What not to wear in Dubai

Holly Sands asks: to be, or not to be, dressed up?

Last word, The Knowledge

In a place where women stalk the malls in stilettos, I’m starting to feel increasingly under-dressed. When I first spied the alarming trend for risking life and limb by traversing polished marble floor in shoes with smooth plastic soles and a five-inch heel, I sniggered scornfully and waited patiently for said shoe's owners to face-plant outside Zara. Though sometimes these shoes come stylishly matched with classic dark jeans and a chic white shirt, the vast majority are the tail end of some monstrous multicoloured Lycra ensemble, liberally embellished with lace, frills – or worse – sequins. Lately, however, I’ve had a change of heart – not about the Lycra outfit, mind, but the shoes, and getting dressed up as a whole.

Unfortunately, I’m struggling to find a balance between looking like I’m going to the Oscars and looking like I live under a bin. In the days where I had to wear something resembling a suit to work, the rest of my ‘going out’ wardrobe seemed to reflect this – though no sooner had I liberated myself from this uniform two years ago, then things took a turn for the scruffy. Not quite as scruffy as when I arrived in Dubai, when my ripped jeans drew stares in Uptown Mirdif, but I still live in denim and rarely can you prise my pedicured toes from a pair of sparkly flat sandals. And after swapping dresses for shorts and heels for flats, it’s hard to get back on the vertically inclined wagon – you get used to blister-free feet and being able to walk at a reasonable pace. It doesn’t help that the female staff on Time Out’s editorial team have silently yet unanimously eschewed the high heel, opting instead for an assortment of sandals and brogues. On a trial run last Thursday (whoever decided to make Thursdays casual – the one night of the week most of us are guaranteed to go out – clearly was mentally impaired by the onset of the weekend), I wore heels to the office in preparation.

I couldn’t have attracted more comments from my colleagues if I’d shaved my head and had a profanity tattooed on it. Cheering though it is to know I work with like-minded folk, the time has come for me to stop reaching for flats and jeans out of habit. Sporting heels made me realise how great it feels to make an effort (and it is frequently an effort for me to stay upright in anything more than four inches), and how much I miss being a little bit taller than my vertically challenged 160cm frame. Perhaps my mall scorn was really just envy?

It’s a bit like eating soft, gooey Cinnabon swirls again after six months eating three-day-old croissants – you wonder why on Earth you’ve wasted so much time kidding yourself the latter is anywhere near as good.

So next time I’m at the mall, I won’t laugh at the woman wearing inappropriate footwear trying not to skate between shops – I’ll ask her where I can find a pair.

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