Wondering how I updated my wardrobe as I moved from no-dress-code Singapore to the Muslim United Arab Emirates?  Here is the article I wrote for Sassy Mama Dubai about it.  

As the song goes, you’ll see many women in Dubai covering their heads, shoulders, knees (and toes?), but this is not required for non-Muslim women – regardless of what many people think before visiting! However, it is respectful to cover your shoulders and knees when going out in public. This doesn’t apply at the beach, but even my local surf shop asked for patrons to cover up when they enter. This dress code presented some challenges for me when I moved here this past July from Singapore with only a single suitcase of my own clothes to last me months in temporary housing. It was blazing hot, I was dependent on Uber and Careem (often waiting in the sun for my driver to find his way), and I found myself traipsing through sand and dirt when a drop off was stymied by random construction; I always felt like I had nothing appropriate to wear.

Read more: The Power of Minimalism

It doesn’t matter if you are a fashion-phile or foe, getting dressed is important. It sets the tone for your day, and, like it or not, our clothes speak to the people around us. Getting dressed can be a source of daily stress, especially with bulging closets and drawers. Each item carries its own emotional weight – the too-small-jeans that were fab before you had the baby, the expensive shirt that turned out to be itchy and uncomfortable, the pair of impractical, aspirational shoes that seem to whine, “You never take us out!”

Eight months ago, I completed a capsule wardrobe experiment to try to get a handle on the stress in my life. I followed the guidelines of Project 333, created by Courtney Carver of Be More With Less. The basic idea was to choose 33 items of clothing and accessories and wear them for 3 months. After that, you could rotate in items from storage to fit the new weather/fashion situation. Your wedding ring, underwear, and workout clothing do not make up the 33 items. I altered the rules a bit to suit myself by not including jewellery, as I was far too emotionally attached to my baubles.

The results far surpassed my expectations. Getting dressed was simpler; I had less anxiety about wearing the perfect thing as I just had to wear the available thing. There were some bumps, of course, like running out of clean clothes at one point, but overall I was thrilled. I adopted rules for new clothing purchases to help improve the conditions in the garment industry:

  1. Buy from clothing companies that have a focus on fair wages, fair treatment of workers, and ecologically friendly manufacturing practices.
  2. Buy clothing that is made well and will last a long time.
  3. Donate to charities that help the workers in the countries where garments are made if I decide to make a purchase from a fast fashion brand like H&M, Zara, Forever 21, and Primark.

I felt great in my soul, and I loved how I looked – my wardrobe now consisted solely of favourites. Yet upon moving to Dubai, I had a bit of a closet crash-landing.

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To continue reading, click here to go to the article on Sassy Mama Dubai.

Jennifer Jasensky is a Dubai resident, United States transplant, former mathematics teacher and dancer/choreographer. She is an outgoing homebody and perpetual idealist whose love of learning knows no bounds. She is most happy enjoying a good book with a plate of kaya toast, runny eggs, and kopi-c peng siew dai, but now that she has moved from
Singapore to Dubai, drinking an iced latte in the ocean is fast becoming her happy place.

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