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woman wearing scarf on a boat in the ganges river in India

Modest Travel Clothing: What to Wear When You Need to Cover Up

Whether you want to blend in with the locals or simply don’t want to let it all hang out, these modest travel clothing pieces will make you feel comfortable wherever you go.

Maxi Dresses and Skirts

Long dresses and skirts cover you up but still allow airflow, keeping you cool in hot or humid destinations. Maxi dresses are great because you can just pack one item and still have an entire outfit, but it can be tough to find ones that aren’t cleavage-baring or sleeveless. A wrap is easy to pack and solves both problems. Maxi skirts require a bit more coordination, but allow you to customize your top based on level of coverage needed, and to change up your look by mixing and matching different shirts.

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Appropriate Colors

If you’re looking to avoid unwanted attention, choose clothes in neutral colors rather than bright reds, busy patterns, or American brands/slogans. Do some research into your destination before you go so you know which colors to stay away from. Using location tags on Instagram, browse photos taken in your vacation spot so you can get a glimpse into what locals like to wear, and try to emulate that.

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Cooling Fabrics 

Modest travel clothing can actually help keep you cool and protect your skin from sun damage in hot places. Look for pieces made from UPF-specific fabric, which will block rays more effectively than sunscreen (and don’t require reapplication). Most of these items are designed to be moisture-wicking and odor-preventing as well.

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Some destinations (like Italy) aren’t modest in general, but are home to places of worship that require visitors to cover up. A lightweight scarf takes up minimal room in your bag and can double as a head or shoulder covering when you need it.

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Socks probably aren’t on your list of modest travel clothing, but if you’re planning on visiting mosques, temples, or other religious sites that require you to take off your shoes, you’ll be glad to have them instead of having to go barefoot.

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Caroline Morse Teel thinks maxi dresses are the easiest piece of modest travel clothing. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for style and travel photos from around the world.

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