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What to wear to Walt Disney World or Disneyland is a common question among first-timers. In this post we cover tips for stylish and practical outfits to wear during an active day on a Disney vacation. This includes where we shop, how to handle the heat and humidity, and how to look great for family portraits. This last one is a big deal for many people who want to look nice for their vacation photos, which will be framed and hung in the house or put online for all of the world to see…so workout attire or sweats aren’t exactly ideal.

After questions about photography, the top questions we receive are where Sarah gets her “cute clothing” that she wears to Walt Disney World and Disneyland, and just how functional some of those outfits are for the parks. In this post, we answers some of those questions as to general types of outfits work best. We also share some of the places where she buys her clothes, and how you can put together outfits for the Disney Parks that have a fun Disney motif.

Before we get to wear Sarah shops for Disney vacations, let’s start with a little info on her general approach to shopping for clothes to wear to the Disney theme parks. As is indicated by the title, this covers just clothing. For creative recommendations on other thing to pack for your trip, visit our “What to Pack for Disney” page.

Ready? Let’s take a look at some ways to dress for the parks that anyone can apply to their wardrobe. These ideas are practical, first and foremost, and for the everyday Disney vacationer!

What to Wear?

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Sarah prefers to wear dresses, comfortable sandals, and hats to the Disney theme parks. This is because the parks are typically hot and involve a lot of activity in the sun. Dresses can make getting into and out of low-sitting attractions a little more difficult, but they are so much cooler, especially when you have long hair. These dresses are typically sundresses that are better suited to wearing to the parks, rather than thicker or fancier ones.

These work well with her general philosophy of finding a good balance between clothing that will look nice and is “utilitarian” for the purpose of visiting the parks (that means no heels or other clothing likely to slow her down or make her uncomfortable!) The dresses Sarah purchases are typically inexpensive (relative to dresses), which is mainly due to her knowing where to shop.

Sarah also likes to infuse little “touches of Disney” in her park attire. Rather than wearing Disney t-shirts or other over-the-top tourist wear, she likes to keep it low-key in some outfits, and go for cute character driven-stuff in other cases. When it comes to the normal, low-key outfits, the best strategy is to accessorize with Disney items. You can read more on this in her Tips for Accessorizing at the Disney Parks post.

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She has a few necklaces and a Mickey Mouse watch (all of which she got from Macy’s a couple of years ago when they had a Disney line), and also has a few baseball hats from the parks that she wears when she’s not wearing her large brim SPF sun hats. She likes to wear hats from one coast on the other coast for “street cred” (her words). For outfits that are strongly inspired by Disney, but don’t scream Disney, check out the incredibly awesome Disneybound Tumblr.

Sarah carries a variety of Disney LeSportsac bags, most of which subtly use Disney designs (such as Mary Blair art) rather than over the top stuff. The upside to these bags, unlike the popular Dooney & Bourke bags, is that they are durable and suited for the wear and tear of park activity, rather than a night out. They’re also significantly cheaper!

Comfortable footwear is also a must, and Sarah’s go-to choice for that is the OluKai Ohana sandal. She has a few different colors, and coordinates with her outfit. Mickey Crocs and tennis shoes are other options, but both look a bit clunky with dresses.

Where to Shop for Disney?

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We both do most of our shopping for clothes online, which can be difficult in terms of sizing, but is much easier in terms of price. Even if you have to return 25% or more of what you buy, it’s still easier than most in store shopping.

Sarah’s favorite place to shop lately has been Hot Topic’s Disney Department. (Heads up: they are having a 30% off sale today, May 27, 2016!) I know what you might be thinking: has Sarah gone goth?! That’s what I thought when she said she had placed an order there for the first time. Much to my surprise, they have a huge Disney department.

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The Big Hero 6 Baymax Dress she’s wearing above is from Hot Topic. It’s just one of many other inexpensive Disney dresses Sarah has bought recently. Hot Topic sells a bunch of stylish and lightweight character dresses that are very much “traditional” and fairly conservative. Apparently the store is nothing like the stoner/goth store that dealt primarily in Marilyn Manson concert shirts that it was when I was in high school. (Although there are still plenty of “questionable” clothes there, too, if that’s what you’re after.)

