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What She Wears Outside North America...

 

Evelyn Hannon

While it's easier for most of us to figure out what to wear in New York, Winnipeg, Montreal and Los Angeles, how does a gal prepare for more distant, less familiar destinations? Often we rely on family and friends to guide us in our clothing choices when we 'hit the road.' Yet how many of us have a sister who works in Afghanistan? Does anybody have a girlfriend who goes to Sri Lanka often? When was the last time your favorite aunt spent time in Mauritania? Here at the Journeywoman website we're extremely lucky to have members experienced enough to offer sound packing advice for just about any country you can think of. Thank you to everybody who sent in the terrific clothing tips that allows us to post this new and informative 'What Should I Wear' article.

 

Afghanistan...
I've been working in Afghanistan for over a year (2007). Dressing appropriately is very important and can save you from a lot of hassle and it will give you respect. Kabul is more moderate than the rest of the country (logical, as there are a lot of international people working in Kabul). You don't see the traditional burka here so often. In the countryside, things are far less relaxed. While in Kabul in a restaurant you can take off your headscarf, doing so on in the countryside depends a lot on where you are and with whom - women usually do not even go to restaurants, and if they do, there are special family and women rooms (guess that explains a lot).

You are on the safe side if you wear long trousers, a loose shirt with long sleeves and a scarf nicely tossed around your head. The Indian style is very much appreciated here, but you will score extra points if you get clothes with Afghan embroidery and get a shirt made for you. It won't cost you more than $20. The popular colours here are not as bright as those in India. It is more white, blue, green that are more popular here; but it is okay to wear bright colours. Just, well, you stand out.

However you stand out in any case, as outside of Kabul you don't (actually) see women on the street, you see burkas - the head to toe covering blue or green dress that does not allow one glimpse except for the feet and hands maybe. So you will be stared at no matter how you dress, because seeing a woman not totally covered is something men just aren't used to. You'll feel much better though if you are covered in loose clothing. You can wear any shoes you like, I mostly had flip flops for the office and sneakers on the street. The streets are bad, either muddy or dusty and full of cracks and holes, so don't try wearing heels.

Winter gets cold and wet or ice/snowy, and as electricity is not really working you might be freezing a lot. You can get a fur coat for $40 but you have to realise that then you stand out even more as somebody who has a lot of money. I hope this is of need! Afghanistan is not the most frequent destination, I know.
Christine, Kabul, Afghanistan (2007)


Dubai UAE...
Dubai and the rest of Islamic countries in the world will expect any woman as a guest, to wear long pants and a long sleeved blouse, covering the front and full arm. It's important to use cool material as these places are relatively warm the whole year through. Button up the whole front and wear a scarf to cover the rest of the neck. Slightly heeled shoes are perfect. Use dark colours as very attractive colours are not suitable to the crowds’ eye. Business attire for women is formal; a suit can be worn daily. For men, Polo shirts or tee shirts and jacket while traveling are appropriate; jeans can be worn with rubber soled sport shoes. Again no striking colours. Daily business attire for men is a polo shirt and formal black trousers with a pair of black shiny shoes.
Lita, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

 

Turkey...
I am a Turkish woman, living and working in Istanbul. I've lived in and been to many different countries, including the US and I can easily say that anywhere in the world there are places where you need to be careful with your clothing. But it'd be wrong to generalize these types of ideas as a whole. I, as a Turkish woman, never wear those so called ankle long skirts or scarves to cover up my shoulders. Especially if you're traveling to the summer spots like Bodum, Cesme, Antalya etc, you would look really weird wearing those things. The only time you will need the scarf is for when you want to enter a mosque, and that's only for respect to the religion. Turkish people are very friendy and hospitable. And of course, in very touristic spots you'll get attention because they want to sell souvenir sorts of things to tourists. My last remark will be about the male approach in Turkey... Believe me you'll get hit on wherever you go if you are attractive. That doesn't have anything to do with the country you are in or whether you're wearing a tank top. I hope you'll enjoy Turkey and get rid of the stereotypes in your head!
Deren, Istanbul (2007)

Editor's note: While I appreciate this writer's sentiments, I still must emphasize appropriate dress. Men are much more apt to 'hit on you' and approach you if you are showing a lot of skin. Inappropriate dress is an invitation. You don't have to cover up entirely. Just don't dress to attract attention.

 

Iran...
I am an Iranian woman who read your Journeywoman article about how to wear [dress] in Iran. That was amazing to find this article on [the] net. Now, everything changes in our country. You do not need to wear socks, and coats are not so long, they can be printed in designs and short but with long sleeves to reach your wrists. Coats can be fitted now but not tight. You still should wear a scarf but not as before. Now they are long rectangular pieces of cloth that are used to cover your hair but not completely.
Sibora, Iran (2007)

I found this Reuters news item about culturally correct clothing and behaviour in Iran in our local paper (October 12, 2007). I thought it would be helpful for women travelling to Iran to understand this. ' Iranian police have warned 122,000 people, mostly women, about flouting strict Islamic dress codes since April and nearly 7,000 of those attended classes on respecting the rules. Such crackdowns ... are an annual event and usually last a few weeks. But this year's measures have been longer and more severe than in recent years... In addition to the dress crackdown, the newspaper quoted a Tehran police commander as saying 482 people were arrested for taking part in mixed parties. Men and women are not allowed to mix at close quarters in Iran, unless they are family members.'
Beverly, Winnipeg, Canada (2007)

 

Korea...
I stayed in Seoul for two months. I worked, took a Korean class, nightclubbed, shopped and visited DobongSan (lovely cool mountain area) during the summer. I advise packing "girly" clothes if you visit Seoul. In summer I recommend cotton, linen and silk and make sure you press/starch all of your gear. Tempted to wear ruffles, frills or lace, go right ahead. Your clothing will fit right in in Seoul. Make sure all attire covers your knees.

