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Lezley George

Published date
27 Jun 2018

Deconstructing Fashion Identities: Dress Codes, Modesty and Fashion Practices in the UAE

London College of Fashion

This research focuses on the changing cultural factors that shape fashion identity and practices in the Gulf Region today, looking primarily at how the abaya, the national dress of the UAE, interfaces with the global fashion market. Seen as an outerwear garment, originating from the local traditions of the Gulf Peninsula, this garment has become the embodiment of national identity for Emirati women. The process of ‘fashionalization’ (Polhemus and Proctor, 1978) of the abaya has resulted in different connotations of individual style, modesty, ethnicity and status.

Frequently, focus is placed on the symbolism of the veil when Islamic dress is discussed and this research is often situated within non-Muslim majority societies. I want to redress this by investigating the influence that the fashionable abaya has on the other areas of the fashion system in the UAE by examining the multiple roles the abaya plays in defining identity; relational identities with in different contexts, groups and spaces.

Gender segregation in Islamic cultures creates a division of dress styles between public and private domains and therefore influences fashion production and consumption practices. In the public space of the shopping mall, abaya-wearing women shop for luxury and international fashion brands. This is counterbalanced by the private world of villa shopping, for bespoke abaya and eveningwear design. My research will investigate how these different fashion systems co-exist and contribute to the identity and development of this emergent fashion market.


Professor Reina Lewis

Dr Agnès Rocamora

Dr Anthony Sullivan