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There is mention of not wearing short skirts; does that mean skirts are required for women when wanting to visit places like churches, the Vatican, etc.

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    I'm pretty sure I've seen signs requesting women to wear skirts at Eastern Orthodox churches or monasteries in some countries such as Armenia, Bulgaria, Georgia, or Romania. – hippietrail Oct 20 '14 at 5:56
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    As a rule of thumb, if your dress/skirt doesn't cover your knees you may have problems entering some particular places where such a warning is displayed. Also you may be required to cover your shoulders. In other words: you should be covered from knees to shoulders included. – Bakuriu Oct 20 '14 at 6:20
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    @Bakuriu It seems the OP knows that but another question remains: Are (long) pants acceptable for women? (+1 to the question from me) – Relaxed Oct 20 '14 at 8:59
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    Just because people aren't supposed to wear short skirts, doesn't necessarily imply that that they must be wearing a particular type of skirt. A person wearing long pants, shorts, or nothing isn't wearing a short skirt. – imallett Oct 21 '14 at 6:44
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    I have a very big and light scarf I take on holiday, about 1,50 m x 1,50 m. It can fill many functions, and one is as a skirt when visiting mosques or churches. I always have it in my backpack. – RedSonja May 7 '15 at 12:38
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Skirts specifically are not required, but modest dress certainly is, mostly in religious sites: churches like St. Peter's in the Vatican, major temples in Thailand and India, mosques pretty much anywhere if they're even open to visitors, etc. From the Vatican's official site:

Access to Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, Vatican Gardens and Saint Peter's Basilica is permitted only to visitors dressed appropriately (no sleeveless blouses, no miniskirts, no shorts, no hats allowed).

You can improvise though, eg. many temples in Thailand will loan/sell you a sarong wraparound for your legs.

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    In general, if a special dress code is required to visit a certain tourist site, you will find someone/some place sells/loans a dress that allows women to enter. – Nean Der Thal Oct 20 '14 at 4:07
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    I once visited the Pisa cathedral with a friend who was wearing a sleeveless top. The staff gave her (for free) a horrible large sky blue paper "tunic" to wear over her clothes: basically, a large sheet of crepe paper with a hole in it. It felt a lot like an item of clothing especially designed for shaming people who entered with a 'sinful' attire. – Federico Poloni Oct 20 '14 at 7:25
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    many mosques require women to wear skirts, if they allow women at all. – jwenting Oct 20 '14 at 7:58
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    @Federico: you could have worn one too out of solidarity ;-) Personally I'd be concerned that as soon as you raise your arms to start taking photos, those sinful shoulders will be visible again... – Steve Jessop Oct 20 '14 at 11:49
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    @FedericoPoloni My guess is that it simply was the absolute cheapest solution they could find. Honestly, if you ask me it's pretty nice they provided those for free. – David Mulder Oct 20 '14 at 19:20
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As @hippietrail said in a comment, I know by experience that Orthodox monasteries require girls and women to wear long skirts to enter the building (I visited some of these monasteries on a school trip).

Knowing that before leaving, I brought with me an old skirt and put it on over my jeans just before entering, but the monks had many skirts to be used the way I did.

This is the only case I know that requires women to wear a skirt, while other religious sites that I have visited (mainly catholic churches) have a more general "proper clothing" dress code.

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There are similar answers, but mine is more about Asian sights.

If you are visiting Buddhist places, temples do not really force male or female to wear specific clothing, but too revealing cloths are frowned upon by locals. If you plan to visit a Buddhist place, try not to wear shorts, bikini, etc. Anything that covers until your knees and covers shoulders are generally accepted. Also, as for Buddhists, people wear white-ish clothing to temples. Try to wear something of white color, but not red, black, etc.

You can easily find something to cover you up outside of such temples.

Also, be careful when you wear T-Shirts with a religious leaders, icons, etc printed. (I'm from Sri Lanka, where it's an offense to print such images on fashion items and inappropriate materiel).

If you are visiting an Islamic place, a mosque for example, sometimes there are rules (rather than customs). The national mosque in Malaysia, for example, allows women to visit then place, skirts are allowed, but if the dress is too revealing, they provide you some clothing to cover you (free, you have to return it).

