After visiting Istanbul 3 times and living there over a period of a few months, I learnt what to wear in Istanbul as a woman to help me blend in with the local women in Istanbul and not stand out as much.
Technically, you can wear whatever you want in Istanbul, there are no rules. But I think that the Istanbul dress code for tourists is important, especially for women visiting Istanbul, to feel more comfortable exploring the city and I will elaborate on what I mean by that more below.
In this Istanbul blog post, I’m going to help you ladies and go through what to wear in Istanbul covering all seasons – Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter. And I’ll answer the question what should female tourists wear in Istanbul?
This will also help you work out what to pack for Istanbul so you feel comfortable throughout your stay, temperature-wise and attention-wise.
What To Wear in Istanbul
What To Wear in Istanbul in Summer, Autumn, Winter & Spring
Firstly, before going into the specifics of what should a woman wear in Istanbul? Let’s touch on the weather in Istanbul and what to wear in Istanbul in different months of the year.
Istanbul in Winter
Istanbul get’s cold in the winter and probably colder than what you expect as we often think of Turkey as being warm all year round but January can bring snow!
Dressing for Winter in Istanbul means you’ll want to be fully covered in a coat or jacket, jeans, jumper and even a woolly hat if you’re visiting Istanbul in Winter like December to February.
Istanbul in Summer
Summer is extremely hot in Istanbul with July and August reaching the late 30 degrees. Sightseeing in Istanbul in Summer can get very sweaty and exhausting and I recommend getting up early on your Istanbul itinerary, relaxing in the afternoon and exploring again in the evening when it cools down. Although it doesn’t cool down much!
Dressing for Summer in Istanbul means you’ll want light and airy clothes.
As I go into below in the post, it’s best to cover your skin, this is the Istanbul dress code for tourists I recommend for women, especially your legs, chest and shoulders but it is possible to get light linen trousers and shirts which will keep you cool and covered.
Istanbul in Spring & Autumn
These are definitely the best times to visit Istanbul. I loved Istanbul in September and October when I lived there as September is still warm but not really hot and Autumn arrives with cooler temperatures in October but it’s still not cold.
Spring months like April and May are also good times to visit Istanbul.
What to wear in Istanbul in September for example, would be a long dress with 3/4 sleeves or jeans with a light long-sleeved top. This type of outfits fit the weather in Spring and Autumn well and it also keeps your skin covered, which as we’ll go into below, is best to reduce attention.
How To Dress in Istanbul As a Woman?
Turkey is a Muslim majority country and Istanbul is a Muslim majority city but what women wear in Istanbul definitely isn’t the same as other Muslim countries or other parts of Turkey.
In Istanbul you’ll see Turkish women dressed very differently from each other, some women will fully cover, some will partly cover up and many will be in short shorts, dresses, small tops etc, so as a tourist, whatever you wear will blend with what some Turkish women or foreign women living in Istanbul wear.
With that being said, from my experiences in Istanbul, and I have spoken to many other women who have said the same… when you wear less clothing with more skin on show, you get more male attention in Istanbul and this can be really annoying and can affect how you feel about Istanbul.
I know many people, myself included who didn’t enjoy Istanbul the first time round, mainly because of annoying men, but when you go back and see the city more like a local (like visiting these hidden gems in Istanbul) and dress more conservatively, it does help!
It’s also certainly not all men in Istanbul who are annoying, who stare and who are leery but it is some and this really negatively affected my first trip to Istanbul and I don’t want that for you!
Extra Istanbul Travel Tips!
After living in Istanbul and really getting to know the city better, I realised that where you stay in Istanbul makes a huge difference to what your experience is.
For example, if you stay in a hotel in the really touristy area in Sultanahmet near Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque you’ll have to deal with a lot of sales-y annoying men all the time, whereas areas like Galata are much better.
Here’s my accommodation posts to help you:
Where to Stay in Istanbul! 9 Best Neighbourhoods in Istanbul to Stay in!
Where To Stay in Istanbul Taksim Or Sultanahmet? Which is BEST?
Secondly, although I recommend visiting the touristy areas of Istanbul to see the best tourist attractions in Istanbul, this is where you may get annoying locals and unwanted attention.
Therefore I recommend reading these posts of mine to see a more local side of the city and places that a lot of expats visit and live:
Istanbul 4 Day Itinerary! What To See in Istanbul in 4 Days!
10 Istanbul Hidden Gems To Visit For Unique Things To Do in Istanbul!
Istanbul Dress Code For Tourists
The general Istanbul dress code for tourists and especially women is to cover your legs at least past to your knees, cover your chest and cover any cleavage and cover your stomach.
Based on my experience visiting and living in Istanbul, having the bottom of your legs showing and feet is fine. Having your lower forearm showing and even all of your arm and shoulders showing in the summer is also fine, as it is very hot.
Talking of the heat again, Summer in Istanbul is very very hot and dressing more modesty like this is hard, below I’ll give you some ideas of what to pack for summer in Istanbul.
However, in the cooler months like March, April, May, October, and November, and the very cold months like December, January, and February, how to dress in Istanbul as a tourist and how to dress in Istanbul as a woman is very easy because you’ll naturally want to wear more covering clothes to stay warm.
How Women Dress in Istanbul?
