Feature Friday: Author Lara Hansen on Fashion in Bahrain

With the rise of the Internet and social media, global fashion has become more interconnected than ever. I find it fascinating to see how fashion has evolved into unique styles all over the globe, often united by a common trend or prominent brand. Today’s Feature Friday is my cousin Lara Hansen, who lives in Bahrain. Lara is very fashionable herself and we’ve bonded over the years through our shared love of dressing up. Hearing about life in the Middle East through the clothes she and her friends wear was super interesting to me, especially since our style is so similar. Hope you enjoy this mini trip to Bahrain as much as I did!

FASHION IN BAHRAIN

by Lara Hansen

Whenever I meet somebody new and have to explain to them where I live, I usually just say that I either live in Dubai- which I do not- or that I live within extremely close proximity to Dubai- which I do, if you consider a one hour plane ride close proximity. The place where I actually live, Bahrain, is an island that was connected to Saudi Arabia by a causeway about 40 years ago. So, again, not really Dubai. A really big misconception about living in the Middle East is the idea that it is unsafe and conservative, but in many instances, that is not at all the case. After living in Bahrain my whole life, I have experienced so many different cultures and met people from essentially all over the world. With a population of just under two million people, half of those are expatriates and have moved to Bahrain for work. 

Although Bahrain is a Muslim country, people do have freedom over how they dress and what they wear. Of course there are many Muslim individuals who opt for dressing more traditionally. However, the presence of streetwear has definitely become much more prevalent over the past decade. As for me, over the past year my friends and I have become emerged into that streetwear culture and it has become normal to see a 4 year old in a Burberry shirt or Dolce and Gabbana hoodie.

Of course many of the expats don’t immerse themselves into this culture as much, but a lot of what Bahraini culture has become revolves around showing off how much money you have. 

PARTIES

Something you definitely do not see anywhere else is how people will celebrate their birthdays here. Girls and boys are separated for the most part when it comes to parties and essentially anything else. That has to do with the Muslim influence and strict parents, but nonetheless, the parties I go to are not like anything you could experience in America. Usually, people will host formal dinners or big parties. By big parties, I mean parties where around 100 girls from different schools will all dress up to celebrate someone’s birthday. Most parties will have a theme and start at around 7pm (which means get there around 8:30). People will order dresses that match those of their friend group, do their hair a few hours beforehand, take pictures of the birthday girl by her layered cake, and spend most of the night- until around midnight- dancing to whatever the DJ plays that night. 

WEEKENDS

You may be wondering what exactly there is to do on the weekend (which is Friday and Saturday, not Saturday and Sunday, because of the Muslim influence) and it varies, but what the majority of girls on the island and I will do is called “rounding” or “cruising.” On Thursday night everyone makes their plans: we do our makeup and wear sweatpants, get in the car and see where the night takes us. Sometimes we’ll go to the mall and walk around, most of the time we go to a place called Mango Talaat and get blueberry RedBull in Riffa. When we’re in the car we just listen to music and see where we end up.


Left (Me): Brandy top, Topshop sweatpants, Yeezy 700s

Right: Bape sweater, Topshop Jeans, Adidas shoes, Balenciaga bag

As for school, I attend the only school without a uniform since my school has an American curriculum. The public schools here are all in Arabic. My school was made in order to educate students whose parents in the military and have been employed at the American military base. The ‘military kids’ receive free education. My school also houses ‘dormies’ who mainly come from the Aramco compound in Saudi. The contrast between the styles of Bahraini students and American or Saudi students shows the different cultures that you are surrounded with when living in Bahrain.

American: Champion hoodie, American Eagle sweatpants, Adidas shoes.

Dormie: Fila hoodie, H&M sweatpants, Adidas shoes.

Bahraini: Off-White hoodie, Nike sweatpants, Y3 shoes.

American: Pacsun shirt, Gap jeans, Vans.

Dormie: Forever 21 shirt, Bershka skirt, This Is Never That cardigan, Converse shoes.

Bahraini: Off-White sweater, American Eagle Jeans, Balenciaga shoes.

Special thanks again to Lara for sending me this wonderful essay about global fashion and trends in Bahrain. For my new readers, this is my second Feature Friday; a post in which I aim to highlight artists that have made an impact on me, whether it be through writing, photography, fashion, and more. See you soon~

Much love, Skylar

Find Lara on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/laraahansen/

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