Dressing the Part

In my spare time I like to dress children as alternates for the It's a Small World ride.
In my spare time I like to dress children as alternates for the It’s a Small World ride.

I’m not even going to continue to try to make the case for yoga pants as the world’s best travel outfit.  It’s like arguing over the deliciousness of freshly made French croissants – it just IS.

But yoga pants on the airplane are one thing – we still need to plan out what to pack for the rest of the trip.  Unless you’re going to Vegas, you will need to actually pack clothes.  But what to pack?

Number One Consideration:  Where are you going?

We’ve already covered Vegas.  If you pack dental floss, you’ll be good for both oral hygiene and the bottom half of your bathing suit.

That’s one end of the spectrum.

On the other end of the spectrum – a visit to the Vatican.  Bootie shorts will be required to be covered up, usually with a draped scarf.  At least, they are supposed to be.  Don’t be the person trying to get around the rule by taking the scarf off as soon as you are past security.  It’s rude.

Dress etiquette is usually the one part of trip planning people forget.  We tend to take our own cultural norms and project them to wherever we’re going, which can have quite a rebound effect on our trip if we’re not careful.  For instance, the guards at the Vatican are quite serious about the no shorts rule.

Is it hot?  Yes.  Do some people get around the rule?  Yes.  But even more people don’t.  Even with reservations the line into the Vatican can be quite long – you don’t want to wait two hours in line to be turned away for showing knee the rules quite clearly tell you to cover.  There is not enough gelato in the world, really.

The Fresno kids and I will be visiting Marrakech around Christmas time this year, and for again, appropriate dress is something to consider.  Marrakech is safe – we’ll be perfectly fine with one adult female, two teen females, and an 11 year-old-boy – BUT, it’s always best to plan ahead.  I really like this take on solo female travel in Marrakech at The Blond Banana – she’s very succinct.   Dress respectfully.   My girls and I will have scarves (as a redhead, a scarf is necessary in case the sun gets ridiculous for me, anyway) in case they are needed and jeans with long sleeved shirts.

Not jeggings.  And for the record?  In my opinion, which you are in no obligation to share – jeggings are never the answer anyway.

And while Marrakech is not Cairo, this experience is not unknown in several conservative countries.  You don’t want it to be you.

I see an awful lot of articles when I’m perusing travel sites about “How Not to Look Like a Tourist.”  And while the effort is appreciated by most (really, no fanny packs.  Let’s take a step back from the butt-pack counter and check out small backpacks.  Or something.  Anything.  Fanny packs should never happen unless you are hauling gear to a Rex Kwan Do tournament), you really can’t avoid looking like a tourist.  It’s a truth that travel writers don’t like to mention, but it’s a truth nonetheless.

You will get lost.  You will need to consult a map.  You will look up in awe at ridiculously tall buildings and make ooh-aah noises.

It's so big and shiny!
It’s so big and shiny!

And really – that’s why you’re going to these exotic foreign places in the first place!  We WANT to see the Blue Mosque!

Note:  You may not wear bootie shorts or miniskirts here.  Rude.
Note: You may not wear bootie shorts or miniskirts here. Rude.

So a few pointers:

1)  Be comfortable.  Hot climate in a conservative culture?  You don’t have to take my word for it – how about Boy’s Life magazine?   Wear light, loose, natural fibers and cover up.  You won’t get as hot that way.  Are you in Germany?  LAYERS.  Read ahead so you know what to expect with the weather and the culture.

2)  Be appropriate.  I know it’s hot in Rome and you have been walking kilometer after kilometer.  The tennis shoes are on, there are old lady socks involved, and you’re wearing a baby blue safari hat to cut the sun.  You’re comfortable.  It’s okay.

Please change into something a little fancier for dinner.  It would be much appreciated by everyone.  And believe me – you’ll have a much better time that way.  You aren’t just checking boxes, you’re experiencing.  It’s a nice experience to wear something attractive and not be the only person sitting in the restaurant with sweat rings and hat hair.

If you really don’t want to change, McDonalds has free wifi and a/c.  Also, they change their menu in different countries, so it’s not the same food you’d get in Akron.  Unless you want that food, in which case I recommend the chicken McNuggets.  They’re delish.  And no one will stare and shake their heads.

3)  Everyone wears jeans.  Not necessarily jean shorts, but jeans.  Always a safe bet.

And my final point:

4)  Those local clothes you see for sale at bazaars and marketplaces?  Yeah, locals don’t really wear those.  No – really.  They don’t.  Those clothes make GREAT gifts for back home, but if you buy them to wear in public people will think you’re the very thing you’re trying not to be.

You won’t blend.

If you find yourself pressed for time or will be doing things other than just the whole vacation-of-a-lifetime, Conde Nast has a great guide you can check that gives several options in many countries.  Bookmark it – it’s totally worth it.

On a final note – I have to admit that I’ve only seen Americans with fanny packs once or twice on our travels.  Luckily, the word seems to have gotten out, and these nightmares of ubiquitous Americanness seem to be graduating to attics and basement storerooms in huge numbers.  I’m not sure what will replace them, but it can’t be as bad as a fanny pack, right?  RIGHT?

If not, I ask to remain in blissful ignorance, okay?






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