As a non-Muslim woman, visiting a mosque for the first time can be a little nerve-racking if you are unsure of the dress code. Last year I had the pleasure to visit two mosques, one more traditional and one small Sufi mosque. The Sufi mosque had no dress code and people showed up with all levels of dress, however the other mosque was totally different. We were expected to dress appropriately: men in baggy clothes and women with their bodies covered (ankles to wrists and hair).
Read more: Student Series! Veiled
For most of us in the program this was the first time visiting a mosque and we were unsure if our look was covered up enough. I did some research ahead of time and felt pretty confident that I was in the clear but now that I am going back for a second time to another summer program involving Islam, I feel much better about my mosque dress prep. However, I felt like there needed to be more fashion resources out there for non-Muslim women who are also planning on visiting an Islamic-majority country or a mosque so I put together this little guide with videos below. Hope it’s useful!
Here are some guidelines to keep in mind before choosing clothes for a mosque visit:
- Make sure your clothes are loose and flowing, partly for modestly and partly for practicality (you will be standing, bowing and sitting on the floor quite a bit).
- Make sure your ankles to wrists are covered; that can mean skinny jeans and a long-sleeved top or a maxi dress and cardigan BUT many mosques prefer looser clothes so I always go with the maxi dress option.
- Bring shoes that are easy to take off (like flip-flops or sandals) because shoes are not permitted in the mosque (this also goes for Hindu or Buddhist temples).
- Women typically must wear a veil or scarf that covers their hair and neck (a lightweight scarf wrapped around and tucked into your top is the easiest way to get this done).
I made a few videos below to help you chose an outfit and accessories that follow the guidelines above. Now keep in mind, this may not be the expectation in every mosque but it will get you through the door for about 90% of them.
Read more: Travel Tips: Dressing for Houses of Worship
What I would NOT wear to a mosque
Not all maxi dresses are created equal, I have specifically chosen two free-flowing, loose dresses in my videos above. Here are some maxi dresses below that I would NOT wear to a mosque even with a cardigan and a headscarf:
It’s hard to see here but this dress has a huge slit in the front, it only goes to about my knees but a no-no for a mosque. Otherwise, this dress plus a cardigan and scarf would be perfect.
A strapless maxi is a definite no, even with a cardigan because with all the up and down you have to do in a mosque you’re risking a slip up (or technically a slip down) of the top of your dress.
So I hope this little guide has been helpful to you. Again, I am not Muslim, I do not regularly practice hijab dress so this is not a Muslim-dress tutorial but can be helpful to female tourists who are interested in visiting mosques in a respectful manner. However, if you are planning on visiting a mosque either a home or abroad, make sure to do your homework first! Some may require some specific additions in included in my guidelines here.
P.S. Islam is not the only tradition with head covering for women, it is also a Jewish and Christian, especially Catholic tradition. However, head covering is not as widespread in those two religious as it is in Islam. But in all three religions it is not mandated to women and is a choice.