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What Is Dubai Chic? Defining Dubai Fashion
Dubai Style - What It Is & How To Wear It
Dubai is one of the world’s most interesting cities - it influences art, design, policy, and of course, fashion. The world looks to Dubai for the latest fashions, which has left a unique mark on the industry with its vibrant culture. We’re taking a deep dive into the elements that define Dubai fashion trends and the must-have items for looking fab in the world’s trendiest city.
What Makes Dubai Different?
One of the main things that make Dubai fashion so different from other fashion hot spots like Paris and Milan is the overarching culture of the country. The United Arab Emirates is traditionally Muslim, and those values affect all aspects of life in Dubai and other Emirates. However, the dress code in the UAE, and particularly Dubai, is a lot laxer than it might be in neighbouring countries, resulting in an unmistakable blend of traditional styles, modern modesty, and eclectic streetwear elements.
Modesty rules in Dubai vary depending on the location - rules for beaches aren’t the same as rules for marketplaces or mosques, for example. In general, your wardrobe should not include:
- Extremely tight clothing
- Transparent clothing
- Anything that has an offensive image or words on it
- Anything that shows off too much cleavage or underwear
- Any bottoms that fall above the knee
Public places such as hotels and mosques will typically have dress code guidelines available. If you’re concerned about what to pack when you visit Dubai, we suggest you check out our dress code tips for tourists.
Modest But Contemporary
The main rule governing Dubai fashion is modesty, but that doesn’t mean that you have to wear drab or frumpy things. Instead, modish elegance is at the forefront - it’s time for bright fabrics, elegant drapes, and glittering accessories. It’s a great time to explore more avant-garde styles like puffed shoulders, long bell sleeves, flowing trousers in wide leg or harem styles, and luxurious fabrics.
The trick for creating modest outfits that are still Dubai chic is to shift what you emphasise - choose pieces that have their own uniqueness and suit your personal style whilst being discerning in how much of your sun kissed skin you’re showing. Embrace statement accessories like chunky necklaces, rings, and earrings to add extra interest to your outfits, and experiment!
A unique facet of Dubai fashion that holds religious and cultural significance is the headscarf, also known as a hijab. While visitors and non-Muslim women aren’t required to wear them in most of Dubai’s public spaces, many mosques and religious sites require them. Additionally, they’re a great way to keep cool and protect your scalp and face from the sun if you’re tired of wearing a hat! Headscarves can make for an amazing fashion accessory, and we love how versatile they can be. Check out our how-to guide for multiwear scarf inspiration.
If you’re unsure how to wear a hijab, here’s a tutorial to get you started - we recommend packing at least one scarf if you’re planning on visiting any of Dubai’s breathtaking religious sites or taking day trips to more conservative regions of the UAE.
Fashion Influences In Dubai
Far from being behind the times, Dubai is a major influential city in the world of fashion. Home to jet-setting events like Dubai Fashion Week 4 times per year, Dubai sets the tone for streetwear worldwide.
Many of Dubai’s high-fashion pieces are influenced by traditional cultural styles from the area. From luxury abayas to headscarves in every colour and pattern you can imagine, Dubai’s cultural heritage is a significant component of the area’s unique style. Historic motifs are constantly being honoured and repurposed in Dubai’s fashion climate - elaborate patterns of linework and florals that echo the decoration in some of the city’s historic architecture are always in vogue.
Intricate lacework and hand-embroidery were historical symbols of status, and this carries through to Dubai’s most fashionable residents with an emphasis on delicate details and artisanal fabrics. Even visitors can embrace these gorgeous looks, and we highly recommend trying something new!
Another major facet of fashion in Dubai is luxury - the UAE is one of the world’s wealthiest countries, and major luxury brands are often seen on the streets of Dubai. Designer accessories and shoes are often paired with traditional clothing to create a high-end twist on modesty and elegance that is unmistakably Dubai. Avoid cheap details if you can - Dubai fashion is defined by high-end materials and impeccable craftsmanship. Think Swarovski crystals, not sequins.
Defined By The Desert
The UAE has a desert climate - temperatures can climb as high as 52 degrees Celsius in the warmest months, and temperatures are known to drop significantly once the sun goes down. As a result, Dubai’s fashionistas always take the weather into account, resulting in a series of unique trends. Dressing in fabrics that are too heavy or clothing that is too dark or restrictive can spell disaster on the streets of Dubai - loose fabrics like linen and cotton are the way to go!
