Business is a year round occupation and will often send you to far flung destinations any time of the year, where different cultures and climates call for a serious wardrobe rethink. If you find yourself booked on a summer work trip to the Middle East, you need to not only be prepared for some serious heat but also adopt a more conservative approach to your attire in order to respect the local culture and religion.
With sweltering highs of 45°C in Dubai and Abu Dhabi during the summer months, you may feel the need to strip off and expose some flesh. But with legal guidelines outlining acceptable attire, this is really not an option. Yes there is air conditioning pretty much everywhere, but this in itself is another wardrobe obstacle to meander. Mediating between 45°C outside and 16°C inside, plays havoc with your wardrobe choices, not to mention your system (you may take a cold home with you rather than a tan).
So what are the do’s and don’t and what should you pack for a business trip to the Middle East?
While a lot of hype surrounds respectable clothing for women in the Middle East, do not worry, you won’t need a whole new wardrobe, just a modest selection of your existing wardrobe should do the job. As a mark of respect and to play it safe when dressing for business purposes, stick to the following:
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• Go for skirts or dresses that are knee length or below.
• Trousers and suits are more than acceptable.
• Avoid low cut necklines.
• Choose tops that cover your shoulders and upper arms, or wear a jacket.
• Steer away from sheer fabrics.
• Stow a pashmina in your tote – ideal to cover up in the fierce AC.
• Don’t be afraid to accessorise.
shoes: Gianvito Rossi, shirt: James Perse, sunglasses: Saint Laurent, trousers: Miu Miu, bag: Michael Kors
If you are meeting with locals, they will wear either local dress (a dish dash for men and an abaya for women) or western clothes. Even though the women’s traditional abaya is black, light colours are much cooler in the heat, so stay away from black and do not be afraid of bright colour, patterns and print.
shoes: Rupert Sanderson, bag: Michael Kors, sunglasses: Illevesta , t-shirt: Erdem, skirt: Tomas Maier
For ease, bring one large versatile, light hued tote as well as a smaller shoulder bag for the evening. If you are socialising with clients out of office hours, again be respectful but don’t be afraid to dress up. While you might not always see the local women’s fashion sense, in general, they love to dress up, so go to town with your style, shoes, bags and accessories.
Even in the heat, a suit is still the done thing. But your favourite suit may need to stay at home – it depends on the fabric. In hot and humid climates, lightweight suits are the only option.
Blue suit: Burberry London, white shirt: Gucci, tie: Paul Smith, shoes: Edward Green
Choose suits that are made from breathable lightweight fabrics such as cotton, seersucker or a silk and linen blend (linen creases easily) and make sure you shirts are cotton or cotton poplin, not polyester. Light colours such as grey and baby clue are ideal as they will reflect the light and a single breasted unlined jacket will keep you coolest.
Grey suit: Calvin Klein Collection, blue shirt: Gucci, tie: Charvet, shoes: Paul Smith
Where to shop in Dubai and Abu Dhabi
If you arrive feeling under-armed in the wardrobe department there are some great boutiques in Dubai and Abu Dhabi...
If time is short and ease of shopping top of the agenda, Boutique 1 (in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi) is the one-stop shop for all your business needs with top designer names (as well as local designers), RTW, shoes, bags, accessories and even a beauty counter. They have a menswear department too.
With stores in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi, S*uce is bursting with eccentric, eclectic and contemporary designs from local designers including Essa, Zayan The Label and Dinz as well as big international names.
As well as the usual designer names found the big malls, Grafika near Dalma Mall in Abu Dhabi is a fab little find with a great selection of unique pieces and accessories.