Bring shoes that are easy to take off. In traditional restaurants, everyone removes shoes before entering. Most women wear open-toed high heeled mules in summer. If you must wear flats, try to find a very pretty dressy pair. You can also stick to foreign restaurants where you can keep your shoes on and sit on a chair.

Bring a wide-brimmed hat if you plan to walk a lot in summer. Bring ponytail holders, barrettes and clips to tame your hair. If you bring a perfume, bring a very light scent. No one wears strong perfume. If you have a favorite, apply it with a very light touch or just change to a milder fragrance.

Make sure to bring at least one nice handbag and stock it with lipstick, eyeliner and concealer. Bring a good cleanser because the pollution and heat will affect your skin. At any rate, properly dressed coiffed and lipsticked, you may still be a foreigner, but you will feel more at ease in the sea of beautiful, well-dressed, impeccably groomed women that roam the streets of the capital!
Joanne, Timonium, USA (2007)

 

Slovenia...
Ljubljana has a "student" feel to it, whereas small towns are more conservative. Plain, dark-colored casual clothes will take you almost anywhere. On a fall trip, I wore twill pants rather than jeans, and a simple black cotton knit jacket rather than a windbreaker, and (to judge from the number of people who addressed me in Slovene) I blended right in! As for dressier wear, many women have their "good" clothes tailor-made, so make sure that whatever you bring is well-made and fits you perfectly. Laundromats are few and far between, even in Ljubljana, and even laundries are rare. Some hotels will do your laundry, but it's expensive. Thank goodness, I'd brought nylon underwear, but next time I'll bring a hand-washable, quick-drying nightgown and a few extra clothes to get me through the trip.
Paula, Santa Fe, USA (2007)

 

Paris...
Paris is one of the most sophisticated cities I have ever traveled to. French women of all ages know the art of dressing in a very fashionable manner. Having been there a couple of times, I recommend wearing some cute scarves (around your waist, in your hair, or around your neck) and stylish, yet comfortable clothing. I recommend wearing palazzo pants or knit trousers (New York & Company's city knit collection is great because it is very classy, easy to pack, and wrinkle-free) along with nice tops or blouses. This type of clothing served me very well in Paris and other cities in European countries. Keep in mind that when in Paris and other places throughout France for that matter, you will do a lot of walking. Look for shoes that you will feel comfortable walking in all day long. With that said, don't break in new shoes when going to Paris for the first time. Allow yourself some time to break them in at home before leaving on your trip. The good news about shoes is that you don't have to sacrifice style for comfort. I found a really cute pair of shoes that I wore while in France and I didn't have any problems at all with my feet. Jeans are great to wear as well, but don't wear faded soccer mom jeans with the tapered legs! Jeans with a bootcut or flare leg are good. No-no's include white sneakers, wearing fanny packs around your waist and wearing cameras around your neck. You will be spotted as an American tourist right away! I recommend taking along a larger purse. Before leaving for my trip to Paris, I found a purse that was large enough to hold my wallet, passport, camera, and travel-sized umbrella without the purse being too big and feeling too heavy. Just be sure to guard your purse carefully, as Paris is known for having many pickpockets in tourist areas and on the metro. By exercising caution, you won't have any problems. Have a wonderful time in France and be careful!
Therese, St. Louis, USA (2007)

 

China...
Shanghai is *extremely* humid and hot in summer, with temperatures often in the 90's (F) or 30's (C) and humidity averaging 70%. June and July are also the rainiest months, so thunderstorms are pretty common (and often welcome, since they clean the air and cool things off a little). Shanghai is a fashionable city, and the women tend to dress very nicely.

To find a good balance of style and comfort, I would recommend packing lightweight skirts, dresses, or cropped pants (cooler than long pants, and not many people wear shorts) and short-sleeved tops. Though many local women wear high heels for walking around, I don't know how they do it! The sidewalks are often cobblestones, are sometimes wet and a little grimy, and you have to do a lot of walking. For foot protection and comfort, some sturdy, stylish flats are a must. Finally, bring sunscreen and buy an umbrella when you get there -- they sell great SPF 30 umbrellas that are made of a more reflective material than rain umbrellas. Lots of local people -- both men and women -- carry them, and I found that an umbrella made all the difference in the hot sun.

Finally, some local young women wear really sexy outfits -- hot pants and platform heels, miniskirts and stilettos -- seemingly without turning heads or causing any commotion. It doesn't seem advisable for foreign visitors to do the same, though -- you will attract enough attention as it is.
Erica, U.S.A (2007)

 

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