How to Dress in Brazil

Brazil%20traditional%20dress%20PC.jpgWhen and when not to wear chinelas, just how little can you wear to the beach, how to blend in a big Brazilian city, making an impact and making friends through fashion - how to dress in Brazil,


  1. Brazilians dress up to catch the plane - start your Brazilian wardrobe by getting ready at home. Clothes should be new, ironed, clean and individual. Bright colours, patterns and dramatic cuts will get you good treatment on the plane and new Brazilian friends. Great importance is placed on shoes and feet in Brazil. Wearing heels on the plane is normal for women (take a pair of comfy socks or pumps to change into once you´re on board. Hair should be well coiffed and clean. Accessories such as trendy bags, jewellery and glasses need not be expensive but should make a statement about you. Avoid a lot of make-up. Don´t get on the plane in your walking boots.
  2. Brazil has seasons - in the south and south-east winters can be cold, summers hot and wet. The north and north-east are hot and can be very wet. Other areas dry and dusty. Note the climate of your destination.
  3. Toenails and fingernails must be scrupuoulsly clean. It is normal for women to paint their nails, and men often manicure too.
  4. Flip-flops (chinelas) are appropriate in certain circumstances only. In Rio they can be worn most of the time, including to the Shopping as much as the beach. In other cities, flip flops should be avoided altogether - if you are not a poor person and are wearing flip-flops it will be obvious you are a tourist. Flip flops should always be new and very clean.
  5. Each region of Brazil has its own fashion and dress rules. In general, there is much less of a unisex tendency in fashion in Brazil - men dress like men and women dress feminine and sexy. In Rio casual clothing is popular, in São Paulo there is more eclecticism and quirkiness, whilst in the north it is rare to see women wearing trousers - dresses or shorts with a snazzy top are the usual attire. Whilst in the interior of Minas Gerais clothing is more functional and quieter - checked shirts for men and jeans and top for women. T-shirts with English words are considered chiccy by most people. In general, bright colours, clingy fabrics and loud patterns are common everywhere. Clothing is alegre (happy) in Brazil. You may arrive and be surprised to see grandmothers in mini-skirts and lycra- you make the mistake of thinking there are no rules about dress here. Wrong. There are different rules and one of the most important is - that it is important to look like you have made an effort by wearing nice clothes which say something, regardless of your shape or age.
  6. Women - invest in nice sandals before you go - heels, snazzy decorations, bows, flowers all go down well. Men - a good quality pair of leather sandals, designer type pumps and one pair of decent leather shoes will do. Don´t wear walking boots anywhere outside a nature area, same goes for functional sandals. In fact any kind of dreary functional outdoor gear in beige, grey or moss green is out. Only to be used when you are really in the middle of the forest and bird-watching - and even then you will be surprised to see that the locals dress to look nice, not to look sensible.
  7. Jeans are always a good choice - they should be well cut, close to the body, not baggy and not made of too heavy a material - or you will get sweaty. Heals with tight jeans are considered elegant.
  8. Avoid dull and neutral colours - leave your black t-shirts at home. Same goes for plain t-shirts and vest tops - anything with a pattern, writing, or logo on works well.
  9. Always check to make sure that your shoes are clean before leaving the house - same goes for nails.
  10. Women don´t wear sunhats, for men, baseball caps are ok, if clean and with a brand name.
  11. Don´t make the mistake of thinking that dressing down will help you blend in - in all sections of society, looking good is considered important.
  12. Wear fake costume jewellery - lots of it. In some regions, wearing jewellery made from local natural materials, seeds and wood, especially if well-made, will get you noticed and be taken as a sign of appreciation of the local culture.
  13. Choose artificial fabrics over natural ones - there is no fashion for organic cottons and natural fibres as yet. Whilst you will sweat more, your clothes will not go mouldy.
  14. Men - shorts and t-shirt ok, but should be clean and ironed, and look new.
  15. Women - don´t be afraid to show more flesh than at home. But get a fake tan first. Short shorts and mini-skirts are ok but avoid flashing underwear and too-low cut tops.
  16. At the beach - never ever go topless (women), equally don´t wear a one-piece swimming costume (virtually absent here). Take a sarong or white shirt to cover up in the sun.
  17. Social occasions - from a drink in the corner bar, to a family lunch - all events are opportunities to dress up. Looking nice shows respect to your host. During festivals, it is normal to dress up and wear new clothing. Be aware that different religious festivals will require different colours – white being a common one.
  18. Cut of clothing - clothing should be cut to the body and not baggy or loose. Emphasising the squidgy bits is not a crime in Brazil, but hiding them might be.
  19. Try to avoid looking sweaty - walk more slowly, wear ventilated clothing and shower twice or three times as often as you would at home. Never, ever, smell, not even just a little bit whiffy.
  20. Remember to clean your teeth - after each meal - and floss once a day. Spinach between your incisors, even if it was organic, is not acceptable. It will spoil your look.
  21. Don´t wear anything with the Brazilian flag on, not until the next World Cup in 2014. Don´t wear an Argentina top either.
  22. Best tip of all - select your wardrobe when you get there. Brazil has a big domestic clothing industry, own ideas about fashion and many regional variations. Observe the locals, make a trip to a popular market and reinvent your wardrobe Brazilian style. You will be supporting the local economy at the same time as finding yourself liberated from old ideas about how to dress.
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