What to Wear

Though you will undoubtedly see a range of outfits in India, anything from traditional Indian Saris to tourist beachwear, we as an organization strive to maintain a professional appearance when working overseas. Our image and our reputation to our partners is incredibly important and the way we present ourselves is the first step toward creating that image and reputation.

We request that all of our participants dress appropriately and modestly when in our accommodation, around the local community and when participating in the program activities. This includes having your shoulders, knees and any cleavage covered.

We’re not trying to be the fashion police, but this is our pilot program in India and it’s so important when forming relationships with new partners and with communities that we respect their culture and their ideals, and that can start so easily by presenting ourselves in a professional manner.

Living and working in another country is different to being on holiday there. In this document you will find appropriate examples of outfits for the Program in India. The only reason that the dress code is there is so that we can continue being given the opportunities to have access to these facilities.

The visits to NIMHANs and the seminars specifically require smart attire. We’re talking collared shirts or blouses, long trousers and closed-toe shoes. Try to think about what medical professionals in your home country would wear to work in a psychiatric hospital and follow suit.

For the yoga workshops, participants will need to bring comfy but culturally respectable clothing. Think tee shirts and baggy bottoms; see these guys on the left for inspiration.

At the weekend you will be exploring the beautiful Mysore. Getting the opportunity to explore the markets, palace and get a feel for the real India. You will still need to be culturally appropriate but this doesn’t need to be as formal. Harem pants and tee shirts are fine just remember to keep those knees and shoulders covered!


Ladies

Too often skirts and shirts that look OK in a store are totally see-through in the sun. Hold your clothes up to a window to check if they are suitable. We get it ladies, the struggle is real, but please do this test to make sure your clothes are 100% India appropriate. For further guidance, check out this video as the advice we give is the same for our projects in Sri Lanka and India. 

The main things to consider are:

  • Is it opaque?
  • Does it cover your shoulders/cleavage/knees?
  • Is it going to be cool enough? You’re going to be hot whatever you wear, but loose, breathable fabrics help
  • Is it loose enough? i.e. It shouldn’t show the outline of your figure
  • Does it look smart and presentable? Would you see a Healthcare Assistant or a teacher wearing this in your own country? If the answer is ‘no’ please don’t pack it. Like these trousers, these are perfect for tourists, but not for teachers.

Gentlemen

Boys, we’re not leaving you out: Here’s a handy video with great advice from previous male team members. We know cleavage isn’t likely to be an issue for you, but those naughty knees are, so please keep them covered in clothes like this:


Tattoos and Piercings

Check out our YouTube video for advice on body art

Though this video is specifically talking about our work in Sri Lanka we request that participants follow the same guidelines when participating in the India program. As we’ve said before, we’re attempting to carve a strong reputation in the community as we have done in Sri Lanka. The number of times we are commended for simply being dressed appropriately is staggering. As a result, tattoos and piercings need to be covered up and taken out whenever you are on projects.

If you have additional ear piercings, a facial or tongue piercing you’ll have to take it out whilst at projects. Enlarged lobes must be replaced with flesh coloured or clear retainers.

No visible tattoos are permitted. Our participants with tattoos cover them up with clothing or with strategically placed bandages and tube grips. Yes, we look like the walking wounded, but we are super lucky to be invited to participate in the workshops on this program and we need to be seen as professional and respectful to the local culture. See, David’s not injured, but he does have a large tattoo on his forearm that needs to be covered up.


We promise we’re not disciplinarians creating rules for the sake of it. Every ‘rule’ has been put in place for a reason, and part of living and working in another country is blending in and adhering to cultural norms.

Now you know the score: participants simply cannot attend projects and workshops if dressed inappropriately or if tattoos and piercings are visible. If anyone continues to breach dress code, they will be asked to leave the program. I know it sounds harsh, but we need to be able to continue the work we do, and breaking the dress code puts the future of our organisation at risk.