Fashionable Stereotypes and Evolving Trends in the United Arab Emirates

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Abayas, predominantly stereotyped as religious and conservative outfits, have experienced a significant transformation in the last few years in the Middle East, shifting from a plain and demure garment that signified tradition, to a style statement symbolizing grace, elegance, and charm. In this study, we examine women’s dress practices in the United Arab Emirates in an attempt to investigate how the clash between conventional religious modesty and modernity displays different forms of consumption behavior toward the abaya. To explore the transformations of the local traditional wear (the abaya) in the UAE, this study used a mix of two forms of qualitative studies: focus groups and in-depth interviews. This paper focuses on developing a better understanding of the key transformation triggers regarding the globally stereotyped garment—the abaya. Given the importance of abayas in Islamic markets, the research derives the reasons for the local transformation and the change in consumers’ perception of abayas. Based on the research findings, this paper coins the term “Fashion Motivator Moment of Truth” that describes the locals’ need for change, integration, self-expression, and need to stay up-to-date. These motivators are shaping consumers’ consumption behavior of abayas, which, depending on what social occasion, result in consumers requiring four types of abayas: (1) trendy and comfortable, (2) practical and conservative, (3) trendy and unique, and (4) special and premium.

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Correspondence to Zahy B. Ramadan.

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Ramadan, Z.B., Mrad, M. Fashionable Stereotypes and Evolving Trends in the United Arab Emirates. Cust. Need. and Solut. 4, 28–36 (2017).

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  • Abaya
  • Islamic fashion
  • Consumption
  • Stereotype
  • UAE
  • Culture