Emirati women are known to be some of the most traditionally attired women in the Gulf. Most of them still maintain the wearing of the "abaya" and head scarf, even though they could be wearing skinny jeans and a grungy shredded sweater under it. Many times, these abayas are slightly slit to reveal the different Western-style fashion that influences the modern Emirati woman.
These women dress the same way in their hometown as they do when traveling to the trendiest European capitals. But while they are ever more attuned to international fashion trends, they still maintain a strong hold of their cultural roots.
Latifa Al Shamsi, owner of the Emirati street style blog of the same name, started photographing and posting outfit photos of friends and family not so long ago, with the aim of exposing the local women's fashionable outfits.
Al Shamsi sets about educating the public about her fellow female fashionistas sense of style. As she puts it, "I believe that many [Emiratis] used to think that wearing brands head-to-toe is fashionable but I see more and more girls moving away from that perception."
We chatted with Latifa to find out more about the blend of modern vs. tradition, the women from her country and what fashion (and style) means to them.
How would you describe Emirati women's style?
It would be wrong of me to categorize the style of Emirati girls; it definitely varies from girl to girl. Each individual is unique; therefore each has their own unique style. But I would say that the "abaya" is a big part of the style of Emirati girls.
Emirati women are known for dressing in the traditional abaya. How hard is it to express themselves fashionably yet still wear one?
The abaya is only an obstacle if one makes it to be one. I believe that the abaya does present a challenge but that is what styling and fashion is all about. This challenge pushes Emirati women to be more creative in their selection and design of Abayas. Fashion is all about challenging yourself to the best in whatever you wear.
Do you think the abaya will fade soon from the UAE, like in some of the other Khaleeji countries?
No not really, it is not only a traditional garment anymore; it’s a fashion statement. They have become as important as jeans are to the west.
When it comes to fashion trends, what has been the most popular one in the Emirati fashion scene so far?
I have to say the leggings and jeggings are very in. Also, you see so many big bags such as Birkins.
What do you think sets the Emirati woman apart from others in the region?
It is definitely the Abaya designs. I can pinpoint Emiratis from Kuwaitis, Qataris and Saudis from their Abayas.
What are some common misconceptions about Emirati women and the way they dress?
I think it’s that people think Emirati women only will wear designer names from head to toe and are not fashion educated about what’s in and what’s not.
What do you think has been the biggest influence on the Emirati street-style so far?
The media played a big role in the change of the fashion scene in the UAE and particularly in Dubai.
– Alya N. Al-Othman
Images courtesy of Latifa Al Shamsi