Guide to Buying Islamic Clothing on Ebay
So you are looking to buy Islamic clothing on ebay but are confused by the terminology and sizing? Look no further I sell Islamic clothing on ebay as well as being involved in the Islamic clothing retail industry for a number of years and making Islamic garments for myself and for sale. Firstly lets explain some common Islamic clothing terms....
Hijab-this refers to the whole covering and behaviour of Muslims, male or female however more commonly it is used to refer to a headcovering worn by Muslim women or girls in any style; if you're looking for scarves this is an ideal term to put into the search box; however don't expect a specific style to come up and also expect a whole gamut of other Islamic garments to come up as well; not to mention a whole load of books, ornaments and other items because people put the word 'hijab' in their item description!
Jilbab/Jilbaab- this is the correct Islamic term for an overgarment worn over one's clothing; although it tends nowadays to describe a coat style of garment; especially from Turkey and The Levant countries (ie Jordan, Syria and Lebanon), traditionally it described a cloak type garment worn from the top of the head down.
Abaya-Similar to Jilbab this is a commonly used word for a dress style of overgarment; however you can get head/overhead abayas that are worn from the top of the head and are much more covering; they tend to be sized by length only (more on that later). Many abayas are not sized very well and the sleeves are a bit too short (unless you have extremely short arms) also if they are sized by length only they tend to only fit up to a UK 14/US 10 loosely so if in doubt about measurements contact the seller. While this is by no means a general rule; some of the ones from the UAE are quite skimpy on the fabric and poorly sewn so if in doubt ask. Some items listed as 'Abayas' come in flashy colours and designs with embroidery and look like traditional Arabic dresses; this is what they are and if you are wearing them to visit the Middle East, and particularly the Gulf States bear in mind in some countries it is seen as extremely rude to wear these without some type of plain overgarment on top (like wearing a nightie in public!); however in others it is ok.
Khimar-this is the proper word for the scarf covering the head, hair, neck, ears, upper chest etc worn by Muslim women; however it simply means to 'cover' and thus tends to be used nowadays for a cape like garment that slips on and covers fully down to at least the waist level, occasionally to even floor level. It can also be called a 'half-jilbab'. Many 'khimars' on ebay have hand slits which can come in handy. When looking for a khimar check the fabric; for most people peachskin is just too hot and some of the Egyptian ones are made from a thin slippy crepe which is also hard to wear.
Shaylah/Milfeh/Shawl- this refers to a rectangular style of scarf which many women love but just as many women hate; if you want one and haven't bought before look for the fabric; I'd recommend a viscose or cotton rather than a georgette/polyester if you're new to this type then you can usually just wrap it around with few pins or none at all.
Niqab/Niqaab- this is a face veil they come in many different styles; when buying look at the style of the niqab and whether it suit your needs; if you have anything but a petite head avoid popper/snap fastenings; and look for breathable fabrics. Avoid poly/cotton, satin-backed poly, peachskin and any other smooth textured closely woven fabrics as you cannot breathe in them; best fabrics are georgette; koshibo (sometimes listed under other names such as 'royal crepe' so ask), some crepes and cotton muslin. Think about if you want to cover your eyes or not; if not then a niqab with three eyeveils will just be an annoyance. They come mainly in black but I have seen them on ebay in other colours.
Burqa/Burqah/Burka-although this word culturally refers to several garments lets talk about the traditional Afghan burqa here; firstly check the measurements as the traditional ones are made very small, especially around the head and are not suited to western figures (especially the head); secondly check the postage they are quite huge and thus postage can be expensive; look at the sellers feedback on this item to see if their goods are satisfactory and live up to their description; lastly bear in mind this garment isn't easy to wear in the west (both in terms of the stares you'll get; and practicality) so keep your environment in mind.
Chador-This is a traditional Iranian garment which is a huge semi circle of fabric and that is it; although some sellers claim otherwise they do not sell traditional Iranian chadors; these you can only get from a tailor in Iran or Iranian tailors in the west; or if you're extremely clever with a compass and piece of string (anyone who did art will know what I'm talkin' about!); you could make one yourself. The 'chadors' listed on ebay tend to be of quite a cheap fabric and not very well made.
Turkish scarves-this tends to refer to a square scarf made out of polyester fabric from Turkey, however lately a few cotton scarves and rectangular ones have been listed; with these type of scarves check the measurements a lot of them are actually very small; anything smaller than 42" by 42" in terms of a square scarf and 65" by 21" in terms of a rectangular one is unlikely to cover very well unless you're a young teen or very petite! I have found that the dyes used in some of the polyester Turkish scarves, in particular the brightly or intensely coloured ones; can cause quite a severe allergic reaction; even if they have been washed many times so if you have a tendancy towards dermatitis it may be best to avoid them.
Now onto sizing...
Different sizing applies in different parts of the world; however here are some common systems used.
Hijabs-These vary however I'd advise a minimum of 42" square or 65" by 21" for a rectangle; avoid rectangles where the long edge isn't much different to the short edge (ie 50" by 65") as they are very hard to wrap and make look nice.
Jilbab/Jilbaab-these tend to use the European sizing system; 42 is a US 10 (UK 14), 44 is a US 12 (UK 16); well in theory that is; I'd advise going up a size or two to which European size you'd normally wear as most modern Jilbabs do run small; if in doubt contact the seller and ask for actual garment measurements. Some Jilbabs are also measured in sizes like 1, 2, 3 this system is very vague, varies from one manufacturer or even one style to the next (in Al-Karam brand I can be a size 3 in one style but in another only a size 6 will be long enough!) and shouldn't be relied upon.
Abaya- for abayas worn on the shoulder these tend to be measured in length only and one size doesn't fit all; so double check; also if they are listed as L, XL, XXL this can vary enormously so ask for exact measurements. The abayas from countries such as Jordan tend to be limited to 56" in length; no matter what the size listed. For abayas worn on the head look for an exact back measurement; although some are sized accurately, others are not; also some are sized with the length from the shoulder only when worn and not the full length; if in doubt double check it out. Also check for an underarm or arm span measurement as some can be very short on the arms even if they are correct in the length height-wise.
Khimar-Look for those with a tieback rather than bandana as in my experience they are far more comfortable; however it depends on your preference. Look for the length, front and back; in my experience the khimars that are longer at the back are much easier to wear and more comfortable whereas the ones the same length all round can hang a bit funny and look a bit 'grannyish' as well as having a tendency to wrap around you; or blow up at the back when it is windy!
Shaylah/Milfeh/Shawl- See hijab
Niqab/Niqaab-Look for the headband length and the niqab length; if it has extra eyeveils look for the eyeveil length as some are not very long and don't stay back properly. Also those with a very narrow headband tend not to stay on very well; you really need a wider headband to keep them on well and to prevent your underneath scarf from sliding out from underneath and exposing your forehead.
Hope this helps someone InshaAllaah!
Umm Abdullah x