Dressing in a Conservative Country
A friend recently forwarded a sale announcement from Banana Republic. “Greetings from Morocco” was the subject line, and the email included photos from a fashion shoot in the Marrakech medina, with one model wearing a pretty, sleeveless mini-dress and another wearing a linen-cotton tank top with matching wide-leg trousers. The bottoms were perfect – they fell below the knee – but the tank tops and short skirts? It’s a little bit risqué in the Marrakech medina. Some parts of the world are more conservative than others, so when traveling to these places, it’s good to remember the proverb “when in Rome…”
When packing for travel to more conservative countries, you will want to think about cultural and social expectations and plan to dress modestly in order to avoid causing offence or getting any unwanted attention. We’re talking about predominantly Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist countries – though rules might be a little looser in the more cosmopolitan urban centres and the beaches in some of these countries. Generally speaking, dressing conservatively means covering your knees, shoulders and cleavage. In very strict places, this may also mean covering legs all the way to the ankles, arm to the wrists and hair as well. You may still encounter some – or many – women wearing relatively revealing clothes, but just because others do it doesn’t mean it’s correct, nor will it help you connect with the locals. When you’re not sure, you will want to do a little research before you go, just to make sure you pack what you need.
If you’re going somewhere where you should dress more modestly, think of packing:
- Clothing in lightweight natural fabrics like cotton and linen. Not only will these be very breathable, but they will hardly take up any room in your suitcase.
- Scarves. Sure, they will add colour and flair to your outfits, but will also give you extra coverage for your shoulders and hair if you need it and can offer you a bit of extra protection against the sun and air conditioning.
- Loose-fitting pants, long skirts, maxi dresses. Clingy clothing is no friend to sticky skin – and an added benefit is that these items cover your knees.
- Long-sleeve, button-up shirt. This is such a versatile piece of clothing as it can also double as a lightweight jacket and can even triple as a bathing suit coverup in a pinch!
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