Are Arab girls losing their Identities?

Jawaher Alharmoodi

Jawaher Alharmoodi wearing a traditional Emirati dress influenced by other traditions (Photo by Jawaher Alharmoodi)

By Jawaher Alharmoodi

Dubai – From embroidered baggy long dresses and black Abayas, to tight boyfriend jeans with off-shoulder tops and colorful Abayas, Arab Gulf women took a big step towards trendy western fashion. They have changed from long black braided hair, to short blonde Ombre hair, and from a very simple black waterline eye makeup to long-winged eyeliner and glittery eye makeup with face highlight and contour.

The influence of the western fashion on Arab Gulf women’s wear was through several ways, such as western celebrities, movies and dramas.  The impact of western fashion trends was also indirect like from westernized Arab Gulf “Fashionistas” publishing their styles through the social media or dubbed Turkish and Korean drama in Arabic on women’s costume and style in the Arab Gulf.

The Arab Gulf countries’ progression attracted many foreign immigrants for living, working, learning and trading.  Migrants brought their culture, traditions, and fashion along with them. Arab people got inspired by foreigners’ dress, and slowly they started affecting the Arab traditions and fashion.  Movies, celebrities, and fashion bloggers have all affected Arab Gulf women’s style.

In the early 80’s was the generation of Diana.  When princess Diana first showed up, all Arab women were influenced by her.  She was the fashion icon for all Arab women.  At that time, ladies in Arab Gulf copied her hairstyle, fashion, and even her wedding dress.  Princess Diana’s beautiful face and fancy simple style have caught everyone’s attention.

Western movies caught the attention of Arab Gulf women, especially the younger generations.  The mass media owners are smart enough to attract the youth to retain them as viewers to make more business. Celebrities go through plastic surgeries, wear fancy dresses, and flawless look to catch the eyes.  They advertise products well to make women say, “Oh! That’s beautiful! I want to be like her” or “Wow! I want that shoes”.

Dubbed Turkish and Korean dramas in Arabic have an enormous influence on Arab women’s style and fashion.  When those dramas were first shown on Arab satellite television channels, Arab Gulf women watched them because they were new and different.  By the time people got addicted to them, not only to the series, but also to their style and traditions.  Young Arab Gulf women got attracted by the beautiful Turkish and Korean actresses, their flawless fancy style and started to copy them.  Those women started racing for fashion by following other foreign celebrities’ fashion and trends.

Brands became like a marathon race.  Ladies do not buy a product they like, but they buy it because they want to be the first ones to have it. Or they want it because everyone else has it.

Abayas also have changed throughout time. Every few months there is a new trend. In the past Abayas were very baggy, hard to move with and not so practical.  Year by year it became smaller and shorter with brighter colors, distinctive designs and cuts. Some Abayas’ designs were inspired by other country’s dresses.  Kimono Abaya was inspired by the Japanese traditional wear, which is known by “Kimono”.

When social media began, almost all girls’ search history is about fashion and makeup.  Everyone started being interested in makeup and style. Each girl wants to be a fashion icon to inspire everyone else.

The number of fashion bloggers on social media or what we call them “Fashionistas” is rapidly increasing year by year in the Arab Gulf countries.  They are being the ideal source for advertising.  Promoting products through social media has been a big business in the Arab Gulf countries.  Each fashion blogger uses their own ways of being socially loved by people through their personality, style and lifestyle.

People and especially women get easily affected by others.  Fashion trends change annually. Young women started wearing jeans instead of the long traditional dress and they started wearing makeup in an early age.

The intercultural relations between the Arab Gulf countries and western countries are leaving a huge effect on Arab traditions, style and fashion. Although the Arabic identity should never disappear, it must get some fashion inspiration from diverse countries.

It is very clear there is a massive impact of both the traditional and new media on women’s fashion in the Arab Gulf countries.  To preserve the tradition and modernize it at the same time, there must be more indigenous fashion designers that can mix between multi-cultures with the original one.  The Arab Gulf drama should play more vital role in promoting these kinds of designs, especially among young Arab Gulf women.


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