The situation of Yemeni women is complicated and contradictory. On the one hand, compared with relatively fashionforward Mediterranean Arabs, or even their affluent sisters in the Gulf, Yemeni women appear to be especially oldfashioned. One rarely sees a Yemeni woman outdoors bareheaded, and in the capital, Sana'a, most women cover their faces in public. Yet outward appearances can be misleading. While it is tempting to assume that women "still" veil because "tradition" tells them to, it is simply wrong to conclude that "traditionally" all women were secluded in their homes, or that how they dress now tells us much about their political and economic status. Clothes do not make the woman: lives are shaped by political currents and economic realities.

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Copyright © 2001 University of Pennsylvania Press. This chapter first appeared in Women and Power in the Middle East.

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