How to Dress in the Middle East to Still Rock Your Inner Fashionista
It is always nice to stand out when it comes to style but there is also a time and place for everything, especially when you're in the Middle East.
Location and Occasion
When in the Middle East, there are two Things to Consider: Location, and Occasion.
Knowing where you are going will help determine what you should wear. If you're going to an official meeting or religious site, it will definitely be necessary to cover up more than if you’re going to a place like the Mall of Dubai or visiting the local restaurants.
When in doubt, the general rules of thumb are: don't have any limbs or skin overly exposed; wear loose clothes, and cover your hair.
If you are visiting the Middle East, but still want to channel your inner fashionista and make a fashion statement - we've got you covered ... literally.
If you are going to visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, you will need to wear an Abaya which is provided for you. But, if you know that you'll need to wear one, why not do it in style and prepare your own?
How to Buy an Abaya
Here's how to buy an Abaya, all the while ensuring that it is both stylish yet modest.
- Length is very important. Remember that the Abaya needs to be full-length, but then again not too long. The best length is where it sits around your ankles - or a little bit below.
- The size of the cloth can make or break you. It is the same with an Abaya. Standard sizing like S,M,L from the normal apparel world may work, but in the world of the Abaya, the best way to get it right is to try it on. An Abaya should not be too tight, so go for a regular fit if you are visiting a religious site. If you want to create a nicer shape, you can always use a belt. Otherwise, regular fit is a better choice to pick over a slim fit.
- Abayas can come in many colours, but black stands the test of time.
Maxi-dresses can be an option when travelling in the Middle East. They are very comfortable to wear and travel with, so this could be your fashion item of choice. Just remember that although you think it looks like an Abaya, it isn't, and it can’t be used to substitute one if you go on official business or visit a mosque.
How to Pick an Appropriate Maxi-Dress for the Middle East
- When you think of a maxi-dress you might think of 'Tropical', 'Heat' and 'Beach' - all of which could apply to the Middle East. On top of those things, there's another element - 'desert'. If it shows cleavage, then that's not going to cut it. Make sure it covers at least up to your collarbone.
- Material is very important. Look for something that isn't too thin or too stretchy because if it's stretching it means it will reveal your curves. Sheer, that almost see-through material, is also not an appropriate choice considering you will be walking under the hot sun - though actually even normal light might make your dress too revealing.
- If it has a high split, wear a pair of pants underneath. You can match them with the same colour, or if you like, choose a totally contrasting colour to create a more fun look.
- Always have a back-up item. Have a sweater to cover up with you just in case. It can protect you from the heat, the cold, and embarrassment.
3. Safari Outfit
So you have time for a little bit of an adventure? It's not a completed trip without hitting the dunes on a desert safari. When dressing for your safari, you may want to consider the weather that you'll encounter. The weather will be hot during the day and then the polar opposite at night. Given this, you have to dress smart, as you don't want to be carrying your entire wardrobe with you, do you?
- Wear a comfortable top such a t-shirt, a button-down shirt, and a pair of pants (loose pants or leggings for women) but bring a cover-up, a hoodie, or a jacket with you if all of a sudden the weather turns.
- Light footwear is better than something heavy if you have to walk in the sand, while a pair of nice sandals could work too. For women, think of a pair of leather sandals with a wavy strap. For men, a pair of wavy leather sandals.
- Protect your eyes and half of your face with a pair of oversized sunglasses. Oversized sunglasses are always making a statement. For men though, a pair of aviator sunglasses like a pair of classic Ray-Bans can never go wrong.
- Some will go for a hat, but we would rather pick a scarf because it can be used at night and it can also be used for other purposes. Get a Gingham scarf. Pick a red-white one, or black-white one to give your outfit a little bit more 'Pop'.
Want to Find Out More?
If you want to know more about how to rock Islamic-friendly fashion, head to Instagram and follow a few of these fashionistas:
- Kuwait-based blogger @dalalid
- Malaysian actress and TV host @Neelofa LA-Based Public Speaker and Fashion Influencer @hassanah_pfh