Offering high temperatures all year round, buzzing nightlife, luxury shopping and world-class architecture, it’s hard not to appreciate the appeal of Dubai for a sun-filled break.
And as you pack for a break in the largest, most dazzling city in the United Arab Emirates (where Islam is the predominant religion), you might suddenly experience a moment of panic about what sort of clothing is and isn’t appropriate to pack. Are the denim cutoffs and Bardot tops you favour in say, Spain, modest and respectful enough for Dubai? Do you even need to be mindful of covering up?
We’re weren’t sure either, so we enlisted the help of former London fashion editor Catherine Nieto, who has swapped the big smoke for Dubai’s sunsets and skyscrapers. Now content marketing manager at luxury e-tailer Ounass, she can shed a bit of light on Dubai’s dress code and how to feel like a local in the city’s fun fashion scene.
Firstly, It's Not as Strict as You Might Think
“I think people have a false impression of Dubai,” says Nieto, “It’s not as strict as you might think, especially for holidaymakers who will be in less formal environments. Standard beach attire goes at public beaches, but if you’re grabbing an ice-cream or some lunch at a nearby beach café, you are required to put on a cover-up (i.e., no walking the streets in swimwear even if you’re a stone’s throw from the sea). Beach clubs and hotel resorts can be more relaxed.”
But It's Important to Be Mindful of Local Values
In malls, hotels and airports (where tourists and locals mix), Nieto avoids hemlines above the knee and off-the-shoulder styles. She advises to “leave your Daisy Dukes at home if you’re hitting the shops or going for a nice lunch." If you visit a mosque, you’ll need a headscarf (though they have them on hand for tourists to wear).
So the Best Things to Pack Are…
Lightweight jumpsuits and midi dresses are ideal for daytime if you’re seeing the sights, but for a day at the beach or night out, Dubai is just like any other city.
And Actually, You Should Be Really Aware Of…
Air con. “The best tip a friend gave me when I moved over was about the insane air con in the malls. Cinemas, the metro and some restaurants feel subzero, especially in the summer, so I tend to bring a light layer (pyjama-style blazer or khaki shirt) with me if I know I’m going to spend time indoors,” says Nieto.
Other Than That, Anything Goes
One of Catherine’s favourite things about Dubai is how “you could be having dinner in a restaurant and a woman could walk in wearing a ball gown and no one would bat an eyelid, but you could also go for fancy cocktails in cut-off jeans and the comfiest tee and no one cares. In other words—anything goes!”
Shop chic layers and cover-ups for your Dubai holiday below.
This midi-length jumpsuit will take you seamlessly from day to night.
A cheap and cheerful cover-up to roll into your beach bag.
Speaking of beach bags, this one’s topping our list.
A heavy shirt—or better still, a shacket—is what Nieto recommends to beat the air con that’s found indoors.
Don’t forget to pack some zingy shades.
This luxe kaftan is practical and cool.