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What Should I Wear?

Spain

Spaniards don't wear shorts or sneakers for anything other than sports, so if you aren't planning on working out, leave these at home. Light fabric pants, capris, skirts, dresses are all fine for summer. Daytime and nighttime temperatures can vary by 20 degrees or more, so have a lightweight sweater or jacket on hand for evening (unless you're in Andalucia in July or August). Browns are preferable to black. For walking the many cobblestoned streets, get a comfortable pair of flat sandals or shoes, this is what Spanish women favor. Espadrilles are great, but take a look around and you'll notice that Spanish espadrilles ("alpargatas") have a much lower platform than ones you can buy at home. And for those hot summer days, get a lovely Spanish fan and use it, not only is it a wonderful fashion accessory, it'll also actually work at keeping you cool!
Gira, New York, USA (2007)

It's hot, hot, hot in Barcelona in the summer. Unless you want to shout, "I'm a tourist", leave the shorts and athletic shoes at home. The women dress up more here. A good choice is a simple linen dress in a conservative color and something to cover your arms if your dress is sleeveless. You will not be allowed in some cathedrals in sleeveless clothing. Stick to comfortable sandals for your feet. I had a sleeveless long dark blue linen dress that I wore from Spain, through the south of France and up to Switzerland that worked well everywhere! However, if you plan to purchase your outfit in Spain be aware that the women are tiny. If you are a larger size, you may have difficulty finding a dress that will fit. Try the Territory Ahead catalog before you leave!
Mari, San Francisco, USA

Spaniards are very fashion conscious people so always leave your house looking well groomed. Fitted clothing is preferred as baggy clothes are considered sloppy, and black is a favorite color. No shorts. You don't have to worry about dressing too skimpy or revealing, however it will bring you extra attention (if that's what you want).
Rose, Madrid, Spain

Many, if not most, of the tourists walking around Barcelona were scantily clad and looked plain ugly compared with the conservatively and elegantly clad Spaniards. No one a day over 20 or a gram overweight can successfully wear short shorts and midriff-baring tops. While on holiday it is difficult to look as stylish as the locals but one can look decent and smart. Minimally clad tourists give travel a bad name.
Margaret, Canmore, Australia

In Spain, women seem to favor dresses (long or short OK). Pants are also ok. but shorts mark you as a tourist.
Dodi, De Funiak Springs, USA

I travelled in Spain during the summer months. July and August are dreadfully hot (I left near the end of June to avoid the heat) yet I still found myself in need of the skimpiest clothes possible. It is very common and accepted for women, if you have the body, to wear short, revealing, slip-like dresses, or sheer tank tops (it is so commonplace there you won't get ogled). Always look neat and polished (not necessarily too cosmopolitan), no ripped jeans or wrinkled t-shirts. Go light on jewelry, forget about needing even a light jacket at night, there is hardly enough chill, unless you will be next to the sea. Wear comfortable shoes if you will do a lot of walking, but if you want to blend in, most Spanish women prefer trendy footwear, like platform sandals. Actually, they prefer almost everything trendy (big hint -- don't look dowdy or frumpish. At least some style is suggested).
Brenda Sanabria, Paterson, USA

Wear loose dresses (with sleeves are better) and comfortable dress shoes or sandals. Some areas are still old-fashioned and locals will look disapprovingly at shorts and t-shirts. They will even keep you from going into churches if you are not attired appropriately. Loose dresses meet any entrance requirements, will not earn you stares, and will keep you cool under a hot sun.
Jennifer, Duluth, USA

In Spain, wear a skirt or long pants when touring cathedrals and other religious sites. Definitely no shorts! I was refused admission to a church because I was wearing shorts.
Ling, New Jersey, USA

Regardless of how wonderful and lightweight your top windbreaker is, if it's hot pink, leave it at home! I felt that I was sticking out like a sore thumb in Spain where most of the women wear conservative, dark clothes, furs, and heels! Same in Italy. Black is boring but tasteful in most situations.
Kathy, Portland OR

 

Sri Lanka

I travelled in Sri Lanka will a friend who was born and partly raised there. Her rule: shorts will do in the country, but when in the cities such as Kandy or Columbo, a skirt or dress is a must. Citizens are insulted by shorts on a woman as it is considered just too casual.
Jennifer, Winnipeg, Canada

I lived in Sri Lanka for 14 months. Local women dress very conservatively: long skirts, saris and covered shoulders. Err on the side of respectability or you'll stand out - and I emphasize stand out - and attract all the wrong kind of attention. I frequently saw female tourists shopping in beach towns in bathing suits, which would be offensive to locals. Wear what you like in the confines of a resort, but cover-up when you're walking on the beach or traveling around this gorgeous country. Oh, and showing your legs and shoulders is a no-no when you visit many of the religious sites around the island, including the famous Temple of the Tooth in Kandy.
Jennifer, Kitchener, Canada (2007)