You may be wondering how local women in Istanbul dress? To be honest it’s a bit of a mix which is one of the reasons I love Istanbul so much.
Some women are fully covered head to toe in a black religious outfits.
Some women cover their hair in a hijab and cover their skin in longer clothes but they’re wearing the same clothing as you’d see in London or New York.
And some women in Istanbul, especially the younger women I noticed, do not cover their hair and show skin in shorts and small tops.
What To Pack For Istanbul?
Although you can pack and wear whatever you want in Istanbul as tourists and locals do wear a range of outfits as mentioned,
Below are items for your Istanbul female packing list, which will help you dress more modest and conservatively and therefore feel more comfortable in my experience so ad
As a woman, you’ll need to cover your hair in Istanbul to enter all of the mosques in the city which form some of the best places to visit in Istanbul! Although most mosques give you items to cover your hair and skin, it is easier to pack your own scarf and put it on.
Having a scarf in your bag at all times whilst in Istanbul also means you can wrap it around your shoulders if you have your arms and shoulders on show and you enter a really local neighbourhood or street or even cafe and feel like you want to cover up more.
The scarf can be any colour and any material!
A Light Shirt
If you are visiting Istanbul in Summer and wondering what to pack for Istanbul in Summer where you will be cool and covered. I find that a light linen shirt is a great idea, especially a white one as it goes with everything and it is light and airy.
Long Covering Tops
If you want to dress a bit more modestly in Turkey and blend in with the local women even more, wearing long tops that cover your bum is a good idea, especially if you’re wearing tight jeans.
Baggy Trousers / Pants
Whether you call them trousers or pants, if you want to blend in more in Istanbul your Istanbul packing list should include some baggy ones so they are looser on your bum and upper legs and they can be full length or 3/4 length.
I loved wearing long dresses when I lived in Istanbul recently. I found them great for the summer because although they were long in length they were loose and airy.
As it got a bit colder I started to wear light jumpers on top of the dresses and leggings underneath and as it got even colder I wore a long jacket and boots with them.
This made them versatile for what to wear in Istanbul all year round and kept me covered and modest.
Is Istanbul Safe For Women?
I really don’t want this post and the mention of unwanted comments and attention from men to put you off visiting Istanbul.
Is Istanbul safe for women is a common question and concern and in my experience, my answer is YES, ISTANBUL IS SAFE FOR WOMEN!
When I lived in Istanbul I had a few female friends of different races and religions and they all said they felt safe living and visiting Istanbul and that the locals are very friendly, which I definietly found too.
Yes, the men can shout annoying comments at you, yes, some men may look too much, but it is very unlikely that you will experience danger or harm, it’s just comments and then you walk and carry on.
I also don’t think that Istanbul becomes dangerous if you do decide to wear small shorts and a small top with skin showing, I just know that in terms of being a tourist and wanting to blend in and feel more comfortable, you will feel this by what I have suggested you wear in Istanbul above.
This is a great post on is Istanbul safe for women.
What To Wear in Turkey?
Finally, if you’re reading this post and you’re visiting other places in Turkey as well as Istanbul. It’s worth noting that what to wear in Turkey really differs as to where you are visiting.
If you are visiting the South Coast of Turkey and staying in popular areas like Antalya, Fethiye and Marmaris you’ll find that you can dress as you would at beach resorts in Spain or Thailand because the locals here are used to seeing tourists in this way, especially how foreign women in Turkey dress and they are not as religious areas.
However, if you are visiting places inland, even the popular tourist spot of Cappadocia or more unvisited places like Adana or Uzungol in Trabzon, you will want to dress more conservatively and basically follow this guide on how to dress in Istanbul so you suit the dress code there too.
I hope this has helped you work out what to wear in Istanbul and how to dress in Istanbul as a woman!
- More of my Istanbul and Turkey posts:
- 10 Istanbul Hidden Gems To Visit For Unique Things To Do in Istanbul!
- Istanbul 4 Day Itinerary! What To See in Istanbul in 4 Days!
- A 3 Day Istanbul Itinerary! Things To Do in Istanbul in 3 Days!
- How to Travel From Istanbul to Cappadocia Easily! A Detailed Guide!
- What’s The BEST Time to Visit Cappadocia? Cappadocia Weather By Month!
- 2 & 3 Day Cappadocia Itinerary With BEST Things To Do In Cappadocia!
Sunday 5th of March 2023
Hello, I am a citizen of Turkey. There is nothing to be afraid of. Turkey is a modern secular country. Women are free. Let me give you a hint about open dressing. You can travel and dress more comfortably in cities such as istanbul izmir antalta alanya. Turkey is a free country. You only need to pay attention to dressing in holy places such as mosques, churches, synagogues.
Monday 26th of December 2022
From my experience as a local, if you are visiting a city on the Mediterranean or Aegean seas of Turkey, you can generally wear whatever you like, especially in the summer.
In Istanbul, you are usually free to wear whatever you like in tourist areas. However, if you go to the suburbs of Istanbul, it may be more appropriate to wear modest clothing.
It's also a good idea to carry a scarf with you in case you visit a mosque, also not that, it is expected for both men and women to cover their knees when entering a mosque. In general, it's always a good idea to be mindful of local customs and to dress appropriately for the occasion.
Monday 29th of August 2022
Thank you for all these helpful tips