Resort Wear 101; How to Disrupt a Dress Code Debacle & Slay Your Suitcase

Resort Wear Blog cover photo

A great outfit and a gorgeous destination are a truly magical combination.  Sun, sea, sand, cocktails, and late nights – No matter where you are headed there is nothing we LOVE more than the idea of a tropical getaway.  Until we have to start packing… and realize that resort wear is a new and entirely different dress code than what you wear to work, or on the weekends.

For some people choosing the right items to bring on vacation can be a daunting task that feels like it will make or break the trip.  Resort wear, cruise wear, or vacation wear wardrobes are becoming a common term used for clothes, dresses, or looks you might wear on a vacation. It has become so popular that many resorts are now publishing these dress code expectations for their Guests, making it so the weather is not the only thing to check before you start to pack your suitcase.

When it comes to fashion, style is in the eye of the beholder, so deciphering resort wear dress codes can be a daunting task.  Now if you are anything like me you spend your vacation split between lounging poolside and exploring your destination and resort, and your suitcase needs to be filled with attire to fit all occasions.

The typical Dress code in a tropical location is usually written in vague terms like “resort casual” or “elegant casual”, which are confusing to even the most seasoned traveler.  Not to worry though, we’ve researched for you and broken it down into 4 main categories.

Beachwear

a flat lay of examples for Beach Wear Beachwear refers to the items that you wear while you are lounging poolside or on the beach and it is a style all its own.  You can prove you’re a poolside fashionista by leaving your yoga pants, gym shorts, and tee shirts for your workouts and opting instead for breezy and comfortable beachwear including, fashionable swimsuits, floppy hats, (like this one from Amazon), and cute cover-ups. 

As with all of the resort wear dress codes, we think that the icing on the cake is in the accessories you add to your main pieces, so don’t forget to pack a big tote bag, sunglasses, and a cute tumbler or water bottle to keep your drinks cold. You can browse our swim wear collection for some inspiration and unique fun options.  We even have this adorable customizable towels you can add to your suitcase as a conversation starter. (If you aren't finding what you're looking for drop us a line via our contact page - we can make it for you!)

Remember the hotel, resort, or cruise line won’t allow you to walk through the main lobby or Guest areas without shoes and a coverup so makes sure that you pack a pair of easy beach slides or flip-flops like these cute (and completely rinseable) Nova flip flops that you won't mind getting sandy.

Resort Casual

Resort Casual in its simplest terms means casual clothing that is appropriate for the resort (when you are not at the beach).  Resort casual is usually a daytime look worn for activities and even if you are exploring. 

For women, that breaks down to sundresses, maxi dresses, tops, capris, skirts, and shorts in beautiful prints, colors, and soft fabrics. 

Lilly Pulitzer, the original creator of authentic American resort wear as we know it,  her brand is one of the largest and most popular that comes to mind when discussing really embodying this style. 

Although expensive, her bright prints and classic designs are the perfect fit for a vacation suitcase.   If you are budget conscious but love some Lilly, keep an eye on our Thrifty Chick Collection for ever-changing gently used Lilly pieces. 

Whether you are searching for your perfect LP Splurge or just trying to style yourself with her line in mind, check out the #Summerinlilly for a peek at her latest designs and some inspiration on how to create your looks.

Resort Casual wear for a couple When it comes to resort casual for men, it is a little easier, or rather the rules seem to be clearer.   A collared shirt, nice pants or shorts made of linen or cotton, and closed-toe shoes that aren't full-on dress shoes will fit the bill. Boat shoes, loafers, and clean tennis shoes work well.  Trendy jeans and upscale sandals are also good options.  Jackets and sport coats are not needed.

Evening wear at resorts has some flexibility and is generally broken down into two categories – Resort Elegant and Resort Evening Wear

Resort Elegant

Again, in its simplest of definitions, resort elegant is the nighttime version of resort wear, worn when it's time to change your look from day to night.  It is most commonly seen worn after you've spent the day lounging poolside, adventuring, or exploring local sites and customs, and you are ready for a relaxing night filled with delicious food, cocktails, and entertainment. 

Dresses with wedges or a dressier sandal are standard for women, while men should opt for items like linen pants or trendy jeans, with a collared shirt, tucked in or even untucked.  Remember if you are wearing jeans they should be darker in wash and without holes.

Resort Evening Wear

The difference between resort elegant and resort evening wear is minimal and can often be a fine line.  The way I typically explain it is with the example of weeknight date wear vs. weekend date wear or a semi-formal vs. a formal event.

For women, rather than a casual romper or summer dress with wedges or sandals, it is a little more formal, for example, a stylish cocktail dress or sophisticated Jumpsuit, paired with a strappy heeled shoe. 

Vineyard Vines Men Canvas Island Blazer For Men, the addition of a trendy jacket such as this Vineyard Vines Canvas Island Blazer, to their resort elegant look, will step it up a notch and even help combat the cool ocean breezes most tropical islands have at night.  

No matter what part of the resort dress code you are working with we would be remiss not to mention Accessories are Everything (and the easiest way to fit function into your suitcase)

Accessorize

Adding the right accessories can help you immensely when packing your vacation suitcase. Adding the right pieces to your resort casual outfits can dramatically change the entire look of a piece. We suggest an array of bracelets, necklaces, and clutches (and we carry so many choices in our accessory collection), as an easy way to change up any look. 

We hope this little walk through resort wear 101 has brought some clarity and you are ready to tackle packing for your next tropical adventure. 

The most important lesson to learn is to have fun with your suitcase and create outfits you’ll remember as long as the trip itself.  We simply adore the bright and happy vibes that resort wear adds to vacations and we think you will too, if you are ready to explore some more options, click here to check out our list of resort wear essentials that your suitcase can’t live without or shop the Elissa Evergreen Resort Wear line for some of our hand-picked favorites.

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