When I looked into Dubai ahead of my first trip I was completely baffled at what it was okay to wear and not to wear. Since visiting a few times and now living here as an expat I have a much better handle on things. What you can wear will certainly depend on where you are going and what you are doing as the tourist places almost have a completely different dress code to local Dubai. This mostly applies to women, however, there are a few changes men may need to make too. Let’s get started.
What to Wear in Dubai
The best practice is to cover your knees and shoulders
As a general rule and if you don’t want to offend anyone then covering your knees and shoulders is the best way to go whether you are male or female. This means no vests or spaghetti strap tops and no super short shorts. Now if you don’t abide by this I’m not saying you will be removed from the place or arrested. Nothing like that, but by following this simple guide you are less likely to offend anyone or be refused entry into somewhere. I would always ensure you follow these rules in places you’ll find many locals such as the malls, supermarkets, cinema or Bur Dubai In general, if you’re heading to the beach, pool or similar then it’s okay to not have your shoulders and knees covered.
The only time I’ve found you’ll be asked to wear local dress and be full covered up is if you choose to visit a mosque. This is true for both the Jumeriah Mosque in Dubai and the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. Normally, if this is the case then the clothing is provided free of charge for you to borrow. If you’re heading to a mosque that is less touristy then it might be advisable to wear long trousers and take a scarf to cover your head if asked.
If in doubt dress conservative
On the odd occasion I’ve thought ‘is this outfit appropriate?’ then that normally means I’m feeling a little unsure. When these situations arise I always change into something I’m more comfortable with. I am the sort of person that would never want to offend someone with my choice of clothing so would much rather go conservative. You’ll become a better judge of what feels comfortable to be in as you spend time in the city and return to spots over and over but if it’s my first time I always make sure I’m being respectful.
Despite being a city on the beach, beach attire tends to not be accepted anywhere but the beach and this can also be true for flip flops too. If you’re planning to head somewhere else after the beach (especially the mall or a fancy restaurant) then be sure to have some more suitable clothes with you. There’s nothing worse than being turned away from that nice restaurant because you still have you bikini and flip flops on.
My biggest problem in Dubai is the air con, whether it’s a restaurant or the shopping mall I find that it hits me instantly. Due to this I tend to always cover up my shoulders and knees as a way to keep myself a little bit warmer in these places. If I’ve not got something that covers both then I always have a scarf in my bag to wrap around me and help keep that chilly air off my skin.
I’ve gone on and on about dressing conservatively and being respectful but what does that actually look like in terms of clothes?
One of my favourite items of clothing to wear in Dubai is a midi-skirt, not only does it cover my knees but it also keeps me cool during those hot summer months. The pleated midi-skirts are the best for this as they are floaty and let the air through your legs. They are easy to put with a cute tee that covers the shoulders to make it completely Dubai Friendly.
My second favourite item of clothing is a long dress, this could either be a midi or a maxi but let’s be honest most are maxi on this little person. I tend to choose dresses that cover both my knee and my shoulder but if this isn’t possible then I try to make sure I have at least on of those aspects. I’m also careful with the neckline of dresses I wear and try to not choose anything that is ridiculously low cut.
Jumpsuits are great for Dubai especially in the hot weather because they’ll stop your hot, sweaty legs from sticking together. Typically most have longer legs of them that cover at least to your knees also making them a good choice. The only thing I tend to find with jumpsuits is that they don’t always cover your shoulders. My trick for this is to just carry a scarf to pop over if you feel you need it.
For any Dubai expats I thought I’d just add a little bit about work wear. Typically in Dubai work wear is very smart, my husband goes to work in a full suit everyday and I tend to always have a dress and heels on. Throughout Dubai you’ll also find that work wear is quite a fashionable affair too, so make sure you’re happy with the items in your wardrobe or you might end up feeling like the scruff of the office even if that wouldn’t be the case in the UK. Again at work it is even more important to ensure your shoulders and knees are covered.
Still got questions about what to wear? Pop them in the comments and I’ll get back to you.
Want to read more about Dubai? Check out these posts.
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