Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 March 2018

Want a special jalabiya for Eid? Get one tailor-made

With Eid just around the corner, we talk to Lida Roozitalab, the owner of a popular tailoring shop in Dubai, about how to get a jalabiya made for the occasion.

Lida Roozitalab, the owner of First Class Tailoring in Dubai. Delores Johnson / The National
Lida Roozitalab, the owner of First Class Tailoring in Dubai. Delores Johnson / The National

Itchy fabrics and cheap embellishments: these are some of the woes of shopping for evening wear on the high street. Though you might find something that somewhat speaks to you, you rarely spot a dress you fall in love with.

The solution to this conundrum is quite simple. Visit a tailor and design your own jalabiya – a traditional full-length, loose-fitting dress worn on festive occasions. With Eid Al Fitr around the corner, consider having one made for the occasion at one of the various tailoring outlets across the country. One such shop is nestled in Dubai’s Al Barsha district, a five-minute drive from the Mall of the Emirates. Upon entering First Class Tailoring, located in Murad Towers, you’re instantly welcomed by cozy, shabby-chic-inspired interiors with a stylish antique touch.

Damask wallpaper, white quilted cushions and a Persian rug combine to create an upscale East-meets-West ambience. A television screen shows runway presentations from major fashion weeks, while a stack of magazines contains the latest issues of Elle, Mondanite and Harper’s Bazaar Arabia.

According to Lida Roozitalab, the shop’s founder, women are increasingly turning to tailors to create bespoke outfits, often inspired by what they see on the runways or in magazines. Many even request for copies of abaya and jalabiya designs of regional fashion brands, bringing in screenshots taken from Instagram and other social-media feeds. Previously working in fashion PR in Dubai, Roozitalab opened First Class Tailoring nearly a year-and-a-half ago.

While the shop takes on alterations and produces uniforms as well as designs commissioned by international fashion designers, Roozitalab says that their most popular requests are for evening gowns, largely because of the embroidery expertise available in-store. She oversees all operations, and works closely with clients to help bring their visions to life.

Roozitalab says that while customers reflect a mixture of different backgrounds, the bulk of them are Arab, and a large majority are Emirati and Lebanese. Ramadan is the peak season, and she anticipates up to 150 clients coming in during the holy month for jalabiyas and bespoke evening attire.

“We start by suggesting the right fabrics suitable for their design,” she says. For fabric-shopping newbies in Dubai, Satwa and Naif are popular textile districts, and in the capital, you can find different materials around the Madinat Zayed shopping centre and souq. But for the best in quality, Roozitalab recommends textiles from Regal – a fabric store with branches in Al Barsha, Deira, Karama and Satwa in Dubai, and in Khalidiya in Abu Dhabi.

Roozitalab, who was raised in the United States before moving to the UAE, says that it is important to examine the type and quality of the fabric, as they fall differently and create different silhouettes when draped.

For instance, if you’re looking for an edgy jalabiya with stark lines and architectural draping technique, steer away from fabrics that are light, soft and sheer.

“Typically, fabrics used for making formal jalabiyas include chiffon, viscose and georgette. However, we like to suggest using fabrics such as Barbie crepe and satin because these thicker fabrics allow for a more structured look,” explains Roozitalab.

Still, you can experiment with different material, perhaps mixing two prints together, or by combining different textures. After all, if you’re committing to the project of designing your own piece, you may as well be a little adventurous.

“Adding different fabrics, such as organza for instance, would give it more of a modern twist, as different textures would be visible beyond its basic fabric,” says Roozitalab.

It’s a good idea to purchase around six yards for a full-length jalabiya, especially if you’re planning on incorporating drapes and dramatic sleeves into the design. In terms of colour, Roozitalab has noticed a clear trend this spring/summer 2016 season, with clients opting primarily for nude, beige and light pink shades. Keep in mind that when choosing your shade, you should think long-term. Tailoring doesn’t come cheap, and you’ll want to make a piece that you can wear again in future seasons.

