Walking around Turkey today you’d see a wide variety of women dressed from very modest to not modest at all. This may create a bit of confusion as far as what you should wear as a tourist coming to Turkey, so in this video we’ll give you some tips and insight on what you should wear as a woman in Turkey.
In traditional Islamic societies, women dress very modestly in public and wear more revealing clothing only in family quarters among close relatives.
Over a decade ago, European and American-style "secular" fashion (meaning uncovered heads, forearms and calves) were not often worn, however, some older and some younger Turkish women continued to adopt the conservative tesettür style in public, which is the headscarf and long, light cover-all topcoat covering arms and legs completely, even in summer.
The recent trends for those who wear more conservative clothing has created a divide between those who wear modest European-style clothing and traditional Islamic clothing.
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.
As a foreign visitor in Turkey, it is understood that dress in your home country may differ from that in Turkey. However, modesty is still appreciated. For your holiday in Turkey, dress the same as you would to visit France, Germany, Italy or the UK, but more on the conservative side.
Here are a few different examples of what you could wear in different places in Turkey:
How Women Dress in Turkey
1. Stylish casual dress for most places.
You will not see quite as many people walking around in casual clothes as you might in other countries. To fit the proper turkish style, dress up a bit more ("smart casual") for the cities. Of course for the seaside resorts, it is normal to be looking more beachy and laid back. The nearly universal summer tourist seaside dress of shorts and T-shirt is absolutely fine, but make sure you’re aren’t walking into a mosque with this attire. As you go into the big cities of Turkey — just like New York, Sydney or London—most of the local people around you will be more stylishly dressed.
2.Seaside & Beach: As You Like
Generally, in seaside resort towns, you may dress as you like. Outright nudity is illegal, but on remote stretches of beach some tourists may sunbathe topless. At the beach you will see women wearing bikinis, one pieces, and even full body coverings. Feel free to wear your usual swimming attire.
3. Visiting Mosques
Clean, modest clothing is appreciated and often required when visiting mosques. 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. More...
No shorts, sleeveless tops (tank tops) or revealing clothing should be worn by women or men. 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, skirts, scarves, and sometimes robes are provided to make sure you are dressed appropriately.
This modest style of clothing may not be your everyday attire but it is important that you are respecting the culture of the Turkish people as you are stepping into their sacred places of prayer.
4. "Smart Casual" in Restaurants
In the more upscale restaurants, dress is somewhat more formal than in the USA or Australia. Avoid wearing shorts and a T-shirt to a nice restaurant or dining room for any meal. In the evening, stylish dresses, slacks or skirts are preferred. For men, ties are not normally required, and jackets are usually optional.
5. Out in the Countryside
In rural areas away from the touristy locations, 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 more worthy of respect. A foreign woman wanting to fit in with traditional village life would wear slacks, long skirts, or 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. Wearing this attire would be the most respectful to the Village culture and would allow you to connect with the Turkish people.
You'll want to dress for the weather, also. See Tom's Turkish Almanac for a month-by-month summary of weather and temperature.