Traveling to new countries and communities is an excellent way to introduce yourself to a different culture and appreciate the diversity the world offers. However, tourists and travelers must be careful to respect the customs and beliefs of the locals in a particular area—even when you don’t necessarily adhere to the same practices. Not only will it help you blend in, but it may also give you more insight into how other people perceive life and the world, which in turn, also widens your worldview.
One of such practices is the dress code. Multiple countries have guidelines that instruct people to adhere to a specific attire and not wear certain clothes. Middle Eastern countries, Turkey, Egypt, and Vatican City are a few examples of such states. The enforcement of these rules can vary significantly from one area in a country to another. It can also differ for each local location. For example, some mosques may require women to cover their hair first before entering the premises.
As you prepare to travel, keeping the local dress codes in mind will contribute greatly to a more rewarding traveling experience. To help you get ready, here are some tips that will help you assemble the appropriate travel wardrobe and ensure that you have the right apparel for your trip.
Research Your Destination
Many successful endeavors begin with good planning. Before you pack your bags, take the time to research your destination first. There will probably be numerous articles and blogs about it, which will serve as a jumping-off point for your research. To increase your knowledge, however, you need to learn what the local women wear daily. Look for pictures online, or check the local news to see what they normally wear. This will give you a more concrete idea of what the expectations are for dressing up and help you plan your travel wardrobe accordingly.
Leave the Shorts Shorts at Home
Generally, the idea of modest apparel requires you to cover three main areas: the hair, the shoulders, and the knees. Some countries may require you to cover more, but they usually offer special robes for that. One example is the abaya, an all-black robe that covers your arms and reaches up to your ankles.
Hence, when packing clothes, skip the short shorts. Opt for loose cotton pants or maxi skirts instead. You can also opt for leggings, as long you can pair them with a dress or a long shirt. There are several options on where to shop for denim leggings if you wish to spruce up your wardrobe. Meanwhile, strapless shirts are fine because they can be easily layered with a shawl or thin button-up shirt and remain cool to wear.
No See-Through Clothes
Expectedly, see-through clothes are a no-go. The only lightweight apparel that could potentially be exempted from this rule are outerwear like cardigans and button-up shirts–provided that you have a solid-colored top underneath. Granted, see-through clothes can help you remain cooler in warm climates, but there are other materials that can help you achieve that while remaining culturally acceptable. Cotton garments, for instance, are airy and breathable, making them great to wear in mYouore humid countries.
Plan in Layers
Now that you have an idea of what to wear and which clothes to avoid, you can start assembling your travel capsule wardrobe. To save on luggage space, one of the most effective things you can do is plan your outfits in layers. The goal is to set up an outfit that allows you to easily remove and pile on articles of clothing depending on the local dressing customs and weather. For example, bringing a scarf with you not only helps you keep warm in case of chilly weather but also allows you to easily cover your hair if the location requires it. Additionally, you can mix and match different tops and bottoms together to create new looks every day, allowing you to maximize your luggage space and stay stylish at the same time.
Remember Modest Fashion Essentials
At this point, it becomes clear that there are several things to consider in dressing up modestly. To help you plan your traveling attire, here is a list of essentials that can serve as your starting point in assembling your wardrobe:
- Long-Sleeved Button-Up Shirt
- Maxi Dresses and Skirts
- Flowy Pants
- Capri Trousers
- Leggings (for lower layering)
- Socks (in case you need to remove your footwear)
These items will come in exceedingly handy in various conditions and help ensure that you can adjust to any kind of apparel situation if one arises.
For Swimming, Consider a Rashguard
Swimming attire can be tricky to prepare. After all, the standard apparel for swimming is bathing suits, but you may be unsure if that is allowed in your destination. For peace of mind, some conservative countries do allow women to wear swimsuits but only in certain areas. For example, beach resorts in Dubai and Mediterranean coasts typically allow swimsuits but only around the pool or beach. If you venture out of those areas, you will have to dress up in more locally acceptable attire or risk getting unwanted attention. Moreover, wearing clothes on top of a wet swimsuit is usually not accepted because the top layers can become see-through when wet (e.g. colorful swimsuit under a white shirt).
If you wish to stay on the safe side, wearing a rashguard is the way to go. It may not be the ideal swimming attire for you, but it is more likely to be accepted in a conservative culture. Additionally, it can help protect you from sunburn in locations with warmer climates.
Buy Apparel at Local Stores
Another useful tip in dressing modestly and saving luggage space is to purchase the clothes you will wear at your destination. In this way, you only need to prepare your wardrobe essentials and not worry too much about what you wear. The garments may also be more affordable compared to buying them online at the last minute. Some of the apparel you can buy locally include footwear, shawls, and even dresses, which will feature the locally preferred patterns and styles more authentically. As a bonus, you will also be helping local businesses and supporting the economy of the country you are visiting. You may even find new styles that fit your taste and have unique pieces to integrate into your staple wardrobe.
Contact an Informed Friend
First-hand accounts are a rich source of information, and this also applies to preparing your travel wardrobe. Some of the people you can reach out to include friends who have already visited your destination or colleagues that came from or grew up in that country. For example, if you are planning to travel to India, asking a neighbor who has spent some time there can get you some dressing tips and maybe even some lesser-known spots and activities to add to your travel bucket list.
Conclusion: Plan and Adjust Accordingly
Overall, planning a wardrobe for a culture you are unfamiliar with is difficult, but it is attainable. That said, you can never be fully sure you have dressed appropriately until you have arrived at the country itself. The rules may be more relaxed or stricter than you expected. Thus, it is wise to prepare for all kinds of situations and bring garments like scarves or shawls to cover up if needed. In the end, you are there to experience something new. Any mishaps along the way will become part of the traveling experience and contribute to your learning of a different yet equally valuable culture and society.