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Photo by Sampor Burke, Mekong Semester.

Q&A: Length of shorts and appropriate clothing


Hi, I’m super excited to meet everybody, and I’ll post an introduction later. I just wanted to ask, how long should our shorts be? Is just above the knee okay, or do they have to cover the knee?


All shorts for girls and boys need to be below the knee. I’d like to stress that SEA/China are very conservative when it comes to dress. Anything above the knee, or that exposes your shoulders, or that is low cut, or at all see-through is not acceptable. As a good rule of thumb, if you’re questioning whether a piece of clothing is appropriate, it probably isn’t.

Sleeveless shirts are not appropriate for anyone. It can sometimes be frustrating to try and find clothes that meet the specifications below in the US, but you’ll be very happy you followed them. Please don’t bring shorts that go above the knees, or any tight leggings (except for sleeping in your long underwear if that’s your preference). Though some women wear shorts in urban places, they’ll attract unwanted attention, so it is important you have capris/pants/longer skirts that you’re comfortable if you are female.

If you bring yoga pants, please bring the loose-fitting kind; no leggings/jeggings or tight fitting clothing. When it comes to shirts, no deep V-necks or loose-hanging, wide cut necklines. The styles in the US right now can be too low and often clothing will stretch out from frequent washing and humidity, meaning the neckline gets even lower which is not appropriate. 

Make sure that bras do not show through shirts (transparency can be an issue with lightweight fabrics), that your shirt is long enough to cover your midriff, and that bras also aren’t revealed through the armhole. Students who arrive without culturally sensitive clothing will be asked to buy additional clothes at their own cost.

Southern China and SEA especially are largely hot and humid. In general, you want lightweight, wrinkle-free, breathable, quick-dry, sun-protective fabrics that are not too dark (attracts sun and mosquitoes), not too light (shows dirt easily and may be more see-through), and very modest. This is the goal, do the best you can…

Hope that helps!

Jessica Armstrong.

SEA Program Director.