What To Wear – In Dubai

What can you wear in Dubai? Don’t you have to be covered?

I get asked this question all the time – Traveling to the Middle East & figuring out what’s appropriate for women.

I’ve previously written about women in the Middle East, and what it was like to live there as a woman… But this post is more for your vacation plans.  No need to get down in the nitty gritty of women’s clothing in the Middle East when you’re there on vacation.

I’ll start with saying, you can wear pretty close to anything you want, especially if you stick to the tourist locations. (<– which you should)

Dubai was created for tourism – locals know you’ll be wearing clothes you’re comfortable in & completely expect you to.

The only time I ever HAD to wear clothing that covered my body was going into a government center to process paperwork.  You likely won’t be going anywhere like that while on vacation and if you do, wear pants and a shirt with sleeves. That’s it.

The one place on my list that will require you to wear an Abaya, is the Grand Mosque. This is Muslim’s place of worship – OF COURSE you will be required to dress accordingly.

You can borrow an Abaya when you arrive, they’re very accommodating.  (You might even be able to borrow an abaya from your hotel – which would be awesome, then you can style it before you leave.  Sounds like an amenity that would be likely in Dubai hotels LOL!)

As far as The Dubai Mall, Dubai Marina Beach, your hotel, the desert safari, or any other items on my list.. You’ll be able to wear whatever you want.

I was watching the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills when they went to Dubai and noticed those ladies LOVED wearing the bright, colorful, kaftans…

You can do that if you want to, but none of the locals will be wearing them.  That style would be more for fun than anything else.  You might find an Arab woman wearing those extravagant kaftan’s at an engagement party, but absolutely not walking around the city.

{And did you know Muslims wear the black abaya because it’s discrete and doesn’t draw attention to themselves?  I wanted to point that out because I wasn’t sure if the housewives thought they were fitting in with their flashy robes, instead they managed to do quite the opposite… hehe}

Obviously, a little more conservative than normal, is the way to go.  More to be respectful than anything else.  I always did my best to play the conservative side, even though I didn’t necessarily have to.

But there’s nothing to be afraid of while you’re in Dubai.  WORST case scenario, a mall cop will ask you to change into pants.. LOL!  (Imagine?)

One time I saw this girl walking around Dubai Marina Mall and her entire ass was on full display (I’m not sure if it was shorts or a thong she was wearing).  I don’t think the mall cop told her to put pants on, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

Below is a list with a few options I would wear in Dubai today:


What to wear in Dubai


What To Wear When Vacationing In Dubai

1. Express Cami Bodysuit

You will do no wrong with a shirt & jeans <—  A perfect go-to outfit while you’re in Dubai.  With bodysuits on trend,  a nice jean, and a shawl on the side – your outfit will look perfectly tied together & Dubai appropriate.

2. Topshop Skinny Jeans

I love white, it’s no secret, but I especially love a nice, white skinny jean.  They look rich.  I even own a few wide leg white pants that I’m really loving lately.  White goes with the desert orange of Dubai so well, I would feel comfortable wearing white pants to any outing. The other benefit to white pants is that you’ll feel comfortable with the amount of coverage they offer & style, but still have a vacation, ocean vibe. Make sense?

3. Waterfall Cardigan 

A cardigan is a staple item to have with you most of the time you’re on vacation in Dubai.  There are 2 reasons.  1) It can be very warm outside, even in the winter, but it can also be very air conditioned inside.  Having a cardigan in your purse is handy so you can quickly wrap up in the cold A/C.  2)  If you ever end up somewhere and feel like there’s a huge flashing tourist card stuck to your forehead, throw on a cardigan.  I became used to feeling like a tourist, and people excepted me as one, but I always had a cardigan w/me for those few times I was wanting to blend in as much as possible.  One second you’re on the beach w/all your tourist friends, next second you’re inside a restaurant filled entirely with locals – you catch my drift?

4. Crop Top and Wide Leg Trousers

If you don’t want to ride the Housewives train for your evening outfit – I think a wide leg pant and a crop top or body suit would win the game.  It doesn’t always have to be about skin or vibrant kaftans.  Even a black version of the above would look very sophisticated, like you know what you’re doing in Dubai.  Sleek, sexy, covered, and professional.  It’s a regular thing on your yearly calendar – these Dubai vacations, and people can tell. Rawr!

5. Cashmere Travel Wrap

A large scarf is kind of my travel advice for any destination, especially Dubai.  I always had my cardigan or a large scarf in the event the A/C was pumping, there was a strong breeze, or I walked into a very local shopping mall 🙂

6. Ruffle Front Maxi Dress

To get your Kaftan cravings in! A flowy, hot color can still work in Dubai without looking like you’re filming an American television show.  If you decide to take out a boat, or eat dinner by the water or beach, a flowy dress is calling your name!  And why not make it as vibrant as you can?

7. Embellished Caftan Dress

I thought this kaftan or this shirt would look great over a pair of white jeans for the desert safari day… Like I said, white looks so pretty in pictures against the orange palette of the desert, and a flowy top in the wind? <— You’ll nail all your photo ops while out in the sand dunes.  I only recommend pants in the desert as opposed to a long maxi dress like the above, because then you can comfortably sit on the ground when you eat, ride a camel, or a hit the sand dunes in a 4-runner.  Comfort > looks?

8. Fallon Shalom Choker and Tory Burch Fitbit-Case Double Wrap Bracelet 

Don’t spend time trying to be over the top glamorous as far as your outfits are concerned, Dubai goes hard on the jewelry + accessories.  We’re talking necklaces, rings, watches, shoes, purses, and any accessory you can think of!   That’s where you want to shine.   If you every wanted to experiment, give it a try in Dubai.  Dress up your average outfit with some shiny pieces.  Or buy new pieces while you’re there indulging in all the pretty shopping malls!

9. Christian Louboutin So Kate Pump 

Similar to jewelry, shoes are what people watchers are looking at.  And there are plenty of people watchers. If you ever needed a reason to go for the fancy shoes, now is the time! (You can blame me)

I also threw in additional options below…

Remember, it’s hot! White & neutrals shine for your photo ops. Fancy black is sleek & sexy.  Play up an average outfit with accessories AND conservative is always safest.


+ See post on living as an expat 6 months: here and 1 year later: here
++ Dubai Vacation Itinerary: Here
+++ Women & Safety in Dubai: Here

Shop Dubai Appropriate Here:

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