Most citizens of Turkey are Muslims,
but Turkish society is modern
and (in principle) secular,
so European dress styles prevail.
For your holiday in Turkey, dress the
same as you would to visit France,
Germany, Italy or the UK.
When going out in public, many observant Turkish Muslim women
(perhaps 50% of the female population)
dress in tesettür, a
headscarf and light cover-all topcoat. This satisfies
the Islamic admonition to modest dress.
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.
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 tops of
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 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 some tourists sunbathe topless on
Turkish beaches and are rarely questioned
(though sometimes photographed by
other tourists and the Turkish press!)
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