size neck and is easy to adjust and take on and off, and it does not actually feel at all constrictive or tight on the neck.
I also got a free scarf. The scarf is a very soft, light and filmy chiffon with a slight sheen to it which is not apparent in the photograph. The fabric is very sheer and semi-transparent so it would need to be wrapped over more than once (and possibly worn with an underscarf that includes neck coverage) if worn as a hijab but it is thin enough that I don’t think this would feel bulky).
The fabric is prettier in person than represented in the photograph on their website, it has a crisscross pattern in red, white and black (the overall effect being sort of pinkish because of the blended colors).
Also, there are “stretch-stitched” gathers along the middle third of the scarf which ruffle the fabric a bit. It’s very generously sized, at least 6 feet long and 45 inches wide if stretched out (but the stitching which makes it bunch up makes it look a lot narrower than that).
I’m not much experienced with the long scarf wrap styles (I usually wear square scarves) but I’ve seen sisters do pretty neat things with them in online posts :). The brand name on the scarf is KashKha.
If you would like to win the scarf and jewelry set for free (I will pay shipping if you are in the US), you can enter the Facebook giveaway contest!
1) Like QATheWorld on Facebook
2) Share this post on your Facebook page.
3) Comment on this post indicating that you’d like to win!
(Make sure you either have the option to message you on your profile on Facebook, or include your email address in your comment, so I have a way to contact you if you win. I will pick a winner randomly from among eligible entries after 2 weeks. )
I had a very good experience with Wahat Aljalabiya and would buy from them again :). I will be using the DHL tips next time to ensure that my instant gratification is even more instant! I’ll probably be looking at the day-to-day wear options like these ones that are pretty but practical in fabrics like cotton and the viscose (which does need to be properly labeled on the site… it’s a nice fabric to be sure and I would buy it again, but it’s not cotton!), and not too heavy on the bling factor. And maybe one of those silky ones for special occasions if I have something coming up 😉
Be sure to check out Wahat Aljalabiya’s Facebook Page for special offers! I used both the “free shipping over $200” (hence why I ordered 3 at once) and also a $10 off coupon which has since expired. They also have regular contests posted on Facebook to win free stuff, as well as discount offers/free goodies/gift codes that seem to pop up pretty often in the last few months that I’ve been eyeing them :). They’re adding new designs each week now and retiring old ones so don’t wait too long!