What is Resort Casual Clothing?

Group of friends standing at a resort
Letizia Le Fur / Getty Images

What's in your suitcase? As you pack for your upcoming honeymoon or romantic getaway to a good hotel or resort, make sure that you bring along a proper wardrobe for the anticipated weather that includes a few items that fall into the category of "resort casual" clothing.

Here's why: the management at some hotels, golf resorts, and cruise lines may have specific guidelines on what guests can wear to participate in certain activities, such as dining in their better on-site restaurants. In order to be able to participate, it's advisable to adhere to those guidelines and select clothing accordingly.

During the day, casual wear typically prevails when you're on vacation. At torrid spots by a beach, for example, it makes sense to wear as little as possible. But requirements can change once the sun goes down.

Defining Resort Casual

Adding the term, "resort" to the call for "casual" indicates attire that is a sophisticated cut above daywear. Come dinner time, resort casual are bywords that describe a look that's more covered up and conservative than beachwear

There's something nice about dressing up a little for a special night, especially if it's your honeymoon or a romantic occasion. That said, it's time for some of these places to update the rules. Some of the resort casual definitions that you may encounter online seem stuck in the 1950s. Chinos? Cardigans tied around the shoulders? Skorts? Really?

Resort is a “Season”

Despite the fact that few people are wealthy enough to purchase an entirely new wardrobe before they go away on vacation, fashion designers forge ahead and release styles intended for a resort “lifestyle.” For women that usually means colorful cotton shifts (think Lilly Pulitzer) and similar tops with white slacks. Nordstrom has an entire section devoted to resort casual wear.

If you're concerned about dressing appropriately when resort casual is the rule, see the guidelines below.

Woman wearing a dress at the beach
 GettyImages-Sven Hansche-EyeEm

After Sunset Clothing for Women

  • Lightweight dress
  • Sleeveless maxi dress
  • Dressy blouse or pullover top
  • Cotton or linen slacks
  • Cotton or linen skirt
  • Dress shorts
  • Heels or dressy sandals

After Sunset Clothing for Men

  • Shirt with a collar
  • Polo-style shirt
  • Clean pants or dress shorts with a belt
  • Linen pants
  • Closed-toe shoes
  • Loafers or Top-Siders
  • Sports jacket (optional)

Inappropriate After Sunset Clothing

  • Baseball caps
  • Bathrobes
  • Bathing suits
  • Beach coverups or pareos
  • Camisoles
  • Hoodies
  • Jeans
  • Carpenter pants
  • T-shirts
  • Flip-flops
  • Sweatsuits
  • Sneakers
  • Short-shorts/Daisy Maes
  • Cutoffs
  • Torn shorts
  • Tube tops
  • Long gowns
  • Tuxedoes
  • Cocktail dresses
  • Suits and ties
  • Mandals
  • Yoga pants


  • Don't want to dress up for a meal when "resort casual" is stipulated? Instead, you can opt to eat at a buffet, order room service, grab a snack at a poolside cafe, or eat at an informal restaurant off the premises. (And if you're staying at a place with butler service, you can have your meal delivered to your room or suite.)
  • The dress code at Sandals Resorts restaurants is "resort evening" at dinner, which is similar to resort casual, although jeans on men are permitted. 
  • Bottom line: It’s the rare place that will reject you based on what you are wearing, as long as your outfit hews relatively close to their guidelines. However, you may feel self-conscious and uncomfortable if it turns out that you’ve shown up wearing garments or shoes that are much more informal than the guests around you. Just as bad, you may be handed a "borrowed" garment the facility keeps on hand to cover up a customer's fashion faux pas.

Do's and Don'ts

  • Do check beforehand to see if there is a dress code where you're going.
  • Do pack accessories, such as a pashmina shawl, that can transform an outfit from casual to resort casual.
  • Do consider your partner. If you like to dress casually and he or she likes dressing up once in a while, indulge your partner on vacation.
  • Don't feel like you have to go out and buy a new wardrobe to conform to a dress code.

Was Tony Soprano Right?

A dapper dresser, the mob chief became nearly apoplectic when he spotted a guy wearing a baseball cap in the same fine dining establishment where he was eating. Unable to restrain himself, Soprano went over to the guy and said, "Take your hat off. They don't sell hot dogs here. They took the bleachers out two years ago."

Was this page helpful?