How to Dress for Business in the UAE

Most lifestyle bloggers at some stage do a version of the capsule wardrobe or function – specific wardrobe. I’ve not come across any that helps those of us living, working and doing business in the ME. 

The UAE is one country but each Emirate is very different to the other. There are seven emirates but most people only know of the two: Abu Dhabi and Dubai. 

Think of Abu Dhabi as the older, more staid and conservative sister. The other emirates follow her lead. Dubai is the younger, cooler sister with a more easygoing personality. Your business wardrobe should reflect the Emirate you’re based in. 

Abu Dhabi

When I started 13 years ago the adage was, “From the neckbone to the wrist, to the ankle.” 

Things have eased up somewhat, but not by much. The capital city has a very ordered and conservative air. Business casual is not a thing, so err on the side of modesty.

I always wear a midi or maxi skirt, or wide leg trousers with a light sleeveless blouse shell top and a jacket or cardigan. Shoes are always closed toe. Sandals  and “naked” feet may cause offense. If you choose to wear a dress, find one that is midi or maxi in length and sleeveless. Just pop a blazer over it and you’re done! I love dresses for it’s ease of dressing – the ultimate in one piece dressing.

Accessories should be kept dainty and minimal. Think small earrings, a good watch and perhaps a pendant necklace. Hey, I did say it was conservative didn’t I? Keep colours neutral in black, grey, and navy. The one area I always play around with in Abu Dhabi is my workbag. I have an oxblood red Birkin lookalike, that prevents my personality from totally melting into the overheated pavements!

Abu Dhabi Conservative: all items from Marks and Spencer’s S/S 2017 Collection

Dubai

Time to have fun! I’ve seen women wear pretty outlandish outfits in business meetings in Dubai! Sequinned jackets with pencil skirts or logo t- shirts with leather pencil skirts and sky high pumps are a sort of business uniform in the city that never sleeps. 

I still tend to the modest way of dressing but play around with fabric, style  and colour a lot more in Dubai. I even go sleeveless if meeting with an international client as opposed to a local one. But I always have a light jacket anyway because the AC will kill you! 

I live in my sheath dresses, wrap dresses and pencil skirts when hustling in Dubai. I keep an eye on trends when dressing for Dubai since it is very trendy and modern and it’s almost expected, if you know what I mean? You don’t want to appear frumpy or out of touch in Dubai! 

Pretty much anything goes but use your common sense. Don’t wear the see through blouse without a cami. Don’t wear 4 inch heels if you’re going to be standing while doing a presentation. Block heels are a lifesaver and come in lovely sandals as well. Open toes are not so frowned upon but a pedicure is a must. In fact good grooming is a must in all the Emirates! 

Accessories can be bold but tasteful. Don’t be distracting your client with multiple clinking, clanking bracelets or swinging chandelier earrings. A bold watch is a must do. I love my Juicy Couture gold men’s style watch and white Chanel watch for this. Someone is going to comment on your watch. Dubai has a thing for good timepieces! 

Dubai Bold: all items from Zara’s S/S 2017 collection
The difference is telling, no? Keep it classy and you’ll be fine. 

This is by no means the de facto guide to what to wear in the UAE but please do consider it your guide. Let me know what you think in the comments. 

Until next I blog, 

K.

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