What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Formal-ish. Outside of the American/British schools and the consulate, women were always required to wear an abaya, so you could wear whatever you wanted under that. Most local men wore thobes as a general rule, as suits got too hot. - Oct 2019


Formal dress for receptions and there are occasional (like 1-2 times a year) balls. Office is mainly suit. - Mar 2019


Jeddah is much more relaxed than Riyadh. Definitely no need for a headscarf. Most consulate women don't even carry one around. Abayas are worn completely open and are in all colors and patterns. Not black. A few of us go out in town without abayas, in jeans and tunics and there have been no issues. The difference between Jeddah and Riyadh cannot be emphasized enough when it comes to this. On the housing compounds, you can wear whatever you want. Same at the beach clubs. Bikinis are the norm. For consulate work, female officers can wear whatever they want. There is no expectation here that female American officers would ever wear an abaya to a meeting and the vast majority do not. - Jan 2019


Very modest in public. Business attire at work. - Apr 2016


Women have to wear abaya and believe me, in the middle of the summer this is inhuman. - Nov 2015


Abaya for women. - Oct 2015


For women: a black long-sleeve max-wide dress you wear over your regular clothes. Men can get by with anything except shorts. - Oct 2015


Business casual and business formal for work at the consulate - depending on the section that you're in. Women are encouraged to wear the abaya in public and as typical for men in the middle east, shorts are discouraged. - Aug 2015


Women have to wear an abaya (black dress). Men and kids can wear what they want. I do not use my abaya very much as you don't need it at the compound, at the school, at the consulate, at the beach, and other compounds. - Feb 2014


Saudi men typically wear white thobes (essentially dresses for men), and women wear black abayas (essentially tents with a hole in the top for the head). Men from other countries wear jeans and t-shirts, sometimes even shorts. Work dress for Saudis is really clean thobes, Westerners tend to wear typically business clothing. - Dec 2013


Women, even foreigners, wear abayas outside and in public areas. However, there are exceptions. At the consulate and at international schools and on compounds, Western women don't wear an abaya. At all-female events (such as their children's birthday parties or wedding parties), women will remove their abayas and head coverings. The nice thing about wearing an abaya most of the time is that as long as you are wearing nice shoes and have a nice handbag (the accessories that show), you can be as comfortable as you like underneath --- pyjamas are okay! Outside of Jeddah, expat women (unless they are on business) should cover at least their hair with a headscarf. You rarely see any Saudi women when traveling outside Jeddah, and when you do, every inch of skin is covered. Even with my hair covered, I felt like I stood out and was stared at constantly. However, many expat women refuse to veil even when they are outside the city. In a country that is home to many who are ultra-orthodox, this seems like an unnecessary risk to me. I think it best to maintain as low a profile as possible. Business attire for expat men is similar to what you would find in the States or in Europe. However, Saudi men wear primarily white thobes (long white gowns) and head coverings at business functions. Expat men need not wear a thobe except, maybe, at very formal events such as wedding parties. - May 2013


Business attire at work - no one has ever said anything to me for wearing shorts in town, but I typically don't just to avoid scrutiny. - Nov 2010


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