Last updated on January 26th, 2022
See also Latin America
Wear skirts and blouses rather than shorts and blouses; don’t wear bathing suits anywhere other than the beach and pool. You get more respect, and are more accepted. The best inadvertent piece of information I received was from a male co-worker, who said that “Mexican men think all single women are looking for a bed partner.” That may or may not be true, but I was careful not to give that impression, and I think it helped.
Joan, California, USA
When travelling in Mexico, my advice is to wear cotton skirts – not shorts. Mexico is more formal than you might think. The added benefit to wearing a skirt is that it is cooler than long pants and is acceptable clothing for a good restaurant and when touring churches.
Jayne, Santa Ana, USA
Lightweight pants with pockets are key. They are equal parts basic and stylish, and can be dressed up or dressed down. Short skirts and shorts are a no-no for most travelers – you really stick out in Mexico as a North American when you wear these. Lightweight cotton also dries faster when you wash it and takes up less room in your suitcase. Pair your pants with a somewhat feminine blouse or tee shirt (layers are, of course, a travel must). I add a scarf to give variety and also to look more “dressed up”. This made me feel more respectful and at-home, plus I avoided leering from men. An elastic-waisted lightweight skirt is also nice for walking, keeping cool, and evenings out.
If you want to blend in, don’t wear shorts and a backpack. Mexican women get dressed up to go out, with careful grooming of hair, some makeup, ironed clothes and shined shoes. And if you prefer to avoid comments from people on the street and metro, avoid the ‘tight & short’. You’ll enjoy yourself 100 times more.
Susan, Winnipeg, Canada
Do not wear shorts into a church! Really, I advise against wearing shorts anywhere but the beach or resorts. The Mexicans are actually really conservative in their dress and you will get lots of unwanted attention if you dress inappropriately.
Michelle, Midland, Texas, USA
In Mexico the best thing in the world for me were those stretchy gauchos. I should have brought four pairs of those and left my jeans at home. Denim turned out to be uncomfortably hot.
Elizabeth, Orem, USA
I traveled in Southern Mexico and I noticed that the friends I made during the trip, especially non-Mexicans, were continually bothered by unwanted attention. They were wearing clothing that exposed their midsections and cleavage, a definite NO-NO , especially in the rural parts of Oaxaca and Chiapas (San Cristobal). Most of the locals consider this an invitation, so leave those revealing clothes for the beach, not the mountains.
Claudia, Ensenada, Argentina
When travelling in Mexico City and/or Oaxaca (interior, non-beach areas) bring long, cool cotton skirts and light pants and if you are traveling with a man tell him to bring long pants, too. No one in Mexico City/Oaxaca wears shorts, except for children and tourists and you feel a bit uncomfortable when you find that you are the only one in the subway station in shorts. It can be hot in longer pants but your body adjusts quite quickly and you will be happy to blend in just a little more.
Ingrid Emerick, Seattle, Washington
I just returned from 25 days in Mexico (July 2010). I found that in general Mexicans dress more or less the way Americans do–or at least enough of them do that I don’t feel at all compelled to change the way I dress when visiting. Shoes tended to be a little dressier there, perhaps, but jeans or shorts and sneakers were far from uncommon, even for women. For men, especially young men, they seemed to be the uniform. I saw local women wearing tank tops and jeans even in a small mountain town.
Near the beach (Puerto Escondido) I often wore a short halter top dress or short shorts and felt perfectly comfortable in them, both physically and socially. I agree with others’ advice to avoid swimwear and short shorts away from the beach (who wears swimwear away from the beach anyway?) but even inland I felt perfectly comfortable in a pair of knee length shorts, which were especially great because it was the rainy season. Long pants would have gotten soaked, but the shorts were mostly covered by my poncho. Sport sandals meant I didn’t have to worry about wet socks and shoes. The shorts probably marked me as being a non-local, but no more so than the fact that I’m white with short reddish brown hair and my Spanish could use some work. I’m not going to “pass” no matter what I wear, so as long as I’m not offending anyone or inviting inappropriate attention, I don’t worry about it. The only time I got whistled at, I was wearing an ankle-length skirt I’d bought in Oaxaca, in a style that was for sale everywhere there and worn very commonly by the local women.
When it wasn’t raining I often wore jeans and a fitted T-shirt or tank top. I did get one sideways glance while walking down the street by myself in Oaxaca wearing a tank top and no bra; I zipped up my hoodie and that was that. No one treated me disrespectfully at all, anywhere I went. Our itinerary was Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca with a few side trips, and the Xalapa area. We spent nearly two weeks in the small towns near Xalapa, which is mountain country.
Zannie, San Francisco, California
I live in San Miguel de Allende Mexico and rarely wear shots unless I am at the beach. It is almost a true sign of a tourist, however, that climate is changing with the younger generation. I see more short shorts and tiny tops in the city and jokingly think “did they not know it’s not a beach town”. You do stand out. I find most Mexicans wear jeans. Recently this discussion happened on a facebook group I am in and it was a Mexican woman who responded that “we really don’t care what you wear as times are changing and it’s not as formal as it once was”. You will find most women will be respectfully dressed when out in public for church, dinner or an evening stroll. Some will be dressed in their very best Chanel and are obviously from Mexico City. No one really pays attention however, Mexico is still a “macho” male dominated society in many ways and sadly the style of dress a woman choses may be seen by a man in a negative manner. Yes women should be allowed to dress as they please, however, that rule doesn’t alway apply in Mexico. As a general rule and for unwanted attention, keep it conservative and you will be fine. Save the bikini for the beach.
Agree that the bikinis should stay on the beach! Thanks for the great insight Christine!