The typical outfit for women in Saudi Arabia is a combination of traditional Arabian and contemporary western styles--a modern dress covered by a black outer cloak. Many women still wear veils, an ancient practice rooted in the country's arid climate. Arabian women complement their dresses and cloaks with scarves, circlets, hats and jewelry.
Unlike Arabian men, who have an official garb they must wear, the women have no specific clothes. Nevertheless, most women adopt a similar style based on their country's traditional wear. The tendency of women's clothing in Arabia is to conceal, not reveal.
Normally, Saudi Arabian women wear a modern-style dress over their undergarments. On top of the dress, they wear a black cloak called an abaya. The essential accessory for the abaya is the shayla, a black scarf wrapped around the head and secured with jewelry. The shayla is very decorative, and the entire outfit is adorned with coins and color fabric ornaments. Jewelry completes the outfit; silver, gold, turquoise, amber, pearls and small bells are common.
Many women choose to wear a veil. The veil dates back to the pres-Islamic era of Arabia, and was used as a form of protection against the sun. Today, it communicates chastity, modesty and virtue.