What to Wear in the United States

by | Mar 31, 2017

Young woman wearing head covering stands in front of subway
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Last updated on April 8th, 2024

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I was visiting Albuquerque in late July. Being high in the mountains, the temperatures only reached the high 80s while I was there, but as this is much warmer than back home I felt shorts and tank tops were appropriate. I discovered on the first day that this dress attracts much unwanted attention, which can be avoided by dressing more conservatively. I had much fewer problems in long sleeves and long pants while in New Mexico.
Rachel, Gatineau, Canada

I’ve lived in NYC my whole life basically, and one of the biggest signs that scream “I’m a tourist” is wearing one of those ‘I Love NY’ t-shirts. Really, it’s only the tourists who wear those. You’ll probably never see someone wearing that shirt if they’re not a tourist. Since there are so many different cultures represented in New York City, one can wear most anything.

Another thing is, during the summer months, especially late July and August, NYC can get very, very hot and humid. That said, you should probably pack clothes in light colors (like whites, yellows, cream, and the like), natural fabrics (such as cotton), shorts, sundresses, and skirts. However, since it is so hot, most stores, movie theatres, and people’s homes are air-conditioned, so it might be a good idea to also bring a sweater or light jacket.

If you’re visiting during the winter months, it can get very cold, so bring sweaters, thick coats, and long sleeve shirts. Also, even though it’s not snowing all the time, there can still be one or two heavy snowstorms, especially during late January and February. That said, you should probably leave the stiletto shoes at home. Make sure to bring some good boots that can handle slushy, icy, snowy, and salt-covered sidewalks.

For visits to San Francisco, whatever the time of year, make sure you have a variety of clothes to layer – . the key to comfortable San Francisco dressing is layering. Even on a warm “summer” day its wise to bring a sweater along, especially if you are going out in the evening. The fog can come in fast and is very chilly! While San Francisco can be almost “U.K.” in temperature, surrounding areas to the south and east can be much warmer, so you may need shorts and tank tops as well as sweaters and pants if you are going to be roaming around the Bay Area.
Brenna, San Francisco

I travelled in Colorado, New Mexico, Texas. When travelling here in the summer months the wind can definitely pick up, so have a pair of sunglasses to ward off flying sand/dust. Light clothes are a must, but in Mesa Verde National Park, never wear things that can flap up! (It’s windy) Always carry water, even if you’re not a big water drinker.
Emily-Anne, Port Alberni, BC, Canada

I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Many people think that our climate here is like (say) Phoenix. Wrong: we’re at 7000 ft. Although days can get hot in the summer (90’s), it always drops about 30 degrees at night and takes several hours to warm up in the morning. Also, July and August are our “monsoon” season, with brief but often violent thunderstorms in the afternoons. Spring is highly changeable (it can go from a blizzard to 70-degree weather in an hour), winter is cold but fairly dry and sunny, and fall is the nicest time of year, although still cool at night. The “layered look” is recommended. Always bring a jacket or sweater, even in midsummer. An umbrella or poncho is useful too. Downtown Santa Fe is best seen on foot, so bring walking shoes or sturdy sandals (the pavement tends to be uneven). Don’t go to the opera or a concert in Reeboks and nylon jogging suits unless you want to be sneered at by the locals (“nice” pants, sandals, and a simple dressy blouse are fine). If you plan to visit the pueblos (especially on feast days), dress modestly — bare midriffs and very-high cut shorts are not acceptable. And, in general, business people dress fairly conservatively, so if you’re here on business a suit is appropriate (but flat shoes are fine, and more practical)
Paula, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis Assisi, Santa Fe, New Mexico

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Make sure reading  “24 Things a Woman Should Know Before Visiting Santa Fe, New Mexico” is part of your travel planning! Click here!

Just a word of advice for female visitors to Texas. In the summer months, we share Mexico’s climate. This means that lightweight and light-coloured cotton clothing works best. A wide-brimmed hat gives shelter from the unremitting sun; a light long-sleeved jacket is nice for protection from frigid air-conditioning (movie theatres are especially cold.) Expect daily rain in Houston — heavy tropical rain (umbrella required). You can get away with wearing jeans and a nice blouse almost anywhere in Austin, but other cities will require more dressing up for entrance to the “better” places. Rural areas can be very conservative, so dress accordingly.
Marilyn, Texas, USA

I travelled to New York City. The Rainbow Room at the top of Rockefeller Center is a delightful place for visitors. No place is nicer to view the sunset. But THEY HAVE A DRESS CODE! I’m not sure of all the restrictions but – you may not wear Birkenstocks or similar sandals. You may not wear anything that resembles jeans, including nice neat black expensive ones. Men must wear jackets and, I believe, ties.
Clare, Rhode Island, United States

When visiting San Diego avoid neon bright clothing and fanny packs. The city is very laid back but certain things just scream “tourist.” And, remember that it’s a port city so avoid really skimpy clothes in the Gaslamp Quarter unless you want to be followed by packs of young sailors.
Jennifer, San Diego,USA

When travelling in New York City in the winter months it is essential to have a decent warm and attractive-looking coat to avoid looking like a tourist and to keep the chill away. Walk with an attitude, so as not to attract attention and do not look upwards at the tall buildings. One of my NYC friends said that way you don’t look like a tourist. When looking for great shopping in NYC instead of bringing out the map in full view of the whole street just follow the best-dressed lady you can find and she’ll take you right there on her heels! Wearing joggers is a no-no in NYC as their attire is immaculate (p.s. this city has the most gorgeous dressed men I have ever seen).
Christine, Sydney, Australia

Arizona is a very varied state. The first part of my clothing advice pertains to the “deserty” parts of the state. For the daytime, especially in summer, light, loose, comfortable, breathing clothing is best, preferably in light colors. Believe it or not, covering up a lot of skin surface in something light and loose will keep you cooler than if you wear something like shorts and a tank top. You will need to either bring sunscreen or buy some here; a minimum SPF 15 is recommended. A wide-brimmed hat is somewhat common and recommended even if no one else is wearing one.

Deserts cool off very quickly at night; even in the summer, you will probably need a light jacket if you will be out at night.
For the mountainous country, temperatures will range up to twenty degrees F. cooler than the deserts — Take that into consideration; this also goes for the Grand Canyon — It can be cold there, even in the middle of summer. Also, if you are travelling outside the cities, heels, open-toed shoes, and shorts/skirts are not recommended — the ground can be very rough.

Mostly, Arizona is a fairly casual state. You don’t really need a lot of formal clothing unless you are planning on attending a business function or a society event. Mostly, relax, be a bit careful of the sun, and have fun — It’s an incredibly beautiful place.
Diane, Phoenix, USA

Appropriate clothing varies greatly within the US. Each region of the country has different norms. I grew up in Baltimore and am attending college outside of Washington, DC. Although these cities are less than an hour apart, the way people dress is very different. DC is very conservative. However, it is probably impossible for you to not look like a tourist. The best thing to do, as everything in the DC area is very expensive, is bring black or earth-toned clothing that is attractive and sensible (neon fanny packs are not an option) and learn to scope out the latest styles while you ride the metro. Up in Baltimore things are very different. On the street anything goes, so long as it’s not too bright a colour. You can go to churches, museums, cemeteries, etc. in shorts if you like but you really shouldn’t.
Rachel, Washington, DC, USA

More Inspiration for Your Trip to the United States

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