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How short a dress is 'too short' for wearing at UAE malls


Residents of, and tourists to Dubai are being forced to re-evaluate their wardrobe choices, with modesty back on the agenda.

As the debate on a decent dress code in public that meets UAE norms and respects rages, Emirati women have turned to social media platforms to confront what they believe is inappropriate clothing in public areas like malls.

Emirates 24|7 visited the scenes of crime, the malls, to see just what people in the battlefield are wearing and have to say.

"Oh, I might not be the right person to ask," says a Thai lady who turned shy when asked for her opinion about a dress code in malls.

The lady is wearing shorts, high above the knee but just about covering the more private parts of a woman's body. "I guess it is just too hot for me here, and these clothes are very comfortable for this weather."

Kathy, an American woman is not too not shy to show her legs. However, when asked about a dress code also Kathy says, "In Ramadan I do cover up more," she admits.

In fact, nobody seems to lack the understanding.

"I would not feel offended when somebody told me to cover up more," says Kathy. "I try to balance between comfort and consideration of others, but if I am not considerate enough I am willing to change that."

"Anything that is worn to show off private body parts is improper," says Girlie, a Filipino girl working in the mall.

"Anything that is worn to attract," says Abdullah, a tourist from Bahrain.

"Anything that devaluates the woman, and makes her look cheap," says CH, a British resident of Dubai.

According to many, a lot would need to be done to instigate change.

"Right now nobody is really enforcing the rules, and people are pushing their freedom further and further," says Lesley, a British woman who has been living in the UAE for the past 20 years.

"I think I would respond to a fashion-police, but the signs that are in place right now are not very convincing. It is more an announcement, and it does not give me the impression that it really needs to be applied," says the Thai woman.

Naeem Al Balooshi, an Emirati who works at the customer service desk in the Mall of the Emirates says he gets a lot of complaints, especially from local women who feel uncomfortable with the scarcely-dressed mall-goers.

"But what can we do?" In the end, all people are our customers, regardless of what they wear."

Naeem does not believe enforcing the rules would be the right thing to do.

"It is something that should come from people living in another country. They should respect local customs. But if they don't, we cannot force them."

Aliyah and Mariam, two teenage Emiratis agree. "Enforcing the rules is a step too far. As the younger generation, we are open-minded, and we are not that much bothered by it."

According to Naaem, it is mostly residents rather than tourists that tend to cross the fragile line between what is appropriate and what is not.

"I did not know about any dress code, but I deliberately packed my longer dresses to come to Dubai," says Guinevere from South Africa, who is here in vacation.

"I asked my friend what was done and what was not before I came to visit here," says Nina Knaap from the Netherlands.

"I think it is a matter of people following suit. They see that people around them are getting more and more liberal in their clothing, so they think it is OK," says the British Lesley.

[UAE dresscode debate trends on twitter...click here to read more]

According to country-fellow CH, safety plays a role too. "In England, you are much more likely to get harassed when you walk on the streets wearing inappropriate clothes. But the UAE is a very safe country. You will not be bothered that much."

"Security guards should be much stricter on enforcing these rules," finds Girlie, the Filipino girl working in the mall. "Sometimes I find my husband looking at a lady, and I cannot even blame him."

[Click here to read British envoy's advice to expats on UAE dress code]

[Image via Shutterstock]