Women’s Wear

This filled to the gills women’s clothing shop offers casual wear to lingerie to evening dresses.  Many shops like these do not have dressing rooms for women to try clothing on.  I have asked in several shops and have been given two entirely different explanations.  One reason I was told was that there has been a problem with theft underneath the abayas.   The other reason is that – in this sex-obsessed society where men and women are not allowed to date or mix socially – there are no dressings rooms for women so that there will be no hanky panky going on.   Since all sales clerks are only male foreign workers, the no dressing rooms policy probably came from fear of the sex starved sales clerks and lusty female shoppers acting inappropriately behind closed curtains.  Every precaution is taken, every conceivable possibility is removed – to prevent men and women from getting together. Anyway, I don’t personally enjoy shopping for clothing here in Arabia as much as I do elsewhere, since I prefer to be able to try things on first before I buy.   Some smaller shops also do not accept returns either so that is also a turn off for me.


About SusieOfArabia

American woman now living in hubby's homeland of Saudi Arabia
This entry was posted in Culture, Life, Middle East, Photo, Saudi Arabia, Shopping and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Women’s Wear

  1. sally says:

    I need to know what western women wear in public.I mean is it OK to go out without Abaia?I am going to jeddah soon and I need to know what clothes should I take with me. Thank you

    • Hi Sally –
      When you arrive, if you don’t have an abaya, that’s okay, but be sure to dress very conservatively and modestly, with long sleeves and a long skirt or long pants – which should all be loose. It’s best if you’re wearing pants that your blouse be very long, like down to your knees. Seeing that women actually have legs here is considered obscene. I would also have a scarf handy, just in case, to put on your head in case there are any religious police around.

      If you are only here for a short time, you might be able to get away with not purchasing an abaya, as long as you bring clothing with you as I’ve described above. You can buy an abaya almost anywhere – and the cost can vary quite a bit too. The fanicer the abaya and the better the fabric, the more you will pay, but you can pick up a cheap basic one for about 100 riyals, which is about $25 US. Most abayas come with a matching scarf too.

      If you will be attending functions with women only, you can wear whatever would be suitable for the occasion, but getting to the function if you’re not wearing an abaya, you should keep in mind the rules of modesty and conservatism.
      In private, you can wear whatever you want – like if you’re staying at a resort for expats, you can wear a swimsuit or shorts, etc. But when Saudis are present, conservative is the way to go.
      Hope this helps – and I hope you have a wonderful time here!

  2. gills says:

    Hi Susia, I would love to be able to email you as I may be moving to Jeddah soon. I am from the UK

  3. Susan says:

    Hi Susie ~ I’m in the Washington, DC area and shopping fairly is good here, lots of outlet stores. About the pictures … I’ve heard that – the angels not coming into the house if they’re on display – but idk, seems to me if they can come into the house when there are people there, why not pics and photos?

    Could be the possibility of “idols” – “adoration”, etc., or; there was – and may still be – a “folk” perception of a pic or photo “stealing the soul” of a person, capturing it in the image.

    Personally, I’m inclined to think the angels come and go when and where they want, regardless of what is or isn’t present. If they can walk into hell and pull someone out by Allah’s leave, I don’t think pictures stand a chance in their coming and going.

  4. Hi Susan! Where are you? Maybe I can hook you up!!! I’ve played matchmaker before, several times – didn’t always work out though!!! Many American ex-pat women here actually buy their undergarments in the states when they visit every year just so they don’t have to deal with the situation here. I know when I went back for the first time this past summer, I had a list of things I wanted to bring back with me.
    As far as photos of family in the home, my hubby just told me that his mom used to have lots of photos of family displayed everywhere in her home, until someone came and told her that she shouldn’t because the angels will not visit homes that have photos of people on display. This is news to me!

    Hi Krystal! I found a couple of good articles about the rise in divorce here that you could read. It’s hard to pinpoint reasons, since every case is different, but from my observations, many young people here are quite spoiled, and that combined with not dating or really knowing the spouse before marriage I think may be contributing factors.
    Most families here have 4 or more children – in my husband’s family, his sister has 6, and one of his brothers has 9, and the other brother has 4.
    Try taking a look at these links regarding divorce in KSA:

  5. Krystal says:

    Thank you for those links.

    Do you know what is causing the increase of the divorces?

    Do the women on the average have a lot of children in Saudi Arabia?

