What to wear

Living and working in another country is quite different to going there for a beach holiday. As a result, we need to ensure we are being respectful of the country's cultural and societal norms at all times.

Sri Lankan dress, especially where you’ll be working, is modest and all volunteers must dress conservatively whilst in the local community and on projects. This means wearing shirts that cover your upper arms and any cleavage as well as full-length trousers or a full-length skirt to cover your ankles.

Shirts and trousers need to be plain and neutral-coloured for projects and all clothing needs to be be opaque and loose fitting. At the weekend you’re free to wear what you choose, but many volunteers still like to wear modest clothing whilst travelling to avoid attracting extra attention.

We ask that your hair be a natural colour for the duration of your placement. Fun colours like blues and pinks are pretty, but not considered professional. The same goes for piercings and tattoos, which will need to be removed or covered up for your time on placement with us. 

Shop for light materials such as linen or cotton and arrive ready for projects, like these guys! 

Well dressed volunteers .jpeg

Project attire

You’ll need to dress professionally for all of your projects. Plain neutral, collared shirts and trousers paired with smart, leather sandals or closed-toe shoes are the uniform. Patterns are not seen as professional and can also be distracting or overstimulating for the service users we are working with, so keep it simple.

Whether you’re working at a psychiatric facility or a school, the expectation of us is the same. We’ve been given access to facilities like hospitals and government-run initiatives based on our history of professionalism, which includes our appearance.

Please click on the below drop downs for examples of the clothing and footwear you need to wear at projects. 

+ Ladies

Professional = plain, loose and opaque (not sheer). Trousers need to be full-length and shirts need a collar with sleeves that cover, at least, to just above the elbow.
Lady Project

We get it, ladies, the struggle is real, but please read the following guidelines to make sure your clothes are 100% appropriate for your placement.

The main things to consider are:

1) Is it opaque? Please grab vest tops to wear underneath all your shirts.
2) Does it cover your upper arms and cleavage?
3) Are your trousers full-length?
4) Is it going to be cool enough? You’re going to be hot whatever you wear, but loose, breathable fabrics help. i.e Linen or cotton
5) Is it plain? All clothing for projects needs to be neutral, plain colours. No patterns.
6) Is it loose? i.e. It shouldn’t show the outline of your figure, buttons shouldn't be popping and it should drape off your body.
7) Does it look professional and presentable? Are you likely to see a Healthcare Assistant or a teacher wearing this in your own country? If the answer is ‘no’ please don’t pack it.

Lady Skirt

You may be required to wear a skirt for some of our projects, as they take place in temples. Please pack one just in case. The main things to consider are:

1) Is it opaque? Please grab an under slip to wear underneath your skirt.
2) Does it have slits? Please make sure your skirts do not have slits.
3) Is your skirt full-length?
4) Is it going to be cool enough? You’re going to be hot whatever you wear, but loose, breathable fabrics help. i.e Linen or cotton
5) Is it plain? Only neutral, plain colour skirts are permitted.
6) Is it loose enough? i.e. It shouldn’t show the outline of your figure, and it should drape off your body.
7) Does it look professional and presentable? Are you likely to see a Healthcare Assistant or a teacher wearing this in your own country? If the answer is ‘no’ please don’t pack it.

Footwear

Please bring leather sandals (no flip flops) and a pair of closed toe shoes for your projects.

Sandals

These are smart for projects and cool in the hot Sri Lankan sun.

Birkenstocks

Closed Toe Shoes

You will also need to bring a pair of plain, professional-looking closed toe shoes to wear for some projects, workshops and field trips.

Closed Toe Shoes

+ Gentlemen

We’re not leaving you out: We know cleavage isn’t likely to be an issue for you, but you'll still need to ensure your clothing is plain, loose and opaque.

Gentlemen Projects

The main things to consider are:

1) Is it opaque? White shirts will go see-through if you get stuck in the rain. Please grab vest tops to wear underneath your shirts.
2) Are your legs covered? Boys, it's important you wear full length trousers rather than shorts. Chinos or smart linen trousers are both perfect.
3) Is it going to be cool enough? You’re going to be hot whatever you wear, but loose, breathable fabrics help
4) Does it look professional and presentable? Are you likely to see a Healthcare Assistant or a teacher wearing this in your own country? If the answer is ‘no’ please don’t pack it.

