What Is the Dress Code for Elegant Resort Wear?

Skip the beachwear when headed to elegant affairs at resorts.

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You are going on vacation! While you may be ready to retire your suits, pantyhose and stuffy shoes, heading to a resort is not a license to let all fashion go for a week. Many resorts and cruise ships have events at which you are directed to dress in “elegant” resort wear. While this may seem like a strange code that only jet-setting millionaires can decipher, you can crack it and fit right in on your vacation.

General Rules

You don’t have to get out your ball gowns and tuxes, but you do have to make more effort than just throwing on shorts and a T-shirt. Think of attire appropriate for a country club. Skip flip-flops and bikini tops – even if yours is a designer bikini covered with a filmy coverup. Athletic shorts, tank tops and cargo pants are not elegant. Jeans are never okay when elegance is indicated.


For women, a fancy sun dress – not the kind you throw over you swimsuit – with sandals works as elegant resort wear. Pressed capris with a flowing blouse might also be a good choice. Think of what you might wear to a summer wedding, especially one held on a beach.


While you might be able to get away with dressy shorts, some resorts frown on this when indicating you wear elegant attire. To be safe, go for tropical-styled slacks with a nice linen shirt. If you know you are with a more formal crowd, consider a seersucker suit. You can also dress in the local garb – in Latin locations, try a guayabera (also called a Mexican wedding shirt).


Elegant resort wear may be indicated for cocktail hours or dinners. Some resorts also offer dinner cruises or dinner shows that ask you to dress up a bit. If you are unsure about your particular vacation, check the literature provided by the resort for more details. Some people may dress a little more formally and others may dress down more; as long as you look as if you made an effort, a resort is unlikely to call you out for not interpreting its dress code properly.

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