Srinagar and Kashmir are rapidly growing in popularity as tourist destinations, now that the region has become safe. However, what some foreign tourists fail to take into consideration is that Islam is the dominant religion there, and standards of dress are conservative.
In the past, the revealing dress of some foreigners has upset hardliner Muslim organizations. In 2012, Jamaat-e-Islami issued a dress code for visitors that "honors" local sensitivities.
According to a statement released by the organization, "Some tourists, mostly foreigners, are seen wandering in short mini-skirts and other objectionable dresses here openly, which is quite against the local ethos and culture and not acceptable to the civil society at all."
Apparently, although houseboat owners and hotel managers in Srinagar considered the new dress code to be draconian, they were informally forced to implement it. They put up prominent notices on their premises asking tourists to dress "appropriately" while in Kashmir.
What does "appropriately" mean? As a general rule, keeping shoulders and legs covered, and not wearing tight clothing is appropriate dress -- not only in Kashmir but in most places in India.
The big question though, is should foreign tourists pay attention to the dress code?
The reality is that while standards of dress have become more liberal in large cosmopolitan cities such as Mumbai and Delhi, and of course Goa, dressing in revealing clothing elsewhere is still not a good idea in India. Unfortunately, there is a widespread perception in India that foreign women are promiscuous. Dressing in a revealing manner only perpetuates that thought and encourages negative attention.
Hence, although you may feel like you should have the right to dress how you want, it's sensible to be on the conservative side and cover up. You'll find that it's more a matter of feeling comfortable, particularly in regards to staring and ogling by men in the street. Locals will also appreciate your decent way of dressing. They may not verbalize it, they will notice what you're wearing and treat you accordingly.
What You Should Wear in Kashmir
Long skirts, jeans, pants, trousers, and t-shirts are all fine. It's invaluable to carry a scarf or shawl. You'll be required to cover your head if you visit a mosque. In addition, if you do want to wear a sleeveless top, you can throw the shawl over your shoulders and chest to cover up. However, the climate in Kashmir is generally cold. It only gets warm, and not hot, in summer. Nights can be chilly, so carry a jacket or woolens with you as well.