Dubai World Cup fashion: out with the old, in with couture

Stumped for something to wear to the Dubai World Cup? Give an old dress a makeover inspired by high fashion – at a fraction of the cost of a new outfit.
A look inspired by Giambattista Valli's spring/summer couture. Illustration by Shamekh Ibrahim AlBluwi
A look inspired by Giambattista Valli's spring/summer couture. Illustration by Shamekh Ibrahim AlBluwi

On the racecourse, the pressure is exceedingly high – for the men behind the reins, yes, and for the women in the crowd, maybe even more so. Aside from sourcing the perfect hat for the occasion, much stress goes into finding the perfect dress. Simple strapless numbers repeated from previous affairs and humdrum high-street halter buys aren’t easily disguised, and are quickly forgotten. They’re not viable options for those seeking to take away “best-dressed” trophies, and many women would rather stay home than be dragged out wearing attire that’s plainly unremarkable.

This poses quite the challenge for female race attendees, and can lead to last-minute, late-night shopping trips to the mall where, in sheer desperation, dresses are purchased that are neither very loved, nor within budget. After they’re worn, ­photographed and perhaps published in the social pages of ­magazines, they’re hung in the backs of closets, boxed up and put in storage or given away to charity. What a waste.

For those on the brink of succumbing to the social pressure of buying a new dress for every ritzy occasion, there is a solution, both fashion forward and cost-efficient. It will require some imagination and willingness to let go of the old, but could result in a truly one-of-a-kind, custom-made, ­couture-inspired masterpiece.

With a bit of rejuvenation, even a decade-old prom gown or bridesmaid’s dress can be made into an entirely new creation, consistent with current runway trends, and perfect for an outing such as the Dubai World Cup. New dresses can cost up to Dh1,000 on the high street, and Dh25,000, or more, if they’re designer wear. But any existing dress can be chopped, lengthened, panelled and pleated to create something fresh and as good as new, costing ­anywhere from Dh100 upwards, depending on the design.

Sara Al Dimachki is the managing partner of 800 Tailor, which is a personalised, ­contemporary tailoring service that offers pick-up and delivery from and to clients’ doorsteps. She suggests why the idea of redesigning dresses may not appeal to all women in the UAE. “They always like to be seen in the latest collections, and some might see going to the tailor as a hassle,” she ­explains.

But she believes there’s potential for the trend to pick up, if women are given ideas about how to go about reconstructing their old dresses. “They would be more interested if they were aware of the endless possibilities that come with recreating a garment,” she says. “We’ve found that a lot of women are more open to the idea when we visit them at home, because it is at their convenience and they are more relaxed.”

Another off-putting factor for women may be the fact that many tailoring shops in the UAE lack fashion-forward proficiency and are skilled only in ­making simple garments or copying existing cuts. The team behind 800 Tailor, on the other hand, is style savvy and experienced in high fashion, offering mass production and sampling services for established fashion designers, too.

Once on board with the project, hacking up an old dress shouldn’t be too emotionally challenging, especially if it was a one-time wear. The DIY craze has hit women worldwide for a reason: it’s fun. There’s a sense of pride in being innovative and achieving an end result that’s ­tailor-made (literally) to your own style.

Al Dimachki predicts that “romantic dresses with delicate fabrics and lace details, mix-and-match prints with bold colours and lots of trims such as feathers and fringes” will be the big trends at this year’s ­races. They echo many elements seen at spring/summer couture week in Paris. Collections from the likes of Christian Dior, Elie Saab, Giambattista Valli and Chanel can help you decide which ­cutting-edge couture trends to replicate in your ­redesign.


It’s almost every woman’s dream to dress in Dior, and at Raf Simons’ recent couture show for Christian Dior, we saw a fresh take on the floral dress. Bodices were angled downwards at the midriff, creating triangular peek-a-boo cut-outs under the bust line. This look can be replicated with any old dress – the more fabric, the better. It’s a great way to salvage an outdated design, and the hemline can be brought up to your liking. Style it like Simons did on the runway, with a thin belt or sparkly brooch at the waist.

Elie Saab

Elie Saab’s designs are always ethereal and usually seem like an unattainable dream. His luxe laces with embroidery and beadwork are the basis of inspiration for countless wedding gowns every year.

For his latest couture collection, many of his signature silhouettes were spruced up with ostrich feathers. Stepping into the world of animal embellishments is dangerous territory, as there’s a fine line between being embellished and an over-the-top mess. But if you do have a lace shift dress hanging in your wardrobe, consider adding a touch of feathers or fringing to the skirt, cuffs or neckline.

Giambattista Valli

The couture collection from Giambattista Valli made ­social-media waves after Rihanna donned one of the dresses straight off the runway at the Grammys last month. Many termed it “the cupcake dress”, and lots of Valli’s designs did feature a cupcake effect, with full-tiered skirts.

Keep the upper portion of your dress intact and give it new life with a different skirt piece. Take the dress with you to the fabric stores, and see what combination excites you. Don’t feel pressured to find an exact match; mixed-print dresses are on trend this season. Ginghams go great with florals, for instance, and textured textiles, such as eyelets, laces and leathers, will make the dress even more unique. For added drama, buy some tulle to attach beneath the skirt to give it that Valli couture cupcake look.


Chanel couture, meanwhile, comprised a collection of separates, with skirts and blazers or overcoats made from matching fabrics. If you feel you’ve outgrown the style of one of your dresses, but can’t bear to part with the print, try breaking it up into two pieces. While Chanel’s style of choice paired ­midi-length skirts with jackets and button-down blazers, a crop top will give a look that’s younger and fresher, and will also be easier (and cheaper) to construct. Alternatively, you could have your initial piece made into a simple slip dress, and make an overcoat for it from a lace or cut-out fabric – a design shown by Chanel in tweed-like sequins.

Once you’ve decided which couture trend will influence your redesign, find the fabric and embellishments to bring the vision to life. Scour the streets of Satwa in Dubai or browse through the textile shops in Abu Dhabi’s Madinat Zayed Shopping Centre and the fabric souq behind Hamdan Centre. Then, before setting out to the tailor, gather your inspiration materials, such as magazine cut-outs, runway printouts and sketches, showing as much detail as possible.

With the abundance of tailoring shops and fabric outlets in the Emirates, there’s no reason to shy away from attending an event because of a lack of new clothes. Neither is there a need to incessantly repeat outfits or waste unreasonable amounts of money buying new dresses every month. Wear a dress once, twice, three times or more, and a few years later, when it begins to bore you, pull out your scissors and sketchbook, and begin revamping – keeping the latest couture creations in mind.

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Published: March 12, 2015 04:00 AM


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