Modern societies expect people to wear some clothes, except at naturism venues or places such as a sauna. In cold weather or under burning sun, we are usually better off with good clothing. Sometimes, certain types of clothing are legally mandated in addition to being culturally expected. Even if there are no such expectations, wearing clothes that no locals wear will mark you as an outsider and may make you a magnet for touts, con men and muggers. Dressing more like the locals usually makes fraternization easier.
Clothing is also a favorite item for travel shopping, especially for souvenir t-shirts, locally crafted clothing or items that are cheaper than where you live.
- See also: Packing list
|“||Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves||”|
—Bible, Book of Genesis
The need for clothing will differ dependent on your time away, expected weather at the destination, and the degree of formality.
Shoes and other footwear usually make up much of the packing weight. Poorly-fitting shoes can be painful. Try out the footwear and wear them in before the journey. For a long journey with much outdoor life, this is critical, but walking around an old town for a few hours is already much more than you want to do with new shoes.
Especially when travelling light or going to a climate very different from at home, it is often advantageous to buy at least some of the clothing at the destination. Also, shopping for clothes to bring home is quite common, either as souvenirs or because of different price structure (use tailors in low-income countries; fur, leather and silk may be cheaper where produced or commonly used).
Beware of different clothing size standards. "Large" in Korea is not the same as "large" in Germany. Some numbering schemes can be confusingly similar, while still significantly different. A shop assistant with a measuring tape can help you overcome this.
If you are visiting poor or sparsely populated areas, it may be wise to visit some bigger town to buy suitable clothing before venturing out to places where shops are few and far between.
While the income structure of most high-income countries often makes replacing clothes cheaper than repairing them, in low-income countries, clothes and (especially) shoes can frequently be repaired for a fraction of the price of replacement.
Dress codes vary across cultures. In hot climates where revealing clothes are frowned upon, think about how to dress comfortably without upsetting locals. To go to houses of worship and performances in concert halls you may have to wear somewhat more modest attire (pack a suitable pair of trousers and a suitable shirt for such visits) or much more formal clothing. Live theater and opera houses have traditionally been venues for the most formal clothes and (especially going to a premiere) you should dress up, rather than committing a social faux pas. That being said, there are some iconoclast performance venues that proclaim to hate social conventions, including formal attire, so inquire in advance what type of place you are going to.
Religion is a factor in dress code, especially at houses of worship. While Christianity requires church visitors to bare their heads, Judaism requires a hat (usually a Kippah/yarmulke or just a plain old hat) for males at religious ceremonies, Islam requires women to have their hair covered in mosques and Sikhism requires both sexes to have their hair covered in temples. Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and several other religions require removal of shoes inside their houses of worship.
Although traditional costumes of various nations and peoples are often sold to tourists at souvenir shops around the world, there have been a few high-profile cases of Americans being angry at other Americans for "cultural appropriation" of other people's traditional clothing.
Formal dress codes
At formal occasions in the Western world, there are some dress codes that are more or less standardized.
- White tie: The highest level of dress code: evening tailcoat, trousers with strips of braid down the side seams, white stiff-fronted shirt, white bow tie and waistcoat for men, and a ball gown or evening dress for women. Can in many cases be substituted by a military mess dress, or a traditional folk costume (kilt for people of Scottish descent, etc.)
- Black tie: Tuxedo with black bow tie for men, and a middle-length dress for women.
- Morning dress is rarely mandated, but can be seen at formal daytime events, such as the Royal Ascot.
- Semi-formal: three-piece suit (matching suit with waistcoat) and tie for men, and above-the-knee dress for women.
- Informal: matching suit and tie for men, and blouse with a blazer and matching pencil skirt for women.
- Business casual is not very well defined, though for men it typically entails at least a button-down shirt and long pants, and for women, it usually entails at least covered shoulders and midriffs, and lower body wear that is not too sexy.
Furs and endangered species
- See also: Animal ethics
Though fur clothes are a classical status symbol, they are frowned upon in some high-income countries and among certain parts of society elsewhere.
Travellers carrying any form of sealskin attire would be best advised to avoid travel through the United States; while folks in Newfoundland insist that harp, hood or grey seals were never endangered, the US 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act prohibits their importation.
At public beaches and baths, dress code varies from country to country. In some female toplessness might be common, while in some at least wearing a T-shirt over the swimsuit is regarded common decency.
Small children are often allowed to be naked on the beach, but not everywhere, and what is regarded "small" varies.
In a gender-separated sauna, as well as in showers of a gym or bath house, one is usually required to be naked. The situation at nude beaches varies; some are clothing-optional, others pressure or require visitors to go nude. At hot spring resorts in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, bathers are generally required to be nude, though exceptions may exist for resorts specifically catering to foreigners.