Countries with the Strictest Dress Codes for Women

By Erin Perez
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Before traveling to any country, it’s important that you know their customs and rules, which include their dress codes. Yes, dress codes are still a thing even today. And to make sure you adhere to the rules, you’ll need to read about them prior to your trip so you can follow them. In this way, you can avoid dress code violations (which can lead to a fine or, worse, brief imprisonment) and steer clear of offending cultural and religious sensibilities.

So, check out the list below to get an idea of just how strict these countries are when it comes to dress codes for women. In this way, you’ll know what to wear in case you do visit them in the future.

women in modest clothing

Saudi Arabia

The Muslim nation of Saudi Arabia has some of the strictest dress codes in the world, especially for women. The new female dress code passed in 2019 is just as strict — even if it no longer requires female tourists to wear an abaya (essentially a cloak) and headscarf. According to Gulf News, the Public Decorum Code requires women visitors to dress modestly, with their shoulders and knees covered. The code also prohibits women from wearing sleeveless shirts and short dresses.

So, in case Saudi Arabia is part of your upcoming itinerary, it would be wise to buy some sleeved maxi dresses. Liveabout, describes maxi dresses as “typically form-fitting at the top and cut to flow loosely over the body at the bottom.” Even better, they are always fashionable, which is why they have become wardrobe staples for women. They are also available in a variety of fabrics, so you can choose one appropriate for Saudi Arabia’s scorching weather. By wearing these, you’re guaranteed to look stylish while still being respectful of Islamic laws.

Sudan

As Reuters reported, many of the strict social rules that once defined the African nation of Sudan are gradually being eased thanks to Omar al-Bashir’s Islamist regime being overthrown last year. That said, restrictive laws are still in place, and haven’t been scrapped just yet. This means women still can’t dress freely, as they are not allowed to wear skirts and are advised to dress modestly.

That said, consider wearing loose-fitting cotton T-shirts and jeans when you visit Sudan. This combination ticks the boxes in terms of following Islamic norms on how women should dress up: The T-shirt covers your top part, including your chest and shoulders, while the jeans cover your legs all the way past the knees. Equally important is that you’ll be super comfortable and able to move about freely — perfect for when you explore the country’s archaeological wonders. As a bonus, this simple get-up is just right for Sudan’s hot weather as well!

women in india

Cambodia

Home to some of the most breathtaking temples and ruins, Cambodia is a must-see for anyone traveling to Southeast Asia. It’s rich with heritage sites, warm people, and wonderful climate year-round — so pack your breathable clothes and sneakers. In fact, a visit to Cambodia would be akin to taking a trip in a past world. Considering the country’s tumultuous past, it’s a relatively young nation in the rapidly progressing modern world.

They’ve retained much of their traditional customs, including the women’s code called Chbab Srey, which promotes strict conservatism. This put them under fire, as senior government officials in Cambodia have proposed a law banning women from wearing clothes that are “too short” or “too see-through” and men from being “shirtless” in public. While the law hasn’t yet been passed, it’s gaining significant legal support. And seeing as most places you’ll be visiting are temples and places of worship anyway, it’s best to pack light clothes that aren’t too revealing, covering the knees and shoulders.

Maldives

Maldives, an island chain of 26 atolls, is a tourist paradise known for its pristine beaches. It is also known as being a 100% Muslim country, which means everyone is supposed to dress modestly in accordance with Islamic law. Unsurprisingly, revealing swimwear is banned in public places, but permitted in resorts and so-called bikini beaches.

So, if you’re unsure whether or not the beach you’re in allows revealing swimwear, just be prepared and wear your bikini under a wrap dress that is perfect for the beach. Wrap dresses, as explained in prettyme, are flattering for all body types, as they can highlight your best features. Just make sure to pick one that fits you just right, as anything too loose or too tight would just look awkward. Alternatively, you can wear your bikini under a tunic dress, which is also great for the beach. Tunic dresses are generally made of lightweight cotton or rayon, and they come in a variety of styles and color combinations. They also offer a relaxed fit and can be paired with matching flip-flops.

Ugandan women outfits

Uganda

While Uganda is among Africa’s most culturally diverse countries, it also has strict dress codes. This is particularly true for its female civil servants, who are required to wear sleeved blouses that should cover their cleavage, navel, and back. They are also prohibited from wearing short skirts (meaning, anything above the knee is a no-go). Female travelers like you need to take note of these restrictions, too, as they more or less apply to you as well if you visit the country.

Given this dress code, wearing the T-shirt and jeans combo would be a good idea if you’re exploring Uganda and its expansive national parks. Long trousers and long-sleeved tops, in particular, are highly recommended, as these are comfortable and will protect you from the sun’s scorching heat. Comfortable walking shoes or sandals are a must, too, as you’re likely to walk on dusty, uneven roads and fields. And consider using a pashmina or sarong as well for some style points, and an extra layer of protection against the sun’s harmful UV rays.

Let this list remind you of something you must do before traveling to any country: Find out as much as you can about it! Research about it online, ask for input from your fellow travelers, and call that country’s tourism board or consulate. These steps will allow you to plan out your trip in fine detail, including the clothes you’ll need to pack. It will also help ensure that you’ll enjoy your trip without violating laws or traditions.

Sources :
Gulf News – https://gulfnews.com/world/gulf/saudi/saudi-arabia-your-guide-to-new-dress-code-and-public-decency-code-1.1569829894170

Byrdie – https://www.byrdie.com/what-is-a-maxi-dress-how-to-style-it-4164690

Reuters – https://www.reuters.com/article/us-sudan-culture-idUSKBN2132I5

Pretty Me – https://www.prettyme.ph/guides/best-dresses-for-petites/

About the author

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Erin Perez

Erin Perez is passionate about all things beauty and fashion. She is interested in the way the industry adapts to new trends and norms. When she’s not writing a new piece, you’ll find her tending to her indoor garden.