Resort Casual Attire Explained

resort casual attire: couple by pool

Written by Ben Chuang

I love a tropical vacation in the sun, sand, and surf. There's nothing like escaping your worldly problems in an all-inclusive resort with buffets, swim-up bars, and local sightseeing. And then, of course, there's the vacation outfits.

Without a daily change of resort casual attire, how can I properly show off the fact that I'm on vacation to all my friends back home on social media? All jokes aside, however, a properly planned set of resort casual wear will ensure that you're appropriately dressed for your travels while avoiding sunburn and prioritizing comfort and style. Let's get into it.


History of Resort Casual Attire 

Resort casual attire has evolved over the decades, originating from the leisurely lifestyle of affluent vacationers in the early 20th century. In the 1920s and 1930s, as travel to tropical and seaside destinations became more accessible, the need for comfortable yet stylish clothing arose.

Designers like Coco Chanel and Jean Patou popularized resort wear, introducing lighter fabrics and relaxed silhouettes that combined elegance with practicality. This era saw the emergence of the "cruise collection," a precursor to modern resort wear, aimed at travelers heading to warmer climates during the winter months. Chanel's beach pajamas and Patou's tennis outfits are prime examples of early resort casual attire that set the foundation for contemporary styles.

Source: Exquisite. "Deauville - Coco Chanel."  

The post-World War II era further solidified the concept of resort casual attire as international travel boomed and jet-set culture emerged. The 1950s and 1960s brought about the glamour of destinations like the French Riviera and Caribbean islands, influencing fashion significantly.

Icons such as Jackie Kennedy and Grace Kelly epitomized resort chic, wearing capri pants, tailored shorts, and breezy sundresses. Designers like Emilio Pucci and Lilly Pulitzer became synonymous with vibrant, playful prints ideal for vacation wardrobes. This period marked a shift towards a more relaxed, yet still sophisticated, approach to vacation dressing, which has continued to evolve into the versatile resort casual style we recognize today.

Resort Casual Dress Code


The resort casual dress code is a style guideline often implemented at vacation destinations, blending comfort with polished aesthetics. It emphasizes relaxed yet stylish clothing appropriate for warm climates and leisurely activities. For men, this typically includes items such as polo shirts, checked or gingham shirts, dress shorts, khakis, and linen trousers.

men's blue check gingham dress shirt button up

Women often wear sundresses, skirts, capri pants, and light blouses. Footwear should be neat but casual, like sandals or loafers, while accessories are minimal and practical, such as hats and sunglasses. The overall aim is to achieve a balanced look that is casual and refined, suitable for a variety of resort settings from poolside lounging to casual dining.

In the evening, the resort casual dress code may call for a slightly more sophisticated approach similar to a smart casual dress code while maintaining comfort. Men might opt for dress slacks or chinos paired with a white collared shirt, and women might choose a maxi dress or a more elegant sundress.

closeup of white dress shirt fabric and semi-spread collar

Avoid overly casual items like flip-flops, athletic wear, or overly revealing clothing. Fabrics such as linen, cotton, and light knits are favored for their breathability and ease of movement. This dress code ensures that guests remain comfortable and stylish throughout their stay, fitting seamlessly into the upscale yet laid-back ambiance of most resorts.

Essential Wardrobe Items for Casual Resort Attire

Daytime Wear:

Polo Shirts:

A staple of resort casual attire, polo shirts offer a perfect blend of comfort and style. Opt for breathable fabrics like cotton or cotton blends, which keep you cool while maintaining a neat appearance. Neutral colors and subtle patterns work well, but feel free to experiment with brighter hues that reflect the vacation vibe. If you prefer something without collars, a simple v-neck t-shirt looks great as well.

Button-Down Shirts:

Lightweight button-down shirts in fabrics like linen or chambray are ideal for daytime activities. They provide a polished look without sacrificing comfort, making them suitable for everything from sightseeing to casual lunches.

Dress Shorts:

Tailored shorts in materials such as cotton twill or linen are essential. They should hit just above the knee for a refined look. Avoid overly casual styles like cargo shorts, opting instead for flat-front or slim-fit designs that pair well with polo or business casual shirts.

Khaki Pants:

For a more covered option, khaki pants are versatile and stylish. Choose light, breathable fabrics and a tailored fit. Khakis can be easily dressed up or down, making them a practical choice for various daytime activities.

