In traditional Islamic societies, women dress very modestly in public, and wear more revealing clothing only in family quarters among close relatives.
Until recently, the major fashion in Turkey was for European and American-style "secular" clothing in public—uncovered heads, forearms and calves in warm weather—though most older and some younger Turkish women continued to adopt the conservative tesettür style in public: headscarf and long, light cover-all topcoat covering arms and legs completely, even in summer.
During the last 10 or 15 years, the trend has been to more conservative clothing, whether European or Islamic. Indeed, Turkish female society now seems divided into those who wear modest European-style secular clothing and those who wear tesettür.
As a foreign visitor in Turkey, it is understood that dress in your home country may differ from that in Turkey. Still, modesty is appreciated. For your holiday in Turkey, dress the
same as you would to visit France,
Germany, Italy or the UK, but on the conservative side.
You may see some women in burka (black full-body
covering, with veil). Most may be visitors from
other countries with a stricter
interpretation of Islamic dress
traditions, though some will be Turks who have revived the Ottoman tradition.
Actually, the veil
is outlawed in
Turkey (but the law is little enforced),
and even the wearing of headscarves in
secular contexts (universities, government
offices, etc.) is controversial, though the trend is to allow the headscarf everywhere.
How Women Dress in Turkey
casual dress for most places.
Dress up more ("smart casual") for the cities, less
for the seaside resorts. The nearly
universal summer tourist
seaside dress of shorts-and-T-shirt is
fine, but not in mosques. However, in Turkish cities—as in New
York, Sydney or London—most of the
local people around you will be more
2. Clean, Modest Dress to Visit Mosques
Clean, modest clothing is appreciated
and often required. In short, don't
show thighs, shoulders or
upper arms. Slacks, or knee-length
skirt or dress; blouse or top with
sleeves to at least the mid-upper-arm.
Have a headscarf to
cover your hair. In cooler seasons,
a light, long-sleeved hoodie is
a great idea: just raise the hood
when entering a mosque, and you needn't
bother with a headscarf. More...
shorts, sleeveless tops (tank
revealing clothing on women or men, please. Shoes don't
matter as you will be removing
them before entering the mosque (so slip-ons make it easier).
At the most-visited mosques (such
as Istanbul's Blue
Mosque), attendants may provide
cover-all robes (free)
if your manner of dress is questionable.
3. Seaside & Beach: As You Like
In seaside resort towns,
dress as you like. Outright nudity is
illegal, but on remote stretches of beach some tourists may sunbathe topless.
4. "Smart Casual" in Restaurants
In the better restaurants, dress
is somewhat more formal than in the
USA or Australia. Avoid wearing shorts-and-T-shirt
to a good restaurant or dining room
for any meal. In the evening, stylish
dress, slacks or skirt-and-top are
preferred. For men, ties are not normally required, and jackets are usually optional. Many Turks wear jacket-and-tie to dinner, but may remove their jackets for comfort at some point during dinner.
5. Out in the Countryside
In rural areas away
from the tourist throngs, Turks will accept you as you are,
but women in more modest dress (sleeved
tops, slacks or knee-length dresses
or skirts) may be seen as worthier
of respect. A foreign woman wanting
to fit in with traditional
village life would wear slacks
(or, going native, the comfortable
Turkish bloomers called şalvar [SHAHL-vahr]),
a top with sleeves at least to the
elbows and perhaps even to the wrists,
and a headscarf, when out in public.
You'll want to dress for the
weather, also. See Tom's
Turkish Almanac for
a month-by-month summary of weather
Muslim "secular" woman out shopping
Note the fashion mag, and sleeves to the elbows.
village dress: long-sleeved
tops, şalvar (bloomers),
and, in two cases out of