Appropriate Sport Apparel

Many societies impose constraints on what is considered appropriate attire for girls. In tradition-bound and religious societies, expectations often include modest dress, often covering legs, arms and/or hair. According to programme partners, these requirements can make participation in many sports challenging for girls from both a practical and a psychological standpoint.

Similarly, if a girl feels like she is shaming her family for wearing a swimsuit in public, she is not likely to want to swim. It can actually be very dangerous for a girl to shame her family by behaving in a manner that is perceived as inappropriate; she risks being punished (physically or psychologically), blamed for being evil, threatened, or inhibited from moving around freely.


  • Whenever possible, don’t make girls choose between sport participation and adhering to cultural dress codes.
  • Be flexible about what a girl can wear to participate, within bounds of the girl’s physical safety. For example, allow girls to wear headscarves if that makes them comfortable.
  • Choose sport activities that girls can play in modest clothing. This can be critical for both the girls’ interest in participating and the community’s perception of your respect for tradition.
  • When girls’ attire restricts their ability to perform athletically, make accommodations. In some cultures, girls can dress as they like, as long as men are not watching. Perhaps consider conducting your sport programme in a private location that cannot be viewed by males.
  • Provide girls and women coaches with proper sport attire if they can’t provide it for themselves. Talk to girls and their families about their hesitations regarding athletic clothing. Major sport apparel companies, such as Nike and Adidas, have begun to produce conservative athletic wear for girls and women with this issue in mind.
  • When money is of concern, encourage girls and their caregivers to design and sew appropriate sport clothing, which can be worn by the girls themselves as well as sold to others. In some cases, it might be sufficient to allow girls to wear pants beneath skirts during play.