The fashion industry in the Middle East area is prominent in its own right. Clothing not only defines a person’s personality, but also their origin and socioeconomic status.

The choice of dress, such as hijabs or jilbabs, also symbolises the region’s core moral character. Men are dressed in keffiyehs and long tunics. Their clothing reflects a wide range of cultures and religious beliefs. The attire is also mostly determined by the climate of the location. The long white and loose clothing, for example, are to keep them cool in the hot environment, and have now become a part of their identity.

Fashion in the Middle East is a complicated reality in which western trends coexist with local traditions. However, in other countries, western fashion is still forbidden by the government, and individuals are forced to dress according to the government’s standards, such as women being forced to wear hijabs, limiting their independence. The citizens have no option but to observe these regulations since violating them will result in a punishment.

Middle East Fashion market

The Fashion industry in the MENA region has accomplished a worth of 55 billion dollars. The spending amount of the people in this region is estimated to be double compared to countries like the US and China who have a higher population count. The region is filled with opportunities for a bigger market with an intriguing mix of western and cultural fashion.

Type of Clothing

Clothing in the Middle East region has its cultural importance. The women have their traditional attire that includes:

Hijab, Salwar, even an Abaya and niqab.

The men’s fashion includes keffiyeh and long tunics, Sifrah Glider that is especially worn by Emirati and Arab men, also Kanduoura, Agaal and Bisht.

Clothing restrictions for women

In the Middle East, women are specifically dressed to cover their full body while travelling outdoors following their religious custom. Their clothing includes Abaya, a black overgarment or Hijab and sometimes Burqa.

Though in some countries in the Middle East region, women are given the freedom in choosing their attire but the only condition is to dress conservatively.

Informal fashion and other etiquettes for foreigners

Even though the weather is mostly hot in the Middle East region, the Arabs women are not spared from their traditional clothing. They are expected to dress in their regular clothing or else are objectified as ‘easy virtue’ or a prostitute. Whereas in their home, the younger females of the family are allowed to wear western clothes.

Tourists, especially foreign women, have no restrictions on their clothing style unless it’s not considered conservative according to the Arab culture. Whereas men tourists are recommended to avoid shorts or sleeveless shirts on the streets, although looking at the development in this region, the restrictions might be softened.

In business meetings, it is appropriate to wear suits for both men and women. For women, the trousers or skirts should fall below the knee and the elbows should always be covered at all times with a shirt or vest.


E-commerce in the Middle East region is surging as internet penetration in UAE and Saudi Arabia is at 99 and 89 per cent respectively, which is a huge number compared to other developed countries. It is estimated to grow around 40 per cent a year over the next 5 years increasing its penetration by 7 per cent from the current, whereas, in some fashion categories in Saudi Arabia, it has already reached 20 per cent.

The local business leaders such as Ounass, The Modist, Namshi, Omnichannel and Pure players are already in the race to invest in this trend. Virtual platforms such as Amazon, Farfetch and many more are also interested in extending their market in the Middle East region.

Future of MENA Fashion

The impact of Western and American culture on the way people dress in the Middle East and African tribal cloth will grow in the coming years. However, it appears that the Middle Eastern and African nations will preserve their traditional and deeply entrenched dress culture.

The intriguing opportunity to collaborate western fashion with their traditional culture is certainly something to look forward to in the upcoming future. With the new opportunities rising along in the Global Fashion industry, the people have a lot to explore and design.

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Manali bhanushali
Author: Manali bhanushali

Manali Bhanushali