What To Wear In Dubai
As the song goes, you’ll see many women in Dubai covering their heads, shoulders, knees (and toes?), but this is not required for non-Muslim women – regardless of what many people think before visiting! However, it is respectful to cover your shoulders and knees when going out in public. This doesn’t apply at the beach, but even my local surf shop asked for patrons to cover up when they enter. This dress code presented some challenges for me when I moved here this past July from Singapore with only a single suitcase of my own clothes to last me months in temporary housing. It was blazing hot, I was dependent on Uber and Careem (often waiting in the sun for my driver to find his way), and I found myself traipsing through sand and dirt when a drop off was stymied by random construction; I always felt like I had nothing appropriate to wear.
Read more: The Power of Minimalism
It doesn’t matter if you are a fashion-phile or foe, getting dressed is important. It sets the tone for your day, and, like it or not, our clothes speak to the people around us. Getting dressed can be a source of daily stress, especially with bulging closets and drawers. Each item carries its own emotional weight – the too-small-jeans that were fab before you had the baby, the expensive shirt that turned out to be itchy and uncomfortable, the pair of impractical, aspirational shoes that seem to whine, “You never take us out!”
Eight months ago, I completed a capsule wardrobe experiment to try to get a handle on the stress in my life. I followed the guidelines of Project 333, created by Courtney Carver of Be More With Less. The basic idea was to choose 33 items of clothing and accessories and wear them for 3 months. After that, you could rotate in items from storage to fit the new weather/fashion situation. Your wedding ring, underwear, and workout clothing do not make up the 33 items. I altered the rules a bit to suit myself by not including jewellery, as I was far too emotionally attached to my baubles.
The results far surpassed my expectations. Getting dressed was simpler; I had less anxiety about wearing the perfect thing as I just had to wear the available thing. There were some bumps, of course, like running out of clean clothes at one point, but overall I was thrilled. I adopted rules for new clothing purchases to help improve the conditions in the garment industry:
- Buy from clothing companies that have a focus on fair wages, fair treatment of workers, and ecologically friendly manufacturing practices.
- Buy clothing that is made well and will last a long time.
- Donate to charities that help the workers in the countries where garments are made if I decide to make a purchase from a fast fashion brand like H&M, Zara, Forever 21, and Primark.
I felt great in my soul, and I loved how I looked – my wardrobe now consisted solely of favourites. Yet upon moving to Dubai, I had a bit of a closet crash-landing. I had very few modest clothes that covered my shoulders and knees. My plan to wear leggings with my shorter dresses just didn’t make me feel like me. Moving to a new country is an emotional process; you feel like your very identity is up in the air, so your wardrobe becomes a central focus of the assimilation process. I wanted to look nice, have respectable clothing options, and feel like myself again, whatever that was going to look like in Dubai.
Cue the shopping.
This process was insane, as the only malls I was familiar with were Mall of the Emirates and the Dubai Mall. The sheer number of retailers was overwhelming, and finding modest clothes that I liked and fit well was a challenge. It was summer, so most stores were not stocking midi skirts or sleeves in abundance. Thanks to the My Gym summer camp my children were attending, I had plenty of time to shop and find some options. It was hard work to follow my shopping rules while not settling on less-than-awesome garments, so I ended up with a few too many garments and a couple of bad buys.
Cut to the present. I am (finally) settled in. I’ve figured out which pieces work best for my life in Dubai, and I shopped just a bit more to inject some fun and complement the solid basics I previously purchased. My “Singapore clothes” are stored away, to be used during summer visits to family in the USA or for travel to other regions. My closet is fixed and I couldn’t be happier. Once again, the process helped me see possible outfits in my possession that I hadn’t considered before, a definite less-is-more situation. My closet is beautifully uncluttered, a peaceful place that combats the early morning stress of child rearing and school runs.
Some things to consider when creating your wardrobe for Dubai:
- Lightweight, breathable fabrics are a must those park visits and garden parties.
- If your school is under construction (aren’t they all?), platform espadrilles and closed shoes in metallic hues hide the dust and dirt nicely and keep your feet from becoming completely filthy.
- Light gray jeans can easily hide the dust from your toddler’s shoes that ends up all over you when you pick them up.
- Focusing on a colour theme can help, especially for paring down the complementing accessories.
- Be sure you have some great, well-made basics, like a white button-down shirt, that will go with everything and be comfortable in the summer climate.
- Buy some camisoles to go under thin t-shirts and blouses. It is hard to find thicker fabrics nowadays, and you can see quite a lot in certain kinds of lighting.
If you are creating a capsule wardrobe for the first time, read my original article to get started. The purging process can be quite emotional and intense, but is completely worth it in the end, as you can read in my follow up article written six weeks later. Bag all the items cut from the squad and store them out of sight instead of donating immediately. If you have serious regrets, you can alter your decisions later.
My capsule wardrobe now contains these 33 items:
- 1 cardigan sweater
- 1 vest
- 3 dresses
- 3 skirts
- 11 shirts
- 5 jeans/trousers
- 6 pairs of shoes
- 3 bags
I am glad my Dubai capsule wardrobe project is over. I can now wander the malls without getting attached to what I see, because I know that something I love must leave my wardrobe if I buy something new. I get far more pleasure now in following fashion Instagrammers like MommyPlaysDressUp and TheFierce_Nay, thinking about the special, perfect piece or two I will add to my wardrobe next season. As John Green said in Paper Towns, “The pleasure isn’t in doing the thing, the pleasure is in planning it.”
Less stress and more joy are yours for the taking. Are you willing to give it a try? Let us know how it goes!