Footwear

Please bring leather sandals (no flip flops) and a pair of closed toe shoes for your projects.

Sandals

These are smart for projects and cool in the hot Sri Lankan sun.

Birkenstocks

Closed Toe Shoes

You will also need to bring a pair of plain, professional-looking closed toe shoes to wear for some projects, workshops and field trips.

Closed Toe Shoes

In the local community (including your homestay)

Your homestay family will really welcome you and will think of you as part of the family, so we trust you to act accordingly and respect their home and the rules that are in place. Please make sure you dress modestly in, and around, the homestay and treat their home as if it were yours and you’ll be sure to make the right impression.

+ Ladies

This is a great example of a culturally-appropriate outfit for ladies. A nice, loose, high-necked t-shirt is a placecment staple, so pack a few. This outfit looks comfortable and culturally appropriate. WIN. 👌

Ladies Homestay

Check out our handy video for real-life examples

+ Gentelmen

The homestay is your place to relax after projects and you should be comfortable, while remaining culturally appropriate. This is a fantastic example of homestay-attire for gentlemen. Nice loose, high-necked t-shirt and comfy trousers. Looking comfy AND appropriate! Nice! 👌

Gentlemen Homestay

Check out our handy video for real-life examples

Piercings & tattoos?

In Sri Lankan culture, body art is associated with drug culture and criminality, which means that in order to retain our access to projects, tattoos and piercings need to be covered up and taken out.

+ Piercings

At projects, and in your local, homestay community, please keep piercings limited to one stud per ear lobe. If you have additional ear piercings, a facial or tongue piercing, you’ll have to take it out whilst at projects or replace with a clear, plastic retainer. Enlarged lobes must be replaced with flesh coloured or clear retainers.

Retainer

+ Tattoos

No visible tattoos are permitted. Our volunteers with tattoos cover them up with clothing or with strategically placed bandages. We may look like the walking wounded, but it’s better than the alternative, which is that our students’ parents assume that we are involved with drugs and won’t let their children continue to come to our lessons. Henna tattoos are also not appropriate to have whilst working. Please refrain from getting Henna tattoos whilst on placement.

Tattoo Cover

 

Accidental (but still offensive) faux pas

Sticking to the above guidelines means you'll always be appropriate and won't cause any offence or make anyone uncomfortable with your appearance. However, we do still come across the below "no-no's" from time to time, so please have a look to avoid these potential pitfalls. 

+ Exposed nipples/bras

Light cotton or linen shirts may be see-through, or become so, if it rains and you get wet. Please make sure you wear a thick-strapped vest/tank top under your shirts. This will also give you peace of mind while moving around during project sessions, knowing nothing inappropriate will be on show.

Pro tip. We're big fans of the bra-check before leaving for projects - stand in the sun and get your homestay-mates to make sure nothing is showing!

The look below is what we're trying to avoid!

Exposed Nip

Gentlemen, this goes for you, too. We don't want you looking like Chris if it rains.

Exposed Nip Boys

+ Obvious piercing

Piercings in Western countries are socially accepted and rarely looked at twice. Most of us in SLV.Global HQ have body modifications, but you'd never know if you saw us in Sri Lanka, as they gotta go.

Please make sure all piercings, besides one stud in each ear lobe, are removed and replaced with a clear retainer. Using a plaster to cover them up will mean you up looking like this guy, and he'd get sent home and would not be allowed to work on projects.

Lip Piercing

+ Exposed ankles

Cropped trousers, great for weekend travel or homestay not for projects, so please make sure your ankles are covered at all times while working. You can have a look at the examples above for some inspiration.

Ankles

 

Sticking to the dress code guidelines is the best way to make sure you're showing up for projects dressed to impress. Please ensure you pack appropriate attire to avoid having to rush around trying to find clothing abroad. If you get stuck, or need further help, we're always here in the office to guide you on info@slv.global. Thank you in advance for your cooperation and understanding.