For a long time, I have been a fence-sitter. I've been wearing hijab for years, but a lot of times have felt that it's not quite enough--that it's time for me to put on an abaya or jilbab over my jeans. And I've been unfortunate to feel discomfort both ways--if I'd wear just jeans, even with a long shirt or dress (to my knees), I would feel a little exposed, like I should cover more--especially around Muslims, or visiting the masjid. But if I'd wear an abaya, I'd feel uncomfortable in it too, especially if I was anywhere other than the masjid.
Part of the problem has been my bad experiences with jilbabs and abayas in general--I never had any that fit quite right. Almost all the ones I owned were too short (legs and arms too) and I hated the style and cut of them. The better-fitting ones I had been able to find, I didn't mind wearing on occasion, but the heavy polyester wasn't comfortable, and the embroidery made me feel that they were more suited to special occasions than every day wear.
I also had some silly standards when shopping, in the past--in addition to being long enough and cut a certain way, I was picky about colors, too. For instance, I really don't like wearing black, as a rule. So no wonder I had a hard time finding abayas that would satisfy me.
At the same time, when I came to Texas, I realized that I'd be spending nearly every day with what is pretty much an abaya/jilbab-only crowd. And I considered that a good thing. I figured if I had to wear an abaya every day, then I'd get over my hang-ups about them. And finally, six months later, I'm starting to make progress on that front.
Remember the advice that if you want to start behaving a certain way, then spend time around people who already behave that way. I know one thing that made wearing hijab easier for me was being around girls from the MSA who wore it. I expected the same with the abaya.
But I still wasn't happy wearing an abaya every day, because of the same problems--mainly, they didn't fit properly, the fabric was uncomfortable, and I always felt like I looked silly wearing clothes that didn't really fit--especially over my better-fitting more stylish clothes that I was more accustomed to wearing.
So in order to really get into abaya mode, I started making conscious observations about the dresses of my fellow students. I didn't feel comfortable wearing my abayas in public, but I thought it might be different if I were wearing any of the more stylish and better-fitting abayas of my peers. So I took to the internet (not being familiar with any Islamic clothing shops here in Texas, though I'm sure there are a few) with a more specific idea about what I was looking for--and I did find an online store which offered abayas in the styles I liked, with a wide range of sizes, and allowed for the specific tailoring I needed (specifically, a few more inches of fabric in length.) I chose the most basic and inexpensive style, since I was weary of ordering from an online store.
I didn't know what to expect, so when it arrived just a week later I was extremely pleased with the results. I had, for the first time, an abaya that finally fit me properly, and I was eager to wear it to school. In fact, I liked it so much that I hated to wear any other one until I got a few more in the mail. Since then, I've made two more purchases from the same store, starting to expand my abaya wardobe (practical, since I do wear them almost every day of the week to class) and I plan to continue to purchase from them in the future.
And I was right--I feel much more comfortable wearing these in public than the ones I already owned. It's amazing how big of a difference it made. I wouldn't say I feel comfortable wearing them all the time, but I don't mind wearing them now, which is a big step for me.