Footwear Selection:

Comfortable yet stylish footwear is key. Leather sandals, boat shoes, or loafers are excellent choices that complement the resort casual look while providing comfort for walking and exploring.

Resort Evening Wear:

Long-Sleeve Button-Down Shirts:

For evening wear, opt for long-sleeve button-down shirts in lightweight fabrics like linen or cotton. These shirts can be dressed up with a pair of dress slacks or worn more casually with khakis. Stick to classic colors and subtle patterns for a sophisticated look. These guidelines are similar to what you might wear to a summer wedding. We also have a broader guide to wedding attire for men.

blue printed patterned dress shirt for men

Dress Slacks:

A pair of well-fitted dress slacks in a neutral color is essential for evening events. Linen or lightweight wool trousers are ideal for warm climates, offering both comfort and elegance. These pants pair perfectly with a button-down shirt for a refined evening ensemble.

Blazers and Sport Coats:

While not always necessary, a lightweight blazer can add a touch of formality to your evening attire. Opt for unstructured blazers in breathable fabrics like linen or cotton, which are ideal for warmer weather and can be easily layered over a collared shirt. Here's a guide on how to wear a blazer with jeans.

Dress Shoes:

Evening footwear should be slightly more formal than daytime options. Leather loafers, moccasins, or dress shoes provide the perfect finishing touch to your outfit. Ensure they are comfortable enough for extended wear but polished enough to elevate your evening look.

Helpful Accessories:

Keep accessories minimal but thoughtful. A quality watch, a simple belt, and a pair of classic sunglasses can enhance your outfit without overwhelming it. For evening events, consider a pocket square or a lightweight scarf to add a touch of sophistication.

men's silk pocket squares

By including these key pieces in your wardrobe, you can effortlessly navigate the resort's casual dress code, ensuring you look stylish and feel comfortable throughout your vacation.

Footwear Options

Footwear is a crucial component of resort casual attire, balancing comfort and style to complement the laid-back yet polished look. Loafers are an excellent choice for both daytime and evening wear. They offer a sleek, slip-on design that is both comfortable and stylish, making them versatile enough for casual strolls or semi-formal dinners.

Opt for materials like leather or suede in neutral colors such as brown, tan, or navy, which can easily match various outfits. Loafers with minimal detailing or classic penny loafers are suitable for maintaining a sophisticated appearance.

Boat shoes are another fantastic option, especially for daytime activities and casual evenings. Designed originally for yachting, these shoes provide excellent grip and comfort, making them perfect for coastal or resort environments.

Typically made from leather or canvas, boat shoes often come in colors like navy, brown, or white. They pair well with shorts, chinos, or even casual slacks, making them incredibly versatile. For a modern twist, consider boat shoes with subtle contrasting stitching or a two-tone design.

Sandals are ideal for the warm, relaxed atmosphere of resort settings, offering both breathability and ease of wear. Look for leather sandals with supportive soles and stylish straps that can be worn for casual outings or by the pool.

Avoid overly casual flip-flops; instead, opt for more structured styles like slides or fisherman sandals, which provide a more refined look. Sandals in neutral tones such as tan, brown, or black can seamlessly integrate into your resort wardrobe, ensuring you stay comfortable without compromising on style.

Fabric Choices

Selecting the right fabrics is essential for resort casual attire, ensuring you stay cool and comfortable in warm climates while maintaining a polished appearance. Linen is a top choice for resort wear due to its excellent breathability and lightweight nature.

This natural fabric allows air to circulate, keeping you cool even in hot and humid conditions. Linen shirts, linen pants and, and blazers are ideal for both day and evening wear, offering a crisp, relaxed look that is perfect for vacation settings.

Cotton is another staple fabric for resort casual attire, prized for its softness, durability, and breathability. Cotton shirts, shorts, and trousers are versatile and comfortable, making them suitable for a wide range of activities.

Cotton blends, such as those mixed with a small percentage of synthetic fibers, can also provide added stretch and wrinkle resistance, which is particularly beneficial for travel.

For a touch of luxury, consider fabrics like lightweight wool or silk blends for evening wear. Lightweight wool trousers can provide a more formal look without sacrificing comfort, while silk blend shirts offer a smooth, elegant finish that is perfect for sophisticated dinners or events.

Additionally, chambray, a type of lightweight cotton, can be a great alternative to denim, providing the same casual look with greater breathability. By choosing these fabrics, you can ensure your resort attire is both stylish and comfortable.

