Women's Illegal Clothing

Dresses, pants, bras and heels: in 2010 these articles of clothing can still land a woman in some serious trouble.

The arrest of Sudanese journalist Lubna Hussein for wearing pants in public last year turned global attention to the extreme clothing rules in predominantly Islamic countries. But recently, nations from Great Britain to Brazil have started muscling in on the sport of dictating attire. Here, the key battles in the escalating war.


Atlanta's all-male Morehouse College outlawed "the wearing of clothing associated with women's garb" last October. Officials at the school (which counts Martin Luther King Jr. as an alumnus) say the rule was aimed at five guys—cross-dressers living openly gay lifestyles.


England's largest union declared war on high heels in the workplace last August. The predominantly male Trade Union Congress claimed it had women's health and safety at heart when it issued a guideline for employers that stated, "Heels should have a broad base and be no higher than 4 centimeters. If worn for long stretches, no higher than 2 centimeters." The decree, aimed at curbing companies that require women to wear heels, stopped short of threatening stiletto stalwarts with a stint in the Tower of London. Nonetheless, British women decried the motion, professing that they'd rather give up their laptops than their Louboutins. The battle rages on.


Lubna Hussein was arrested last July for violating Sudan's indecency laws by wearing pants. Hussein, 34, refused to submit to the usual 40 lashes for her trouser transgression and took her case to court, eventually triumphing.


Geisy Arruda, a 20-year-old college student in São Paulo, Brazil, fell foul of Bandeirante University's dress code last October after wearing a pink minidress to class. As she was escorted from campus by armed police, hundreds of students chanted, "Puta, puta, puta!" ("Whore, whore, whore!") The university accused her of disrespecting "ethical principles, academic dignity, and morality" and expelled her for her sins. Two weeks later, after a federal investigation and a national outcry in this staunchly Catholic country that also gave birth to the teeny bikini and the Brazilian wax, Arruda was readmitted.


Al Qaeda-linked insurgents in Somalia started publicly whipping women found wearing braslast October. The extremists, enforcing a radical interpretation of Sharia law, believe that such bosom support is fraudulent and therefore un-Islamic. The bra police regularly round up women, inspect them at gunpoint for unnatural firmness, then force offenders to shake their bare breasts before submitting to a beating.


As of New Year's Day 2010, Muslim women in the West Aceh region of Indonesia are officially banned from wearing pants, which reveal curves and hence are not Islamic. Religious police are handing out modesty skirts.