There’s a lot of variety in the souqs, but if for some reason you’re unable to find the exact colour you have your heart set on, buy the fabric in white and see if you can get it dyed. “We have special dying techniques that could be implemented if the colour you are looking for is not in the market,” says Roozitalab.

Now for the fun (and most costly) part: the embellishments. “To dress up a jalabiya, we would suggest beadwork techniques, whether minimal or heavy,” says Roozitalab. “Also, lace, as well as appliqués, could be added to offer a sense of chic sophistication,” she adds. Whether it’s a slight dash of sequins, or a touch of floral embroidery with three-dimensional petals and pearl accents, the options are ­staggering.

At First Class Tailoring, clients can completely customise the type of work they want. They are provided with a sample of the embroidery or beadwork before it is replicated on the outfit to ensure that they are happy with the design.

However, when requesting intricate beadwork, clients should keep in mind that it can take two to four weeks for their design to be complete. Because traditional beadwork and embroidery techniques are employed, the work is tedious – it can take days to complete just one dress, even with five tailors working on it.

Naturally, the price of a garment with a decadent display of embroidery and beadwork will be much higher than that of a design with simple, subtle embellishments.

“A jalabiya consisting of light embroidery work would typically start at Dh500 and can go up depending on its detailed work and complexity,” says Roozitalab, adding that a design with heavy work can cost about Dh5,000 due to the many hours of craftsmanship that go into it.

However, she says trending styles right now are minimal and delicate, unlike the lavishly embroidered and beaded outfits found on runway creations by top designers such as Alessandro Michele, the creative director at Gucci. Roozitalab suggests keeping it simple: for example, a simple vine of flowers in metallic threads and sprinkled with a handful of pearlescent beads is just enough jazziness for an Eid jalabiya.

Getting it right

The fabrics

Thicker, sturdier fabrics are best to give structural shapes to your jalabiya. If you buy light, sheer and flown fabrics such as chiffon, your outfit could end up looking more like a floaty beach or pool cover-up, instead of a high-quality, formal jalabiya. With sheer textiles such as lace, look for the kind with embellishment already sewed on for a nice appliqué design. If you need advice on colour or embroidery, ask the fabric salesman – he’ll likely be full of knowledge and happy to help. Generally, tailors will need at least six yards of fabric for a jalabiya. Even though they may not use all of it, it is better to buy a little bit of extra than having to make a second trip to the fabric souq.

■ Barbie crêpes – from Dh60 per yard

■Chiffon – from Dh30 per yard

■Satin – from Dh25 per yard

■Organza – from Dh70 per yard

■Embellished lace – from Dh60 per yard

The cost

• From Dh250 if you select inexpensive materials without embellishments, and go with a low-budget neighbourhood tailor.

• From Dh900 if you select high-quality fabrics, and give your order to a more upmarket tailoring shop with expertise in embroidery and beadwork.

The designs

Capped sleeves are taking the Middle Eastern fashion scene by storm. Apply the trend to your Eid jalabiya by opting for a beautiful Grecian robe-like design with dramatic capped or bell sleeves and delicate embroidery on the bodice. For colour, think about beige, camel and light pastel shades. For a feminine look, select a bold, floral print or choose a more minimalist silhouette, with an asymmetrical cut and colour-blocked palette using blacks, whites and jewel tones.

The tailoring

Choose your tailor wisely, or you could end up with an ill-fitting outfit, and all the money spent on your fabric and embellishments could go down the drain. Read reviews online, or go with a recommended establishment. If you’re a first-time customer with a tailor, try giving a sample order first – perhaps a simple cotton dress – instead of starting off right away with an expensive jalabiya. Finally, clarify your time window with the tailor, as delays are to be expected. You don’t want to be in a situation where it is Eid morning and you have nothing to wear.

• First Class Tailoring is located in Al Murad Tower, Al Barsha, Dubai. Open from 9.30am to 6pm during Ramadan. Call 055 935 5512 for more information