Also, it's going to be 90+ degrees the entire time.
May 9, 2013 11:21 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to Pakistan! What do I wear?

Work is sending me to Islamabad, Pakistan for a week or so. I'll be working for a western-run office. What should I wear? I've been told that western business attire is fine as long as I dress modestly, in loose-ish clothing. I don't have to cover my hair.

I'm not a very clothing-oriented person but I would like to make the best impression I can on this trip, so I need your help in finding specific examples of things that fit the above criteria, would not look wildly out of place in Islamabad, and would look good on a late-twenties, size 8-10 woman.


(The guy that's been handling my trip out there is, well, a guy. He's great, but doesn't have much advice in terms of women's clothing)
posted by troika to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know about fashionability, but for practicality and modesty, I'd wear long skirts in the lightest possible fabrics, and long sleeved shirts. Covering your skin will be modest, and the light fabrics will breathe, keeping you cool. Lighter colors will reflect the sun.

Think gauze or linen.

One thing that springs to mind is Out of Africa. A longish khaki skirt, a white blouse and a leather belt.

Long Skirts, a light-weight top, and nice accessories, like a scarf or belt.

A tank with a light sweater over will work too. (it may be cold in buildings if there is air conditioning).

Check out how a vintage shirtwaist dress was tarted up.

It sounds like an adventure, have a great time!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:42 AM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

When I went to the Middle East in the summer (also working in a western office) I wore maxi linen skirts (for example). On top I wore a tank with a long-sleeve shirt over it that's made of a more open weave (for example). Covering your skin with something lightweight actually reduces the heat you feel, as well as providing the modest covering that's appreciated.
posted by Houstonian at 11:44 AM on May 9, 2013

Stock up on crinkle skirts! They are modest, lightweight, comfortable, and they can be paired with a nice loose blouse, and jewelry or a silk scarf. They are also easy to care for: wash, dry, and then twist all the way up into a knot. Since they are easy care, they are particularly great for places where a washing machine is more expensive than laundresses who wash all clothing by hand and dry clothing on rocks in the hot sun.

If you are not opposed to, you can get them there for about $15 a piece.

Cuter versions available at
More Macy's
And probably most department stores and clothing stores during the summer.
posted by donut_princess at 11:56 AM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'd advise you not to wear long skirts, you'll look like a frump in Islamabad.

Trousers and a nice button down is pretty standard, or trousers and a kurti (loose cotton shirt, go for sleek rather than fluttery and ethnic). If you're not sure of the type of office environment, wear button downs which come down to mid-bum (or full bum if you're well rounded). If you decide to wait till you're there, Khaadi is the go-to for this sort of stuff.

(I'm from Pakistan and have worked in international organisations in Islamabad. That said, I'm Pakistani and usually just wear a stylish shalwar kameez).

Feel free to memail me if you want to run bits of your wardrobe past me. You're going for a short time but if you wish I can also put you in touch with my sister who works in an international office in Islamabad and knows far more about clothes than I do.
posted by tavegyl at 11:58 AM on May 9, 2013 [11 favorites]

Never been to Pakistan, but in neighboring Iran, I wore the same as at home: skinny pants with something loose over. In Iran, scarfs are mandatory, which is not the case in Pakistan, but as most Continental europeans, I love my scarfs, and always wear them. My experience is they can be useful in Muslim countries, but Tavegyl is the expert here.
posted by mumimor at 1:25 PM on May 9, 2013

Best answer: Scarves are optional in this sort of workplace, better restaurants and most homes you're likely to go into. If you're likely to be out in the markets then keep a light scarf on hand which you can wrap loosely: you'll see all kinds of ways to wear a dupatta (long wide scarf) and really, its presence is enough: you'll see many people wear it draped over both shoulders in a rough V so that it rests over the breasts, or in a loose loop around the neck like a regular scarf. No need to cover your head unless you're in a mosque or shrine.

My sister tells me that many people do wear suits and even knee-length skirts in her organisation. I'd advise against a skirt, but an unlined light weight linen suit might work nicely.

While air conditioning can be intense, I wouldn't recommend that a light sweater be the only thing covering your shoulders with a tank top underneath. Power cuts are frequent and outside a heavily air conditioned office you really don't want to be forced to wear a sweater - bare shoulders are for evening events with friends, not Jinnah Market.

Office wear for Pakistani women is basically the same as regular, well put together wear, so there's a lot of flexibility.
posted by tavegyl at 2:31 PM on May 9, 2013

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