 

Sudan

Sudanese society is a very conservative one but at the same time a very hospitable one. Revealing clothes in public places would invite severe critism. Dress very conservatively whilst in public - longer skirts to at least mid shin or loose trousers and tops with sleeves at the very minimum up to the elbows. Should you have the pleasure of being invited to a family home, do check whether is it a more 'traditional' or more 'modern' family you will be visiting. In either case, I would suggest dressing on the conservative side for your first visit. Sudan is very hot and dusty in the northern provinces, and light-weight, light coloured clothing would be more comfortable. A hat is not a bad idea too. Hope you have an enjoyable visit.
Elsudaniya, DRCongo, Africa
More Africa and refer back to: http://www.journeywoman.com/ccc/ccc-a.html

Sumatra

If you are going to northern Sumatra be sure to wear modest tops that fully cover your arms down to the wrist, and a headscarf or hat. Your legs should also be covered with either a long skirt or slacks. But don't be afraid of colour; Acehnese women love bright clothes. Some light makeup seems to be acceptable; I often saw women wearing lipstick. Young women wear jeans and zip around town on their motorbikes. All Acehnese women, without exception, wear headscarfs that entirely cover their hair. Most wear sandals or shoes that can be easily slipped off as the custom is to leave shoes outside when visiting a home.
Katherine, Ottawa, Canada (2007)

I'd like to pass along my observations from travel in Sumatra, Indonesia. Within this culture, a woman travelling unaccompanied by a man is unusual. Though I never experienced any sexual harassment, I was always subjected to people's curiosity. That curiosity was usually genuine and utterly lacking in hostility. However, in spite of the absence of overt harassment, we must remember that this is a conservative culture. Immodest dress is considered offensive.
Karen Slawner, Toledo, Ohio

 

Sweden

When travelling in Sweden, I'd say always keep it simple. If you're travelling in winter, yes it's cold - so dress up warm and make sure you have some good sturdy boots. You'll just end up looking silly if you're noticed tottering around the snowy pavements in dress shoes or trainers. As far as summer is concered, don't be deceived by Sweden's nothern position. When I lived there during 2003 it approached 30 degrees C at the end of July, so although not exactly desert conditions, or humid, it's worth taking some modest summer attire. Most of all, Swedes (both men and women) are effortlessly stylish, so it's worth making a bit of an effort, just not to feel out of place.
Rebecca, Edinburgh, UK

I live in Stockholm. In Sweden both women and men dress casually, practically, often in natural materials like cotton, linen, and wool. They tend to avoid synthetics and shiny too-dressed-up looks. This applies even when going to the opera, and in business (though design of clothing may be good, and fabric quality high). Make-up is also often moderately applied. Shoes are practical. Colours are muted or dark. (Funny in such a dark country!) Many people are out there walking, jogging, bicycling in the city which has special lanes parallel to the automobile traffic for pedestrians and bikes. Perhaps it�s all connected - the amount of physical activity and clothing styles. Outside of the big cities the styles are even more decidedly non-pretentious.
Karen, Stockholm, Sweden

 

Syria

Men as well as women dress with careful modesty. You will never see anyone in shorts, even in the heat of summer. As a woman visiting this country, covering your head with a scarf is an option, but I didn't find it necessary (unless you're visiting a mosque). I brought along a few dark-colored, ankle-length cotton skirts, and knit blouses with collars and quarter-length sleeves, which were surprisingly cool and comfortable in the summer heat. Slacks for women are also fine. Though I wore sandals under my skirts the entire two months I was there, and still felt appropriately dressed, most Syrian women keep their feet completely covered with heavy stockings and closed-toe shoes.
Margaret, Dallas, USA (2007)

I dressed pretty conservatively when I went to Syria -- long-sleeved, loose shirts which button to the collar and baggy pants. I kept my hair tied back and had a scarf to cover my head when I visited mosques. No flashy colours or jewelry. Surprisingly, when I got there I saw women in the large cities, dressed in all fashions. The teenage girls were wearing the tight jeans and latest in platform shoes. That said, my conservative approach was fine and when visiting larger mosques, they have cloaks for women to wear if they don't have a headscarf. So no worries there. Happy travels, everybody.
Francoise, Montreal, Canada

I lived and travelled alone in Syria. It's a Muslim country so dress modestly. Prostitutes wear pants, so as a traveller you'll be treated better if you wear a loose skirt. Shorts and bare shoulders are unacceptable in public places. Sleeves should come down to at least the elbow. By dressing modestly, I found that Syrian men were very respectful to me. I wore a long skirt, long-sleeved white blouse, and a hat. A Dutch traveller took my picture in the ruins of a desert city because she said I looked like "a turn-of-the-century lady archaeologist".
Heather, Chilliwack, Canada

 

 

 

 
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