Color Palette

The color palette for resort casual attire should reflect the relaxed, vibrant atmosphere of vacation settings. Pastels are a popular choice, offering a light and refreshing look that complements sunny, tropical environments.

Soft shades of blue, pink, yellow, and green can add a cheerful, airy feel to your wardrobe, making them perfect for daytime wear. These colors pair well with neutral tones and can be easily mixed and matched.

Neutrals, such as white, beige, tan, and navy, form the backbone of a versatile resort wardrobe. These colors provide a sophisticated, timeless look that is easy to coordinate. White linen shirts, beige khakis, and navy blazers are essential pieces that can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion. Don't forget to read our guide if you're planning to go to an all-white party.

Neutrals also serve as a great base for incorporating more vibrant colors or patterns, allowing you to create a balanced and cohesive outfit.

Tropical prints and patterns can add a fun and stylish element to your resort attire. Bold floral prints, subtle palm fronds, or subtly striped shirts can inject personality and vacation spirit into your outfits. When incorporating patterns, it’s best to balance them with solid pieces to avoid overwhelming your look.

For example, pair a floral shirt with neutral shorts or wear a patterned blazer over a simple white shirt. By thoughtfully selecting your color palette, you can create a dynamic and stylish resort wardrobe.

Other Accessories

Accessories play a significant role in enhancing resort casual attire, adding flair and functionality without overpowering the outfit. Hats are a practical and stylish accessory, providing shade and protection from the sun. A classic straw fedora or a wide-brimmed sun hat can add a touch of sophistication to your look while keeping you cool. For a more casual vibe, a well-fitted baseball cap in a neutral or pastel color can be an excellent choice.

Sunglasses are both a practical necessity and a stylish accessory in resort settings. Opt for high-quality sunglasses with UV protection to shield your eyes from the sun. Classic styles such as aviators, wayfarers, or round frames can complement a variety of face shapes and outfit styles. Choose frames in versatile colors like black, tortoiseshell, or metallic finishes to ensure they match well with your wardrobe.

Belts are another essential accessory, providing a polished finish to your resort casual outfit. A leather belt in a neutral color like brown or black is a versatile option that can be worn with both casual and dressier outfits.

For a more relaxed look, consider a woven or canvas belt that adds texture and interest to your ensemble. Additionally, consider other accessories such as a quality watch, which can add a touch of sophistication, or a lightweight scarf for cooler evenings. By thoughtfully selecting accessories, you can elevate your resort casual attire while maintaining a cohesive and stylish look.


Frequently Asked Questions about Resort Casual Attire

What does resort casual attire mean?

Resort casual attire is a relaxed yet stylish dress code typically associated with vacation settings, blending comfort and sophistication. It includes clothing like sundresses, skirts, capri pants, khakis, polo shirts, and lightweight button-down shirts. Footwear is usually casual yet neat, such as sandals or loafers, and accessories are kept minimal. The key is to look polished while maintaining a laid-back vibe suitable for leisurely activities and warm climates.

What is resort casual for a wedding?

For a wedding, resort casual attire combines the relaxed elegance of resort vacation wear with a touch of formality suitable for a special occasion. Men might wear dress slacks or khakis paired with a collared shirt, while women might opt for sundresses, maxi dresses, or dressy skirts and blouses. The overall look should be neat and polished, avoiding overly casual items like flip-flops or t-shirts. Light, breathable fabrics are ideal, reflecting the festive yet laid-back atmosphere of a resort wedding.

What does resort casual mean at sandals?

At Sandals resorts, resort casual attire refers to a comfortable yet chic style suitable for the relaxed luxury environment. During the day, guests typically wear swimwear with cover-ups, shorts, t-shirts, and sundresses. For evening dining and activities, the dress code steps up a notch with men often wearing slacks or dress shorts paired with collared shirts, and women donning cocktail dresses, skirts, or nice pants with blouses. The aim is to maintain a casual but elegant look.

What is the resort casual dress code in Hawaii?

In Hawaii, resort casual attire reflects the island's laid-back, tropical atmosphere while still appearing neat and put-together. Common choices include aloha shirts, sundresses, cocktail dresses, capris, shorts, and light, breathable tops. Footwear is casual but smart, like sandals or boat shoes, and accessories are kept simple. The goal of women's resort casual attire is to balance comfort with a touch of style, suitable for both exploring the islands and enjoying resort amenities.

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