When we decided to take a spontaneous trip to Turkey with only a few days notice, I didn’t have much time to focus on my Istanbul packing list. I knew that I wanted to be respectful of local customs, utilize what was already in my closet, and pack (relatively) lightly. Our trip to Istanbul was only a week, so I knew I didn’t need to over do it.
My Istanbul packing list succeeded on all counts. What does success look like? It means I never felt out of place, I didn’t overpack, and I did quite a bit of rewearing of things I brought. If I had to do it again, I might bring one less dress.
Note: I’m not a fashion blogger. We don’t spend time taking photos of me in clothes when we travel. In fact, we’re pretty terrible at getting photos together. That said, I draw style inspiration from people who wear appropriate clothes for a destination and I suspect other people might, too.
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Istanbul Packing List for Women
My husband had no problem packing for Istanbul. He brought three dress shirts, two pairs of slacks, swim trunks, as well as shorts and a t-shirt to wear in the hotel room. Your husband can get by with the same. The real trick is what to pack for Istanbul as a woman.
You might be wondering what is the big deal? It’s a vacation. Yes. It’s a trip, but mosques require your knees, shoulders and head to be covered for entry. You also have to take off your shoes. While some mosques offer coverings for those who are not appropriately attired, it was not as ubiquitous as you might expect. I think it’s really important to be aware of these differences and plan appropriately.
☑ Midi Dresses
Thanks to Kate Middleton, I have a relatively recent appreciation for midi dresses. While I usually take dresses in a variety of lengths when I pack for Italy, I only packed midi length dresses for Istanbul. I love Emilia Wickstead dresses because they are heavy materials that travel well. I opted for the Sheila dress in navy blue. This dress is one of my favorites, so much so that I have it in pink and green as well. Those colors felt too ostentatious for this trip.
In addition to that dress, I packed the Meryl dress in black. I love the full skirt on this dress and the knotted detail on the top. It’s very flattering without showing too much of a figure. Honestly, I felt like I fit right in when I wore this dress.
Lastly, I packed the Dana dress with 3/4 sleeves in light blue. I didn’t end up wearing this one because I felt more comfortable in the navy and black dresses. All three of these dresses are a crepe materials, so they were ready to wear as soon as I unpacked them – no pressing required!
☑Sweaters and Cardigans
For travel days and rainy days, I packed two sweaters. I prefer to pack cashmere because they are great for regulating temperatures and are very easy to pack. Love shopping the Neiman Marcus cashmere sales! These sweaters last longer than the cheaper versions from other department stores, and if you get on sale, it’s often about equal in cost. For this trip, I packed my favorite cashmere crew neck sweater in ice blue and a longer bias cut sweater in deep turquoise. The bias cut sweater was long enough to cover my behind, so I was comfortable wearing it into a mosque while the ice blue sweater is just one of my favorites. I size up in all of my sweaters so they fit comfortably.
For cardigans, I have a couple that have severed me very well over the past 6 years. All are Kate Spade and have held their shape every well. I packed a basic ivory cardigan (similar) and a deep purple one with jeweled buttons (similar). Both were absolutely perfect for this trip.
☑Slim Cut Pants and Opaque Tights
For traveling and very rainy days, I took my J Crew Factory Gigi pants. These are extremely comfortable because they are a stretch ponte but they don’t look like leggings. It was the correct choice because I did not see anyone wearing jeans anywhere we went. At the last minute, I threw my favorite Wolford Augusta leggings in the suitcase. I could have left them at home, because they really seemed like they would be too tight to be appropriate in Istanbul.
I took two pairs of black opaque tights and one pair of neutral hose. I wore them every single day. Tights and hose allowed me to slip my shoes off in mosques and keep my feet relatively clean. They were also pretty warm. I’m a big fan of Spanx tights and panty hose because they fit my body well, offer a bit of shapewear and last longer than the average pair. (I’m also a huge fan of their reversible tights.)
☑ Walking Shoes
I don’t go anywhere without my Stuart Weitzman boots. They come in suede or leather and have a stretch to fit the calves perfectly. Mine are suede and waterproofed (by my local cobbler). I generally wear these with pants, but I did wear them with my dresses on wet days.
For this trip, I also took a pair of pewter Chloe ballet flats. I love the scalloped detail and they worked well on the cobblestones. These were especially nice when were visiting mosques because they were easy to slip on and off. At some mosques, we needed to carry our shoes or put them in bags. The boots would not have worked for that.
Plan your Istanbul itinerary & wardrobe together so you don’t overpack!One week in Istanbul Itinerary
I packed two scarfs for Istanbul: a beige one with blue and brown floral detail and a navy one with silver threads. Both were absolutely perfect to function as a head scarf, and I didn’t feel the need to buy a new one. You’ll want something that is long enough to throw over your shoulder (it helps secure it in place). I probably could have benefited from some bobby pins, but I didn’t have much trouble keeping my head scarf in place in the mosques.
I took my black Burberry Brit raincoat. It’s mid length with a hood and a belt. It was perfect for the 40-50 degree days. I probably need to find a wool/cashmere blend coat, but I’m super picky and they are hard to find in person. I have my eyes on a light blue Joseph coat, but I’m also obsessed with a pink Max and Co one, so maybe I just need to order them and see what I think.
☑ Spa Wear
Both of the hotels we stayed at in Istanbul had spas on property. I knew I would want to take advantage of the saunas, at a minimum, and I wanted to find a modest swimsuit. That is nearly impossible to find. I ended up buying the insta-popular Summersalt Sidestroke in black, navy and white. While I had tried their suits last summer, I didn’t end up keeping them because I wasn’t thrilled with the fit. For this trip, I sized up and ordered one of their long-torso suits and that did the trick! I felt very comfortable with the full coverage the suit provided while still feeling cute.
For a cover up (and sleepwear), I packed my black Hill House Home Ellie nap dress. Again, it felt perfectly appropriate for the hotels we stayed at, though the Four Seasons provided their own coverups for us to use, as well. The nap dress, similar to the hotel provided cover ups, isn’t too form fitting, so it felt very appropriate for Istanbul.
[…] Be mindful of your attire. I covered this pretty extensively in my Istanbul packing list, but it bears repeating. You are visiting a country that is 98% Muslim. You should err on the […]