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Why You Shouldn’t Miss This Emirati Fashion Retrospective in Abu Dhabi

Women's Handicraft Centre, Abu Dhabi, Crafting, Traditional Skills

An artisan weaving talli at the Women’s Handicraft Centre in Abu Dhabi. Photographed by Rohit Sabu for Vogue Arabia January 2020

The Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi has launched a fascinating retrospective on the evolution of Emirati fashion over the years, and especially between the years 1940 and 1980.

Titled Fashion Through the Years, the exhibition is being held at the Qasr Al Hosn. A historical landmark and the oldest stone building in the city of Abu Dhabi, it was built in 1761 and provides the backdrop for the exhibit. Fashion Through the Years not only offers an unprecedented opportunity to discover and appreciate the handiwork, fabrics, and traditions of Emirati craftsmanship but also helps spread awareness around its heritage.

“Through the clothes and adornments displayed, the visitor will get acquainted with the changes that the Emirati fashion has witnessed over the generations,” shares the Office of Public and Cultural Diplomacy, Abu Dhabi, as part of an official statement. “The exhibition celebrates the past of Abu Dhabi and its diverse and comprehensive traditions and culture through features from the history of the emirate, and the stories of its people through clothes of various forms, and decorations used on occasions — starting from the simplicity of fashion in the pre-oil era, to the cultural influences that played an important role due to the openness to trade routes in the region.


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Running until February 16, the exhibition is divided into three different pavilions: The pavilion of the late Sheikh Shakhbout bin Sultan Al Nahyan, fashion and jewelry, materials used in the fashion industry, and methods of use. It also includes artworks such as the interactive cabinet, and other notable pieces such as necklaces gifted by Her Highness Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak President of the General Women’s Union, President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, Supreme Chair of the Family Development Foundation, and the decorated burqa by Fatimah bint Muhammad bin Thani al-Muhairi.

Salama Al Shamsi, Director of Qasr Al Hosn, said, “The exhibition provides a wonderful opportunity for visitors to explore the changing fashion trends over the past decades, and to take a look at a new side of the rich heritage of the state. The exhibition was organized by a group of heritage specialists, to take visitors on a journey through time, through which they live the experiences of their ancestors, by showing the cultural importance of the diversity of costumes, starting with the burqa worn by women while traveling from Al-Wathba to Al-Ain, all the way to the historical significance of the dagger carried by the men of the family, and the influence of European fashion on the local dress.”

Read Next: Meet the Artisans at the Women’s Handicraft Centre Ensuring the Survival of Traditional Emirati Skills

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