Interwoven: women’s dress practices and identity on the Arabian Peninsula

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Roche, T & Roche, E & Al Saidi, A 2011, 'Interwoven: women’s dress practices and identity on the Arabian Peninsula', International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, vol. 6, no. 10, pp, 133-144.


This paper discusses the relationship between women’s fashion and identity in the Sultanate of Oman, a Gulf State on the Arabian Peninsula. In particular, it explores women’s clothing practices as expressions of religious, regional and tribal identities. The study is the first to document the variety of women’s dress practices in the Sultanate of Oman, recording how Bedouin, Belushi, Kamzari, and Marahi women express their identity in embroidery, tailoring and self-fashioning practices (piercing, tattooing and branding). The study not only details some of the variety of forms in burqas, abayas, trousers, headscarves and self-fashioning practices but also discusses accompanying beliefs in order to explore how Omani women conceptualize beauty according to their religious, regional, and ethnic identities. The authors also briefly address the influence of trading neighbors, immigrant labour and the homogenizing influence of state identity on Omani women’s beliefs and fashion practices. The findings presented are based on a collection of photos, videos and sound recordings taken during semi-structured interviews with groups of women across the Sultanate in 2010 and 2011. The researchers used the existing social and kin networks of female student translators at Sohar University to meet with women from the Bedouin camps of the Empty Quarter, to the fjorded islands of Musandam abutting the Iranian coastline to the scattered settlements of the Yemeni borderlands. This project aims to promote understanding of cultures within the Islamic and Arab world through exploring the fashion of Omani women as practices of belonging. In showing the variety of tradition of dress in one Arab country, we hope to promote a greater understanding of Arabic and Islamic dress in general.

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