Sarongs. men here wear them – and in public. Fahim has three, and he wears them at home to sleep in, and quite honestly, I’m jealous of men’s sarongs. While sarongs for women, which are not worn here, are a piece of fabric say, five feet long, you tie them up in whatever way you want them to stay. Men’s sarongs are a loop of fabric – that is, the ends are sewed together to form a tube. Anyway, for Fahim, they serve as pyjamas, but he won’t wear them out in public.
A lot of men here wear sarongs – perhaps 30 or 40%? The rest wear pants or shorts. There’s quite the variety in dress. But back to sarongs. Men’s sarongs tend to be either solid colors, blocks of colors, or plaids. None of this floral/tropical print stuff. They’re tied around the waist and mostly run to their ankles. Men will wear either a button shirt or t-shirt with them typically.
Women’s clothing here is also varied. There are the saris, the yards and yards of cloth made into a skirt and the end thrown over the shoulder. I checked out a website on saris, and they look fairly easy to tie up and put on. There are also the pyjamas – long tunic over loose pants. Then there are women wearing pants or skirts or dresses. Most women here, in fact, wear dresses or skirts, usually long, either to mid-calf or ankle. Women here don’t show cleavage or shoulders either. Very few women here wear shorts of any length – that’s reserved for foreigners. My shorts are knee length, so I dress acceptably more so than other foreigners, but outside of Colombo, I’m better off wearing pants or a skirt. I’ve actually taken to wearing skirts a lot simply because it’s cooler than wearing shorts – more of a breeze gets in.
And no, veils here are not common at all, nor are scarves covering hair or anything like that. In the mosques, it’s a different story – hair must be covered. But in my church, we’re expected to dress modestly, so what’s the difference? But back to every day life, I’ve thus far seen very few women who had their hair covered, and I’ve seen none covering their faces. I have seen women who have obviously colored hair, though, and women here do wear makeup. Not all women, granted, but that’s also true of North America.
This is a very modest country, and showing skin in the cities and towns is unacceptable. Fahim told me that at the public beaches, people here go swimming in their clothes, not swimsuits. Swimsuits are reserved for the tourist resorts. Fahim doesn’t own a swimsuit. And no, we haven’t been to the ocean yet, even though we’re only five miles or so away. Give us some time, eh? (Fahim says: people don’t *actually* go swimming in their clothes :p It would mostly be guys who’d go swimming and they’d wear shorts but mostly people wade when at the ocean rather than go swimming …)