Interwoven: Women’s Dress Practices and Identity on the Arabian Peninsula

By Thomas Roche, Erin Roche and Ahmed Al Saidi.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

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.

Keywords: Women, Identity, Arab, Clothing, Fashion

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 6, Issue 10, pp.133-144. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.888MB).

Dr. Thomas Roche

Assistant Dean, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Sohar University, Sohar, Al-Batinah, Oman

Thomas Roche is Assistant Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Sohar University, Sultanate of Oman. He is also an Associate Research Fellow at the School of Languages and Comparative Cultural Studies, University of Queensland, Australia. Thomas lectures in applied linguistics, his areas of research interest include individual difference in language learning, language testing as well as language and identity. His publications include his book Investigating Learning Styles in the Foreign Language Classroom with Langenscheidt and articles on language testing. He is also co-editor of the Times of Oman literature supplement BEACON (promoting Omani literature).

Erin Roche

Costume Consultant, English Language and Translation Department, Sohar University, Sohar, Al Batinah, Oman

Erin Roche is a film and television costume designer and also works as a costume research consultant. She has recently established the Costume Institute of Australia. Her research interests include fashion and communication, fashion and globalization; as well as and fashion and identity.

Ahmed Al Saidi

Director of the Education and Human Resources Development Sector, Education and Human Resources Development Sector, The Research Council of Oman, Muscat, Oman

Ahmed Alsaidi is an Assistant Professor and currently directs the Education and Human Resources Development Sector of the Research Council of Oman. Professor Al-Saidi’s research interests include science education, in particular, integrating of technology into science teaching and learning. His other areas of research include culture(s) of education. He also works promoting knowledge of traditional Omani culture.

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