Jordan: How to Dress Modestly yet Fashionably!

Contrary to popular belief, Jordanian woman are not oppressed and forced to cover every inch of skin while in public. In fact, Jordan is hailed as one of the most fashionable countries in the Middle East. Just this past summer, Amman hosted its own fashion week sponsored by Mercedes-Benz. CIEE, my study abroad program, encourages us to “dress up” to go to class in order to blend in. Wearing sweatpants and hoodies in public is viewed as sloppy and unacceptable (finally, someone agrees with me!).

Our packing list suggested “loose fitting blouses with long sleeves” for women. However, when I look through the numerous photos on CIEE-Amman’s facebook, it seems that all the girls are dressed the same. Rather than find fashionable tops, everyone opted for solid colored long sleeve shirts or sweaters. I can appreciate that a simple wardrobe is easy to pack and maintain, but I personally feel better when I am dressed up and, to me, it is worth the extra time and effort int he mornings. Scarves are also very popular in Jordan and among study abroad students. I’m sure this is both for modesty and the ease of throwing it on to spice up an outfit! I imagine scarves are inexpensive and, thus, I’ve heard that many students purchase them from local markets (souks).

CIEE students at a belly dancing class hosted by the university.

CIEE students at a belly dancing class hosted by the university. Of course the waist scarves are for dancing and not fashion!

As I mentioned in my previous post, one of my goals for the trip is to prove that modesty CAN be fashionable, too! I’ve spent the last couple of weeks shopping around for cute tops from stores like H&M, Forever 21, Altar’d State, and ModCloth. Luckily it is the beginning of spring in the fashion world, so most long sleeved tops are on sale!

I have my fair share of solid colored sweaters, but I decided to take this opportunity to expand my wardrobe to include the trendy sheer blouses that have been plaguing the fashion world recently. I initially shied away from these tops due to my broad shoulders and fear that they would feel too restricting. Luckily, I tried a few on and these blouses made the cut! Each photo is linked to the online website if you want to buy it yourself!

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I LOVE this top! In fact, I am wearing it as I type this! I bought it from Altar’d State, a Christian inspired store where a percentage of the profit is donated to charity. It is kind of ironic that I found most of my “Jordan” clothes at a Christian store, but so goes life!

Technically, the bow is supposed to go on the backside of the blouse, but I think it can be worn either way! I love versatility, especially when I can only take one piece of luggage. This shirt can be worn in both the winter and spring, simply by layering with a black blazer or worn alone with a black tank underneath. Some women may choose to wear this alone without anything underneath, but I think that is hardly acceptable in the US, nevertheless Jordan!


In addition to expanding my wardrobe with new blouses, I also decided to purchase a couple blazers! I love the professional and put-together look of adding a blazer to an outfit, but again, due to my shoulders, I never made the purchase. As this piece is quite trendy, many stores have their own selection of blazers ranging from expensive (Banana Republic) to extremely cheap (Forever 21). I bought these two from H&M and they were $30 – $50. I instantly fell in love with the fit of the black blazer. The detailing at the waist makes it compliment my body while still having a bit of stretch in the shoulders for mobility and comfort. It is extremely well made and feels high-end. The pink blazer came in a variety of colors from black to red to hot pink, but I selected the pale pink as it was the most neutral and could be worn on chilly days in the spring. The peplum under the pockets adds a feminine touch to a traditionally masculine garment.

The weather in Jordan in January/February is 50-60 degrees during the daytime but 30 degrees at night. Blazers are a great layering tool for this type of weather when it may be too hot for a full coat.

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If you have been keeping up with international news, you’ll know that Jordan has been facing some pretty bad storms lately. First was two days of torrential rain which flooded the streets and left Amman reminiscent of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Before the country had a chance to recover, it was covered in several inches of snow! Yes, it snows in Jordan, and for those extra chilly days, I invested in a new coat! I wanted something unique that would make me stand out in the sea of black peacoats and puffer jackets. I found this beauty on ModCloth and I love the ruffle details! The first day I wore it, my friends mom complimented me and told me that green is the “it” color of 2013. Great! Screen shot 2013-01-11 at 9.49.24 PM
This top proves that modest can be edgy! The sleeves are long and the neckline is high, but there is nothing boring about this shirt. I ordered it from ModCloth despite a few bad reviews claiming the neckline was “bunching” whenever the owner raised her arms. I haven’t experienced this, but I have noticed that it gets quite a lot of static cling. I plan on paring it with black jeans and black loafers. It seems that traditional flats have evolved into modern day loafers which are perfect for winter and keeping the top of your feet warm!

