My dear friend Meg and I were sitting in an open-air Spanish restaurant in Washington DC earlier this month when we noticed it.
“Women here in DC dress well,” declared Meg as she chomped into a garlic shrimp and gazed onto the street. My friend was feeling particularly fashion-conscious that week, as an article had just come out declaring her native San Francisco one of the sloppiest-dressed cities in the U.S.
“I mean, look at that!” Meg exclaimed, pointing toward a gaggle of ladies gliding by in the hot sun. “Every DC woman has on a cute sundress. Sundress there! Sundress there! And another sundress there!”
“You’re so wrong,” I scoffed as I covertly stole the last bacon-wrapped sausage. “Look at that pack of schlubs over there with their baggy khaki shorts and cheesy old T-shirts. They’re not fashionable at all.”
Meg cackled triumphantly. “But that only proves my point that DC dresses well! Look at the cameras and maps those people are clutching… they’re tourists! And that’s why they look like slobs. DC dresses well. Tourists don’t.”
Ahh, yes! I flashed back to my nine months traveling around the world. It is painfully true that when you are navigating a new place, fashion is frequently the last thing on your mind. Moreover, if you’ve packed light, you only have a handful of clothes with you, anyway! During my time in Southeast Asia and West Africa, especially, I heard a boatload of complaints from locals about how disrespectful they found tourist clothing to be.
At that moment, Meg and I realized that WE, too, were slobby tourists in a fashionable city. And so, we decided to try an experiment: tourism in formal wear!
We were in DC for a wedding anyway, so it worked perfectly. The next morning, I donned my sleek cobalt blue dress and heels, and Meg slipped into a fancy ruffled orange number. Between wedding events, we would hit the DC sights in our full finery, and check out the difference fancy clothing made on the sight-seeing experience!
The results of our Tourism in Formal-Wear experiment were extraordinary. Here are the reasons why you, too, should try this sometime:
1. Our photos turned out abnormally well, given that we were dressed up! Indeed, the regal sights of Washington DC truly call for dresses next to them, not khaki shorts.
2. People were stunningly nice to us all day, thanks to our outfits. One of the solemn-looking guards at the White House took the time to tell us facts about the President’s home, using a far kinder tone to us than he did for the grubby other sight-seers.
3. Our fancy clothes made us feel an air of festivity and excitement the whole tourism-filled day.
4. A lot of folks we passed mistook us for important people on the way to something important, given our elite look, and so they sort of cleared a reverential path for us.
5. We fit in with all those sundress-wearing DC ladies.
Some downsides to Tourism Whilst Fancy:
1. Blisters and crippling pain from trudging miles in heels, duh.
2. Lots of walking-in-sun-induced sweat glooping up our nice duds.
4. No pockets in fancy dresses.
So there you have it. Our experiments hereby prove that if you want to spice up your tourism for a day or two during travel, throw on a fancy outfit! You’ll feel special, your photos will look good, and others may treat you as special, too! Just make sure to also pack some sneakers and shorts for the rest of your trip. :)
Readers, chime in: what are YOUR experiences of the effects fashion choices have on how your travel day goes?
The author, Lillie Marshall, is 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 3.7 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!