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Although sizing can be difficult without actually seeing the clothing in person, online shopping is generally so much cheaper, that it makes the slight hassle worthwhile. Plus, free shipping from most stores and free return shipping a lot of places really makes it easier. Certainly beats spending money on gas to drive all over town!

We love our Amazon Prime account, which makes Amazon Fashion: Casual Dress Shop a spot Sarah regularly checks for new styles and deals. There are a ton of different looks on here and some are cheaper than stores like Forever 21, with even lower prices! (Tip: some of the dresses here can be pricey, so sort by “Price: Low to High” for great styles at bargain prices.)

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Amazon also carries a lot of cute Disney character dresses, like the Buzz Lightyear dress above. Sarah also has purchased dresses inspired by Frozen, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, and several other movies (and characters) from Amazon, and each of these dresses has been under $40 (some much cheaper than that!).

Check out all of the recent Disney character dresses that Sarah has purchased from Amazon in her New Outfits for Disney! post.

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Another options is the discounted invite-only sites that sell trendy clothing in limited inventory sales that last a few days. The best of these is Gilt (use this link to join, and receive $20 off your first purchase!). It has just about everything, from simple dresses to business attire to high fashion. Not all of it is going to work for the Disney Parks–in fact, most of it won’t–but there are some great deals and practical styles. Tom even recently got a new pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarers for less than $80!

Another site that is very similar to Gilt is Rue La LaThe best deals here are most definitely in the “Sunday Night Styleathon,” which starts at 8 pm EST every Sunday and features last-call items at ridiculously low prices. You need to make sure you check inventory right away when these sales start, as things sell out quickly.

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In terms of regular, mainstream stores, Sarah also regularly frequents Express and Forever 21. Both stores have a lot of cheap (both in terms of how the clothes look and the prices) outfits, but the key is finding clothing that is low-priced but relatively high quality.

It’s possible at both, so don’t dismiss them!

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If you’re looking less for specific sites and more for finding great deals (not just on clothes, either), SlickDeals.net and Fatwallet.com are great resources. These aren’t stores, but they are great places to find amazing deals on clothes.

A lot of people are familiar with the front pages of each of these sites, but where these sites are really useful is in their forums. If these sites seem overwhelming at first, register and set up “Deal Alerts” so you receive emails whenever someone posts a new deal on your favorite brands!

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Other, more obvious choices are TJ Maxx and Marshall’s. Some people overlook these stores because they look down their noses at them, but these stores have some great, overstock styles at really low prices. Likewise, Sak’s Off 5th and Nordstrom’s Rack can be great when they get past-season items in from their mall-store counterparts, but you should be careful with both of these as they also receive a lot of lower quality items made specifically for the lower tier stores.

This is the same thing that happens with outlet malls, which has led us to almost entirely stop going to outlets. The “deals” offered at outlets are mostly illusions–nowadays almost everything at outlet stores is lower quality goods made specifically for the outlet store, and never sold at all at the “real” version of the store. Read more about the controversy here.

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At the end of the day, you can find great outfits for Disney at a variety of different stores–not just the ones listed here. The key things to look for are lightweight, breathable fabrics that will be practical for a day in the parks. It gets hot, you’re moving around a lot, and need something that is fairly versatile, not just cute. It’s not too difficult to find stylish outfits that have both form and function!

Hopefully this helps you assemble a gorgeous and comfortable wardrobe for traveling to Disneyland or Walt Disney World at affordable prices! As for the rest of your packing for your trip to Walt Disney World or Disneyland, refer to our What to Pack for Disney Trips post.

For additional planning resources, the best places to start are our comprehensive Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide and Disneyland Trip Planning Guide to make the most of your experience!

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Your Thoughts

If you have your own tips on places to shop while not breaking the bank or on what to wear, please share in the comments. If you have any questions, leave them there, too!