- Opt for lighter neutrals like white, tan, beige, and khaki, especially if you’re planning on being outside.
- Sweat-wicking fabrics like terry cloth, linen, and cotton are great for keeping you cool and comfortable all day long!
- Hats and headscarves are a must - no one wants heatstroke or a sunburned scalp!
- Avoid heavy fabrics like corduroy and velvet during the day - they’ll trap heat and sweat against your skin!
- If you’re not toting sunblock in your bag and applying throughout the day, you’re doing it wrong.
- Treat your water bottle like an accessory - buy one that matches your favourite bag and carry it everywhere to stay hydrated.
What To Wear In Dubai
Now that we’ve given you a rundown on Dubai’s unique style, we’re giving you some of our favourite outfits for different occasions around the city! Here are our best Dubai outfits ideas.
Dresses are an excellent option for daytime looks in Dubai fashion - not only are there endless options that are both modest and chic, but they’re also fantastic for keeping cool! We love the Norma Dress by Love Shack Fancy for a sweet daytime vibe - the flowy short sleeves and square neckline are cute while being appropriate for Dubai’s public spaces, and the maxi length is so elegant! It’s made from hand-dyed cotton, so you’ll be cool and cute all day long.
A cottagecore essential like this dress begs to be paired with a floppy sun hat! Try the Siena Clasico Wide Brim Hat from Artesano - the tie-dye band detail adds a touch of whimsy to an otherwise staple piece that will keep you looking adorable while protecting you from the Dubai sun. Add a pair of strappy sandals, cute flats, and a handbag, and get ready to explore!
Retail Therapy Babe
Dubai is home to some of the largest and best malls in the world, and their frosty air conditioning requires some cool outfit choices. The Eudora Pants from Meiling are the ultimate trousers for a day at the mall - their straight-leg design never goes out of style and looks good on a wide variety of body types. They’re made from 100% linen, so you won’t overheat even if you decide to venture out of the mall and into some of Dubai’s famous street markets.
Straight-legged pants pair beautifully with high-necked tops like the Lumiere Body Maillot from Oseree. A high-necked top (or bodysuit, in this case) creates a sleek silhouette and is flattering for women of all shapes and bust sizes. The subtle glittering fabric of this piece and the smoothing effect of the bodysuit make it an essential for any Dubai fashionista. Pair it with a layered necklace (try this Turquoise Layering Necklace from Beach Jewellery) and a shawl or light jacket for a fabulous day of retail therapy in Dubai’s chic malls.
Chic At The Mosque
Dubai’s mosques and religious sites are absolutely breathtaking, and they’re an essential part of Dubai’s culture. Visiting these places requires the utmost respect and modesty, but that doesn’t mean you have to look drab while there. Most mosques require women who enter to wear a headscarf - we recommend a piece like the Large Square Scarf from Camilla. Black goes with everything, but this scarf also features crystal embellishments that turn it into an elevated fashion statement.
We recommend you cover yourself from your neck to your wrists to your ankles while visiting mosques and other religious sites. So, maxi dresses are the perfect solution for looking fashionable while remaining respectful. The Dundas Blue Dress from Miss June is a great choice - its long sleeves and ankle-length skirt provide the right amount of coverage, and the gorgeous floral embroidery pattern will make you feel like a piece of art! Pair it with sensible flats, and you’re ready to experience the awe-inspiring beauty of Dubai’s mosques!
Made For The Night Life
Dubai’s nightlife is notorious - it’s often referred to as the Las Vegas of the UAE. We follow the anything goes as long as it's glam rule. Feel free to show off styles you might not wear on the streets during the day. Backless minis, plunging v necks and curve hugging bodycon dresses are ever present in Dubai nightclubs.
A slit skirt is a must-have in any girl’s wardrobe - it’s the perfect blend of elegant and sexy, and you can pair it with all sorts of things to create hundreds of different looks. The Fauna Skirt from Flook the Label is a great place to start - its high-waisted cut and flowing floor-length bamboo fabric make it a dreamy piece that looks good on anyone! Pair it with a cropped top or bodysuit for a gorgeous night-out look (we recommend the Double Crossed Top from Palm Collective for a unique streetwear ensemble).