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Another fashion tip that CIEE has given us is: “Amman sidewalks eat shoes.” I’m not entirely sure how to interpret this. Considering that we are required and given a stipend to take cabs to the campus each day, how much sidewalk walking are we expected to be doing? It is understandable that Amman sidewalks probably have more sand, gravel, and dirt on them than American sidewalks and these abrasive particles wear down shoes faster than normal, but aren’t shoes meant to be “worn” in both senses? With this tip in mind, I am taking several pairs of shoes so that if one pair is eaten, I’ll have others to take its place! On my packing list are my brown boots, hiking shoes (waterproof for rain, great for group excursions), black loafers, cheetah flats, nude flats, brown flats, and my trusty old black flats. Apparently women never wear opened toed sandals, even in summer, and instead opt for flats!
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Another purchase for Jordan was this floral blouse. I realized that most of my blouses were solid colored and I needed a bit more variety! I don’t plan to wear this shirt completely buttoned as it is on the model, but instead unbuttoned over a black long sleeved shirt. I feel like patterned shirts are too overwhelming when they are completely buttoned. No one wants to be a walking optical illusion! However, I may button it if I am wearing it under my black blazer. I feel as if my life has become one of those magazine articles on “How to wear one shirt 16 different ways!” As is the life of a traveler…

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Screen shot 2013-01-12 at 6.59.05 PMThese three shoes were the biggest steal of the day! I haven’t shopped at Payless since I was 9 years old, but after a very aggravating search for a nude flat, I discovered how great the store can be. I buy most of my shoes from DSW or Dillard’s, but neither had a comfortable nude flat for sale. DSW has the Steve Madden nude flat, but they didn’t have my size in stock and I tried ordering it online but for some reason a size 10 nude flat is far too small. This is strange because my Steve Madden black flats fit perfectly in a size 10! Go figure!

I simply Googled “best brand of flats” and came across a discussion board with several members praising the Payless line of Lower East Side flats. I have run out of time to order them online, so I ventured to the mall in search of the “best” flats. To my surprise, Payless was well stocked and had a variety of flats in every color and size. I purchased the nude and brown flats for only $15 each! I also decided to splurge and buy the cheetah flats because they were so comfortable. I have always been a staunch opponent of the elastic flats, but these definitely changed my mind. I would wholeheartedly recommend the Lower East Side flats to anyone! It will be interesting to see if they stretch with wear as the Steve Madden flats do.

In addition to clothes, I also bought a few necessary beauty supplies that I am not sure if Jordan will have. The first and MOST important is dry shampoo! My hair is accustomed to being washed every day. Jordan, as you know, has a desert climate where water is scarce. It is unreasonable to shower every day there. To be honest, it is foolish to shower every day ANYWHERE, as it dries out your hair and skin, but I hate feeling oily and dirty! Each apartment in Amman is given a pre-specified amount of water for the month. If you run out… you’re out of luck until the next delivery. To conserve water, everyone only showers every other day at most. To prepare my hair for this, I have started skipping showers which has resulted in my hair feeling and looking greasy. However, as I discovered freshman year of college, Oscar Blandi makes a great dry shampoo.

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It sprays on like hairspray and absorbs the excess oil, leaving hair looking freshly washed! This is a necessity in Jordan. I asked my Jordanian friend Zina if stores in Amman sell anything like dry shampoo but she hasn’t responded yet. I stocked up on it, just in case! This 5 oz can is pretty pricey, but definitely worth it.

Another beauty product that I plan on taking to Amman is my Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer. Even in Kentucky my skin gets dry if I don’t moisturize it, so I can’t imagine what it will do in the Middle East! Every summer I use tinted moisturizer as a quick and easy way to moisturize and add coverage on days I don’t have time to apply the routine of foundation and powder. I know CIEE has excursions to Petra and Wadi Rum that are over night and involve camping. It isn’t reasonable to bring my entire makeup collection on wilderness trips, but bringing along one tube of tinted moisturizer is an easy way to keep my skin hydrated and looking even-toned. Plus, the Laura Mercier moisturizer has SPF 20 which will protect my skin from the hot desert sun. This product is a win-win all around.

Screen shot 2013-01-12 at 7.18.56 PMWhile I definitely plan on packing more clothes and more frivolous items that I don’t really need (curling iron! jewelry! perfume!), these are the necessities that form the foundation of my packing list. I’m sure I’ll update my blog later with a list of things I wish I had brought and things I brought that I wish I hadn’t, but it’s all a learning experience!

Now the real challenge is fitting everything into my one checked piece of luggage and my one carry-on bag! I have made the (probably foolish) decision to bring my pillow in my luggage. I will try to decompress it in a large sealable bag, but it will probably cut the capacity of my luggage in half! I REALLY hate down pillows that are a staple in hotels. I am not sure what kind of pillow will be provided in my apartment and I’d rather be safe than sorry. Four months of neck pain is not worth having the space to pack 3 more shirts and a pair of rain boots!


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