    I was a military wife and have 4 children.I wonder what the statistic is for the size of American military families.And it would be interesting to find out historically if American military wives have more children than most women.

  6. Susan says:

    Pictures I think have a couple of reasons, i’m sure you know, one being the not to make a likeness of Allah’s creation, the other about a possible “evil-eye” thingy, there must be others …

    I hope they end up allowing women to work in the shops at some point. It must be extremely difficult to try to select lingerie, and other items requiring try-on …

  7. Susan says:

    rofl!!! Thanks Susie I appreciate the good wishes! I been playin by the rules too long. Probably scared is more like it … though maybe not entirely for myself.

    Being a good mommy, waiting til I’m an empty nester mommy. Now I’m a free woman and am beginning to flutter my wings again. Fluffy cherub that I am.

    God have mercy on the man that takes me on … ummm, yes waiter, I’d like to place my order now. (veg) Seeking soul-mate to help me exercise. snerk!

  8. Hi susan! I wish you luck in your quest to find a suitable sex-starved mate!!! LOL.

    Hi Babooshka –
    Yes, it can be a pain not being able to try on clothing, and then not being able to return it if it doesn’t fit. =(

    Hi Susan – I know that when I first arrived here my MIL told me that I could not have photos of my family out on display here. I believe there is a religious reason for it, but not being an expert, I honestly don’t know. Women are not allowed to work in any sales jobs at all. Men even sell women’s lingerie here, which is a controverisal topic. Sometimes it’s difficult to discern whether a custom is religion-based or culturally based. It’s a very blurry line.

  9. Hi Krystal –
    Not all husbands here expect their wives to be seductresses all the time, dressed up in sexy lingerie. There are too many children running around!
    The larger chain and mall stores have return policies similar to the states, but many of the smaller individually owned shops do not. Their policies seem to be more along the lines of “Buyer Beware.”
    The divorce rate has increased here dramatically in the last two decades. When I first met my husband more than 30 years ago, I remember him telling me how uncommon divorce was here. But not any more.
    As far as reporting rape goes, it seems that a rape is somehow blamed on the woman here. That being said, I think rape is not very common here, since punishments are quite severe for crimes like this, if convicted. There are still public beheadings that take place. The only rape case I can recall reading about since my arrival a year ago involved a married woman who was gang raped – the case was quite controversial. You can read about it here:
    You might be interested in reading my other blog about my experiences and aspects of life here in Saudi Arabia. Here’s the link:

  10. Susan says:

    idk, if the reasons were religious, there would be women working in a shop selling women’s clothes, not men and the mannequins would not be present.

  11. Hi Elaine – I don’t know if you noticed, but the mannequins are all headless too, in addition to having those great bods. I believe the reasons are religious.

  12. babooshka says:

    Fascinating. We just take in for ganted here in the west we can try before you buy.

  13. susan says:

    lol, yes men are obsessed with sex – thank God! And in the privacy of my own home, he betta be ready for some sensuous activity! Now if I can only find where he is, cause I’m single.

  14. Krystal says:

    I agree with Elaine about the mannequins ,that is,they are giving ideas to the single male workers about what their perspective brides should look like.

    Also the styles of clothing available to the Saudi Arabian women astonishes me.There is so much sexy lingerie that I will take a guess that the men in Saudi Arabia are actually obsessed with sex and want their wives to dress and behave in a very sensuous manner in the privacy of their homes,all the time.Do you know about that? I could be totally wrong of course.

    But one thing is for sure men want what they can’t have,it is in their nature to hunt,the chase is oh! So thrilling to them.

    What is the rule there when it comes to the store policies.Is the customer always correct?And maybe the religious police thinks that the foreign male workers at the stores will peek in when the women are in the dressing rooms.I always am cautious when I try on bras in a dressing room,I can’t help but wonder if ther are cameras somewhere,but of course tha’s all in my mind.I know I have such a vivid imagination that I sometimes get carried away.

    And another thing are there a lot of divorces in Saudi Arabia?And what about rape victims?Is it safe for women to report rapes there?

  15. Elaine says:

    It is surprising to see mannequins visible to the men, especially with such idealized figures typical of marketing clothes. Please forgive me if I am a little amused by the thought that some of the clerks who are not yet married will end up being a little disappointed by their brides when the time comes, based on their possible assumption that they will all be shaped like perfect fantasies.

    I live in a small town, so sometimes I buy clothing by mail-order, and always have the option to return anything that isn’t right. But it is a laborious process.

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