Afghan men will most likely assume you are doing not love and respect your husband if your vesture in Afghanistan is considered immodest by Afghan standards. The main exception possibly to this rule is if you are working entirely in an expatriate environment, like an Embassy. Even then, consider wearing pants instead of skirts.
You can wear flashy, colorful, stylish clothes in private, but on the street, married women should wear plain black or a bland-color long jacket over the clothing.
Small chadar (scarf) and a Chapan (long black jackets) are easy to buy for $25, and quite stylish with elaborate beading or embroidery around the bodice and length in front, but still plain black.
If you have some break time in Dubai, run out to Carrefour and buy Abaiya – the long black robe U.A.E. women wear. Those are also often elaborately decorated and easy to throw on over a tank-top and jeans.
Young Women/Unmarried Woman
Young, single ladies living in Kabul town are appropriate in nice jeans and a shorter jacket that covers hips. Brighter colors are fine, too.
Foreign women – single and married – should dress way more conservatively any time you leave the city, and any time you go to places even within Kabul City where foreigners usually do not go. Wear more conservative clothes when:
- you go visiting Afghan friends in their homes
- You wander through old Kabul
- You take a trip through Mondai, the big bazaar downtown
- You leave Kabul City to go remote
What are “more conservative clothes,” you ask?
This includes wearing a bigger chadar (headscarf) and more stylish afghan dress and pants. The clothes should be loose and not reveal much of your figure.
You will want to ask someone here to take you to the Kot-e-Sangi bazaar after arrival so you can purchase a chapan. There are two department stores by the main chowk (turn-about) where the shopping is easier.
Lack of fashion in Afghanistan is one of the myths about Afghan women – Afghan women ARE stylish, and have always worn makeup, painted their toenails, and worn high heels, even in winter, even during the Taliban.
It’s most likely because this place is thus dirty and dreary that ladies make a point to wear color under their burkas and chapans, and they love makeup here. I’ve been in the desert and seen girls and women in bright shiny sparkly dresses, even though they were not going to a wedding.
If you come here and well, quite honestly, if you wear a frumpy jean skirt with ugly tennis shoes, you will be “unattractive” to Afghan women, especially in Kabul city. They will be less inclined to want to spend time with you or listen to you, even if you are a highly paid consultant.
Plan on bringing lightweight long vests, cute coatdresses, swing pants with long gauzy shirts and bring your Pakistani, Iranian, or Indian clothing. A combination of these will help you feel stylish and feminine.
Make sure to stop in at Zardosi’s in Kabul – they have several attractive Afghan dress from high Afghan designers. Right now Zardosi’s is close to Kabul City Center.
Part of Afghanistan’s article of clothing is to plan on buying chadars (head coverings) here – you’re suggested to continuously have your head covered when out on the street in Afghanistan.
There are many beautiful pashminas, silk, acrylic, and lacy chadars (head coverings) in Afghanistan. These are pretty to drape over your head, wear around your neck, and use as table runners once you leave!
Men and Children
Men – the rules are simple – no shorts out on the street, no sleeveless shirts. Generally business casual and non-raggedy jeans. That is it. You get it easy. You can purchase Afghan Peron/tombon in the country, and have vests and western-cut suits made here for a low price.
If you are concerned about Afghan men’s fashion, well, consult with your wife or girlfriend if they want you to dress like current Afghanistan men’s clothing fashion dictates: shiny suit fabrics, extraordinarily pointed dress shoes, bright pink/purple dress shirts…
Generally, we’ve let kids simply be normal western children. It is suggested that if you have blond-hair daughters, consider having her wear “street clothes” when she goes out on the street.
This includes a loose-fitting long skirt to wear over her shorts and a light chadar to drape over her head and shoulders, especially if she is wearing a sleeveless shirt in the summer.