DUBAI // Shoppers confused by mall dress codes have called for greater clarity on what can be worn and the potential punishments if the rules were broken.
A straw poll of shoppers and store staff at The Dubai Mall revealed mixed views on what could and could not be worn.
Shop assistants at a number of stores told The National there was no in-store dress code for customers.
All said they would not ask a customer to leave for breaking the mall’s dress code if someone complained.
“The mall has a dress code policy, but we have nothing specifically related to this issue,” said an assistant at a sportswear outlet.
“We wouldn’t kick anyone out if someone complained. Instead, we would advise the person complaining to contact the mall staff.”
Although most retail staff were aware of a policy, they could not provide details on what the punishment would be if the rules were broken.
“To be honest, although there are rules in the mall they aren’t really enforced,” said a security guard at an electronics and entertainment store.
“You have to understand that we get many, many tourists at this mall and although some know the rules, a lot don’t.”
It was unclear what action would be taken if a mall visitor wearing “inappropriate” attire was the subject of a complaint.
“We do occasionally get some people complaining about what other shoppers are wearing,” said a mall information desk assistant.
“I believe they are initially asked by security to buy and wear more appropriate clothing at one of the shops here,” she said. “If they refuse then I believe the police are called, but I’m not sure.”
This was contradicted by a member of mall security who said shoppers would not be ejected if someone complained about their dress.
“We have a courtesy policy and give out a small card to the shopper asking them to be aware of local traditions and customs,” the security guard said.
The card advises shoppers that “shoulders and knees should be covered”.
The information desks dotted around the mall also have leaflets advising shoppers to wear “respectful clothing” but larger signs were more difficult to find.
Many shoppers said although they had a vague idea of the preferred dress code in malls in the UAE, there needed to be more clarity.
“It seems like sometimes the rules aren’t enforced that much,” said Stephanie Collins, from the UK.
“You sometimes see people dressed in very skimpy clothes and nothing happens.
“On the other hand, I can understand that we get so many tourists in Dubai that it would be unrealistic to expect everyone to know the dress code.”
Farah Hernandez, from Mexico, said most people were unsure of what the punishment would be.
“The malls or police should be more clear in advising the public on what the consequences are if they break the dress code,” she said.
“Does the person get a fine? Are they banned from malls? We don’t know.”
The Dubai Mall did not respond to requests for more details.
“As an international destination, we raise visitors’ awareness about culturally appropriate dress and behaviour by specifying these considerations at all entrances,” said a spokesman for Mall of the Emirates.
“Mall of the Emirates has introduced the courtesy policy, which recommends wearing ‘respectful clothing’ in addition to other mall policies, for the comfort and safety of all guests.
“In the instance that our guests are unaware of these considerations, the mall staff will remind visitors about the courtesy policy.”
In Abu Dhabi, a spokesman at Yas Mall said the venue worked hard to embrace the cultural sensitivities of the nationalities it served.
“Visitors are advised to follow Abu Dhabi’s dress guidelines by wearing respectful clothing, as mentioned in our courtesy policy that is signposted throughout the mall, on doors and on digital signs.
“Complaints can be reported to the Yas Mall customer service team.”
Riva Abou Ali, the mall manager at Futouh Al Khair Mall in the capital, said it was always filled with properly dressed visitors.
“The mall is known to be for locals, and the visitors are very decent because it’s a local mall. All our visitors are decent,” she said.
“We never got a complaint about indecent clothing. Even males do not enter wearing shorts.”
She said security guards were aware of the appropriate attire and were able to let visitors know when they were inappropriately dressed.
Hussein Ahmad, the marketing manager at Dalma Mall, said there were numerous posters displaying dress code policies around the mall.
“On all entrances we have a courtesy dress code – we have 14 entrances – and they [the clothes] must not be very revealing. The policy code is available in Arabic and English, and they are stuck on the glass doors at entrances,” he said.
Customer services representatives at the mall were always “ready to take action” if a complaint was made, Mr Ahmad said. However, because of the conservative culture, he said no complaints were made.
“Until now we haven’t faced any [inappropriately dressed] visitors. And never a complaint about dress codes,” he said.