Update: Thanks to @Ida for mentioning this: Some Islamic places require covering your head/hair if you are a woman. I would appreciate if someone can help me with the wording, but depending on the culture, you might be asked to wear a Hijab, Burka, or something like that to cover your head as well.

For Hindu places, a dress code is hardly necessary, but generally you wear something that covers your knees and shoulders. If you are too into the Hindu places, do a little research about the corresponding god (most Hindu religious places are dedicated to a specific god: Vishnu, Krishna, etc), do some research about what are the colors relevant to that god. You will be highly appreciated if you wear that color to the place. This is not about obeying their customs, but about mixing up with the locals. One time, I was invited to take part in a dance simply because my T-shirt color matched what they were wearing, and I showed some interest.

Others have mentioned about Christian places, so I'm not going to mention it here.

For other sights, such as diving (say iFlySingapore), skirts are not practical. Just use your common sense and try to wear appropriate clothing.

  • For Islamic places in Istanbul, trousers were ok on women, but no bare knees and shoulders, and most places required you to cover your hair. I had a scarf in my bag, it worked fine. – Ida Oct 20 '14 at 18:24
  • Thanks @Ida. I updated my answer a little bit. I haven't been to Istanbul (yet!), but I have seen Islamic women wear such clothing, so it makes sense those places requiring women tourists to cover their hair as well. – Ayesh K Oct 20 '14 at 18:53
  • It was some years ago, and Istanbul is relatively secular, so you could cover your hair loosely (with the front of you hair peeking through), as the locals might do. On the street you could wear the same you would wear in most European big cities. Other places might be more strict with how you cover your hair. – Ida Oct 20 '14 at 19:06
  • AFAIK, hijab is the broadest name for the practice, rather than the name of a specific garment so it's probably the most appropriate word here. – Relaxed Oct 20 '14 at 22:14
  • If you are visiting Turkey (or other Muslim countries) and have long hair, tie it back or plait it, then keep a scarf in your bag in case you visit a mosque. If you have long flowing hair people will come up and stroke it, and you may even get sworn at. – RedSonja Oct 21 '14 at 11:07
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Depends a lot on the location, country, culture and religion in question. Most countries have their own ethics and morals, which often encompass dressing styles and restrictions.

Religious locations tend to be one of the most common places were a "dress code" is suggested. And often revealing or sexy clothing is not appropriate to wear.

As travelers we bear the responsibility to learn about our destination, so as to be able to visit their country as polite guests, not disrespectful louts.

As you mentioned the Vatican, women are not restricted to skirts only, pants and shorts are both acceptable, however shorts should come down below the knees and no sleeveless tops, shoulder need to be covered. But this applies primarily to going inside the churches or chapels.

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Yes, for example most monasteries in Georgia, including Gergeti Monastery, require women to wear a skirt. This is not a big deal though, you don't have to come prepared, as long as you're dressed modestly. This includes not wearing open shoes or sandals for instance. Apart from that, there is a huge bunch of skirts right next to the entrance of those monasteries where wearing a skirt is compulsory, and women can just put it on their clothing/trousers. Even if it looks slightly ridiculous, it doesn't really matter for the few minutes you're spending in the church. Naturally, borrowing a skirt at the entrance is free and there's nobody standing next to it checking who's wearing what. If you do enter the church without a skirt (same goes for men with a hat on), the priest or whoever is the responsible guy in the church at that moment, warns you or your tourist guide politely to fix that mistake.

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From all the places I've been to the only ones which require women to wear long skirts were Eastern Orthodox Churches and Eastern Orthodox monasteries. Those places also require men to wear long pants, and no shorts of any kind were allowed.

Any other religious places - mosques, Buddhist and Hindu temples, as well as other Christian Churches do not have such requirements. Many of those places prohibit sleeveless shirts/tank tops for both genders, and prohibit skirts/shorts well above knee (for women this seem to be only enforced with bare legs, i.e. a short skirt with tights is ok; short skirts/shorts for kids is also ok). However even in Vatican - and I just been there last Sunday - there is no requirement for women to wear skirts.

I almost always wear long shorts, and Eastern Orthodox churches (around ten of them) were the only ones I wasn't allowed in.

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