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Modesty, Dress-codes and ‘Local Taste’: Examining Abaya-led Fashion Practices in The United Arab Emirates

George, Lesley (2019) Modesty, Dress-codes and ‘Local Taste’: Examining Abaya-led Fashion Practices in The United Arab Emirates. PhD thesis, University of the Arts London.

Type of Research: Thesis
Creators: George, Lesley

The focus of this thesis is the abaya, an outerwear garment worn by women in the Gulf. I interrogate how the abaya is made, acquired and worn, and how items and imagery of contemporary abaya design, specifically from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), are produced and disseminated to various audiences. I investigate the motivations, agency and tastes of women who wear abayas and explore how designers operate across the spectrum of production, distribution and consumption. This research evidences the way women mediate between being invested in the ‘traditions’ of dress practices, shaped by habitus, and the re-translation of selfpresentation as modern fashion consumers/designers. To examine this, I explore the cultural implications on design processes that create new localised fashion practices. Through the lens of cultural identity, I analyse competing interpretations of modesty and situated embodiment, discourses on national identity visualised through dresscodes, and innovations enhanced by a UAE dispositif that advocates design and potentially creates space for symbolic abaya-led fashion production. To consider these concepts, my ethnographic approach triangulates interviews, textual and material cultural analysis with observations across selected mixed-gender and women-only spaces to examine abaya-wearing and design practices.

No study to date examines the abaya as worn and informed by socialities, materialities and spatialities of design, production, consumption and distributionrepresentation, nor investigates how wearers, designers and influencers co-direct style choice through new consumption practices and imaging regimes that reflect ‘local taste’ and fashion’s multiple modernities. By considering the abaya from a design and designer’s point of view my research offers new insights into fashion and design practices originating from an emergent market outside the ‘West’. Furthermore, this thesis contributes to areas of research concerned with veiling, gender studies, entrepreneurship and the subsequent design/production-distributionconsumption systems, communities and geographies formed.

Additional Information (Publicly available):

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Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > London College of Fashion
Date: October 2019
Date Deposited: 02 Apr 2020 14:57
Last Modified: 23 May 2024 08:36
Item ID: 15570
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/15570

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