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Modesty Tips for Female Travellers

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 22 Feb 2013 | comments*Discuss
Modesty Traditional Women Head Covering

Regardless of what you usually wear or what you believe about women’s clothing being a reflection on her morals, the fact is that in many parts of the world modesty is a pre-eminent concern regarding women’s clothing. In many parts of the world what a woman wears directly impacts how she is treated, and even how safe she is, and rules for modesty are based on traditional religious or cultural teachings. What is considered modest will likely vary from place to place, but many modesty guidelines touch on head coverings, hemlines, necklines and sleeves.

Modesty and Head Coverings

Many women associate head coverings with Islam, but many religions instruct women to wear head coverings. Orthodox Jews, some conservative Catholics and of course Muslim women may all wear a form of head covering at different times. When in religious buildings coverings such as scarves, lace and possibly even wigs are most appropriate while out on the street a hat or cap may work just as well. For more information about modesty and head coverings in the areas you will be visiting check in guide books or with women who have recently returned from the area who can supply you with more information.

Modesty and Hemlines

In almost no part of the world is a mini-skirt considered to be modest clothing and in many areas shorts are considered similarly lacking in modesty. Generally modesty guidelines will dictate that a woman’s hemline should be either knee-length or even ankle-length. Whether shorts, skirts or trousers are preferable will depend on the destination and likely the social situation. Studying photographs of women in your desired destination will probably help you get a feel for traditional hemlines in the areas to which you will be travelling. Remember, however, that urban areas are often more lenient about modesty requirements so if you are travelling to less cosmopolitan areas it often pays to err on the side of conservative hemlines.

Modesty and Necklines

Just like with high hemlines, there are few areas in the world where plunging necklines could be considered conservative. When you travel abroad make sure to bring along some tops and dresses that cover your chest completely. A good guideline is often 'the rule of three' or laying three fingers on your collarbone and seeing if your neckline is any lower than your third finger. If it is, then you might consider a top with a higher neckline depending upon where you are and who you are with. Making sure that your top is also made from a heavy fabric will also help you avoid any embarrassing incidents regarding water, bright lights or even black lights.

Modesty and Sleeves

Many women forget that even if their necklines are high enough their tops might still be critiqued for modesty depending upon their sleeves. Bare arms, and even bare elbows, might be seen as a sign of immodesty in certain settings so women should also make sure to pack at least one short sleeved top and one long sleeved top. Carrying a cardigan, jacket, sarong or shawl can help women cover up their arms in a pinch as well.

When women travel their clothes may be critiqued not just for style, but for coverage and modesty as well. Making sure to wear head coverings and sleeves as appropriate, as well as hemlines that are long enough and necklines that are high enough will help women meet traditional modesty standards and blend in while abroad.

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