Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Dressing Up In Abu Dhabi

My new favorite dress is one my dear Emirati friend (called Sunshine here) picked out for me. Actually Sunshine picked it out for herself, but it "needs a taller person," she said as she handed it to me in a shop in Abu Dhabi the other day.

It is a clingy, short-sleeved, knit dress in pink, black, and white. It has a deep v-neck in front and back, and it goes to the knee. Much sexier than my usual style. I could easily imagine an Emirati lady wearing this dress with her female friends; the women of the Gulf whom I've met are deeply feminine and stylish and love to dress up. But I wasn't sure I had the nerve to wear this kind of dress in my mixed-gender social gatherings.

Now our cultural style differences were confronting me head-on.

"I think it's too small," I said.

"Try it on," she said. Sunshine was covered -as usual when in public - in one of her elegant black abayas and shaylas.

I did. The dress was lovely, but I couldn't see wearing it further than my living room: it hugged my torso like a super-long girdle. The deep v-neck seemed to show more of me than any bathing suit I'd ever owned.

I opened the dressing-room door just a crack to show Sunshine, who was waiting patiently. She looked me over with her lovely dark eyes.

"Beautiful. Buy it," she said.

I bought it, not wanting to hurt Sunshine's feelings. But I'm glad I did: I wore it last night, to a fancy cocktail party on the water at a beautiful Abu Dhabi hotel. It was a perfect evening, weatherwise, and noone seemed scandalized by my attire, be he Emirati or westerner.

In the end, it seemed the perfect dress for a party in a cosmopolitan city.

Perhaps I'm advancing from merely admiring the stylish people around me to gaining the confidence to be stylish myself. The Abu Dhabi adventure continues.

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