Appropriate Dress in Turkey

Old May 24th, 2010, 05:48 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 4
Appropriate Dress in Turkey

I have a question about what is considered appropriate dress in Turkey.

I have heard that shorts are not appropriate in many places, but to wear slacks that go past the knee. Does this mean that a capri pant that goes to mid-calf would be appropriate to wear in all places - even to a mosque?

Would this be similar for shirts - anything with a sleeve past the elbow would be appropriate to wear all over Turkey?

I'm trying to pack as little as possible, and bring the most comfortable clothes for all of the walking we will be doing. Really the only full-length slacks I have are for the Winter... so I'm hoping the capris will be ok.
blepharisma is offline  
Old May 24th, 2010, 06:35 PM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 518

One thing you should tell us a little more about is where you will be travelling in Turkey.

I'm no expert, but I'll give you my response while trying not to overgeneralize. In general, I don't think it's a matter of "rules," but rather a respect and sensitivity to those who live in the country hosting you.

In Istanbul, I think you will generally find that most people will dress in a "European" style. Certainly many women will be dressed in hijab (head scarf and light top coat), but you will generally see what you see in any major European city. You will probably see young women dressed in skimpy outfits that would get raised eyebrows in Omaha. What the locals are wearing doesn't necessarily tell you what you as a visitor should wear, but it does give you context.

In beach resorts, the dress is very casual and relaxed.

In rural areas, you may feel more comfortable if you are more modestly dressed. By modestly dressed, I would say that you would not expose your thighs, shoulders, and upper arms. So in that sense, I think that capris would be perfectly appropriate, as would short-sleeved, non-tank top shirts. My wife felt more comfortable erring on the conservative side in smaller towns and villages, but to a certain extent this comes down to your comfort level. You may make a habit of carrying a light scarf with you that you can cover your head and arms with if you feel uncomfortable or find yourself in a situation which may warrant more conservative attire.

Dress in a mosque should be more conservative. Loose clothing which covers as much skin as possible, ideally long sleeves. Of course, you should carry a scarf to cover your head and shoulders. This might help you get around wearing long sleeves, as you can wrap your upper body in the scarf. Another strategy my wife employed was to carry a light hoodie sweatshirt in her pack so she could simply pull the hood up and cover her head. I saw some female tourists employing similar strategies wrapping their lower bodies with a large scarf, sarong style. You'll want to remove your shoes before entering the mosque. Some say you should not have bare feet either, so you will want to have socks with you.

If you are otherwise conservatively dressed, you can try to wear your capris into the mosque. If you are offensively dressed, there are attendants who will help visitors by offering robes to borrow during the visit.

In general, I think Turks accept visitors very much as they are, even in rural areas. However, it comes down to respect and sensitivity to their culture and, in the case of a mosque visit, their religious faith.

That's my take, but I certainly expect that there will be other perspectives. I imagine otherchelabi will weigh in soon.
Woyzeck is offline  
Old May 25th, 2010, 02:10 AM
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 4,861
Woyzeck has given you a great deal of good advice. The followin is an addition and an expansion:

- In istanbul, anything fashionable or nice in the modern areas. You can wear shorts and sandals if you want to be noticed as red neck tourists.
- In the touristy areas, you cannot hide that you are a tourist, so wear anything you like including shorts, sandals,halter tops.
- In mosques, capri, pant, just below knee skirt, short sleeve top and a scarf that just covers your head are enough. You do not need a pashmina or a shawl covering your shoulders or upper body, except in winter when it will probably be cold in the mosque.
- In resort areas like Bodrum, Antalya, Cesme, Marmaris, Dalyan, Kas, Kalkan, Side, Kusadasi, etc. anything goes.
I fondly remember a Turkish girl sunning and swimming topless just to compete with my new bride during our honeymoon in Kusadasi, 32 years ago. For two days after that my wife also sun bathed topless.
- At antique sites i strongly recommend sneakers or very comfortable snug walking shoes with socks. You can sprain an ankle easily and sandals will leave your feet filthy and crunchy with loose soil and gravel, as well as expose it to bugs, ants and mosquitos.
Otherwise dress according to the weather. So shorts and skimpy tops are perfectly fine in very hot weather. (always carry some bottled water with you when visiting larger antique sites in the summer) If it is very hot, a small towel on your waist is also very useful to wipe the sweat.

- When you people watch, do not take other foreign tourists as your guide but take the modern and reasonably affluent looking Turks. This not only for dress but also ordering at a restaurant. It is perfectly all right to ask a neighboring table what it is they have ordered if it looks good or interesting to you. When i was young this was a great tactic to pick girls.

You are fortunate that Capris are in fashion this year.

Also, you will realize that you can ger exceptional value in t-shirts and also reasonably nice looking summer pants in Turkey. The light weight summer cargo pants at OXXO shops are very nice and not expensive (there is one on Istiklal Street)

Also do not forget to bring lots of sunscreen, because it is more expensive in turkey, and you will need it if you are going to do walking outside Istanbul
otherchelebi is offline  
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