What to Wear in England

by | Apr 7, 2017

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Last updated on November 19th, 2023

I learned the hard way about sticking out as an American tourist in England, particularly in London, which is a very diverse yet cosmopolitan city. I brought my baggy, torn jeans and beat up Doc Marten boots, only to discover that the women in London were wearing very chic and stylish feminine clothes. For summer, I would recommend classic, well-fitted black or grey pants (modern cut, like boot-cut or slight flare) or a nice, modern skirt, plus a well-fitted, chic/hip short sleeved shirt (any color is okay, but black seems to rule). Wear stylish yet comfy sandals (lots of walking) or nicer athletic or walking shoes (the types that are rather shapely and not too bulky). Dress nicer than just “American casual”…avoid the white sneakers and DO NOT wear Doc Martens! The Docs store in London was filled only with Americans. When I was in London, I went straight to the market on Portobello Road and bought a load of cheap, more stylin’ clothes. London was quite warm when I was there in July, but the weather was a bit more unpredictable as I went farther north. Prepare for rain with a light rain jacket and have a comfy, nice-looking sweater available.

Patricia, Chicago, USA

My biggest advice is to wear comfortable shoes. We traveled for seven days throughout London almost exclusively by walking and riding the underground and bus system. Most people wore dark clothes — either pants or blue jeans. Women wore various types of shoes, but very few impractical high heels. The shoes I wore have always been comfortable for me back home, but hurt through all the walking in the U.K. Next time I go I will wear either a hiking boot, a dark colored athletic shoe, or a shoe with an athletic shoe insert.

Stefani, Phoenix, USA

Tight clothing is very “in” now, in particular, tight leather garments, eg leather trousers. Bright colours are fine.
Chris, Birmingham, England

Ed. note: Yes, but remember that “too tight” worn anywhere will bring you lots of unwanted attention.

Pack black slacks, comfortable shoes, raincoat and these basics will take you anywhere.

Charlotte,Ypsilanti, USA

In London, wearing black is always appropriate — for dress or casual wear. I’ve also discovered that you can wear trimly tailored black pants with just about any top and always look appropriately dressed.

Yvonne, Kansas City, USA

I travelled in London, England. Ladies of size will want to know about Evans, in Oxford St. near London’s Marble Arch. They sells medium-priced clothing for ladies of size (up to size 34, if I remember correctly).

Ellen, Sydney, Australia

In Manchester women tend to dress fairly modestly whatever the season. Very short skirts, knee high boots, etc tend to attract catcalls and remarks. Most women here from about 15-35 wear long skirts and long coats and platform/heeled shoes or boots. Black and other dark colours are most fashionable. Denim is okay but darker denim is what is in fashion at the moment. It gets really rainy up here so I would advise packing a raincoat and strong umbrella. In the summer, however, it can get really hot and unpleasantly humid so its best to wear cotton and other natural fibers then.

Sophie, Manchester, England

When packing for England think conservative, no loud colors, no clunky track shoes in white.

Dodi, De Funiak Springs, USA

Coordinate your clothes around two main colors like black and tan. In London, as in NYC, black is almost the color of choice. If you travel in the Fall and Winter, the dry heat in the hotels will dry most anything you wash overnight.

England is so blustery that an umbrella doesn’t work very well. A 3/4 length raincoat with hood (Eddie Bauer style) is great to have. Make sure you can wear it over a heavy sweater or a wool blazer in the cooler months.

My favorite purchase for my last trip to England and the stone circles of Avebury, Stonehenge and Cornwall was a pair of waterproof leather boots. Yes, they are heavy but once you trudge through mud you are delighted to have had the insight to have brought them along. And you really can get along with the boots and just one other pair of comfortable, “dressy” shoes.

TRisha, Atlanta, USA

If you decide to check out chic and expensive Harrods while in London you should probably do so before a night at the theatre when you’re well-dressed. When I was there a few years ago (others have told me this rule is still in place) you couldn’t go in wearing any kind of denim. I got turned away as did a very well-dressed woman who happened to be wearing one of those sleeveless denim blouses that used to be popular. Shorts and sleeveless shirts were forbidden as well. Something tells me that Princess Diana never got turned away but she probably spent more money than I did!

Kristin, Moncton, Canada

I traveled in London, England and I found skirts and blouses to be most comfortable to pack. Knowing I was going to the theater I did take a dressy (black) dress. I ended up wearing my walking shoes everywhere but the theater. Next time I am going to take 2 skirts, 2 blouses, one dress and one jacket plus undies, even if I go for three weeks. I will take only easy wash, quick drying clothes. My sister took three suitcases. The one I took was too big and way too heavy. I want to only have a small carry-on next time and I plan to put it in the overhead compartment.

Carol, Urbana, USA

Don’t wear your tennis shoes a.k.a. “trainers” in England unless you’re going to the gym. This is quite a “no, no.” Most good bars and restaurants will refuse admission to anyone wearing them! Also, jeans are acceptable for casual wear as long as you have a nice blazer — I wear a double breasted navy blazer and I fit right in.

Lynn, Winterhaven, Florida

If you want to be properly treated in London’s exclusive restaurants and shops, avoid wearing tourist attire–it’s considered to be unspeakably “naff” or tacky.

Jane Hess, Special to the Toronto Star, Canada

I travel to London in the winter months to go to the theatre–air fares are lower after Nov. 1st. I find that London theatres are casual, especially at matinees and that they are often overheated in the winter. Wear layers. I was too hot in a cashmere turtleneck sweater. A blouse and cardigan or blazer are better.

Trisha, Atlanta, USA

In London, wear black, black, and more black. To avoid looking too much like a tourist, bring a raincoat rather than a windbreaker.

Julie, Ottawa, Canada

In seaside towns, such as the one where I live (outside Hastings, East Sussex), we find that during the summer it is not uncommon to see even older men and women in shorts and skimpy T-shirts etc. To us it screams ‘tourist’ but we are used to it and most of us take no notice. In fact, on the rare occasions it gets really hot, we have been known to dress that way ourselves! You will, however, be refused service in most shops, bars and cafes, even on the seafront, if you are wearing swimwear, your male companion is shirtless or if you are barefoot. Be ladies, ladies!

Kat, St. Leonarsa-On-Sea, UK

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  1. Emily

    Most things are acceptable here, especially in diverse areas and larger cities. Avoid looking like a tourist at all costs as you can be a target of pickpocketing, scams or unwanted attention. Lots of other comments here have mentioned fashionable clothing, but where I come from (a relatively rural small town) this is quite unnecessary. Like anywhere, particularly skimpy or revealing items can cause you to be more likely to be harassed, however you probably won’t be looked down on for it. I am quite surprised at comments of being turned away from certain establishments for ‘inappropriate’ clothing, as this is extremely rare in my experience. One thing I may mention is that in more conservative areas, racism is unfortunately still common; certain ethnic dress may subject you to this more substantially.

    • Tomiko Wingfield

      Can you be more forward with some of restaurant’s names that are more less likely have a specific race preference it rather not have? Don’t want to make a spectacle of myself. I intend to visit soon, I been learning the difference in word meanings also.

  2. Astrid

    I live in London and I have to disagree that only American tourists buy Doc Martens. We basically live in them all year round! In general, wear whatever you’re comfortable in, the beauty of London is that you can do and be whatever and whoever you want to. Don’t wear PJs when heading to the grocery store though 😉

    • Carolyn Ray

      Thanks for sharing! This article is probably a little outdated so we’d love any new tips!


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