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. (I say “we,” but most of these tips are relayed to me from my wife, Sarah Bricker. I’m pretty clueless.)
This includes where Sarah buys her Disney and non-Disney outfits, 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.
Along with our Unique Disney Packing List guide–which covers practical items that will help improve your vacation–this post covers the other half of what you should put in your suitcase for your trip: clothing. We receive a lot of questions about where Sarah buys 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, Sarah 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.
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?
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 Sarah’s 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.
She has a Mickey Mouse watch, necklaces, and 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?
In the last few years, Disney has expanded its lines of trendy theme park merchandise, most of which can be found at the Marketplace Co-Op at Disney Springs in Walt Disney World. This is a concept store with niche products and retail concepts being tested.
Specifically, Twenty Eight & Main features “classic Disney elements of yesteryear in this exclusive collection for discerning gentlemen” and Cherry Tree Lane is a “must-stop, must-shop experience for sophisticated women who know how to accessorize.”
The highlight of Cherry Tree Lane is its dress shop, which features flattering designs inspired by the Walt Disney World attractions and characters.
Popular designs have featured Orange Bird, Spaceship Earth, Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, the Haunted Mansion, and more.
Due to the ‘testing grounds’ nature of these concept stores, a lot of the products at the Marketplace Co-Op never see a wider release, which is unfortunate.
The upside is that a lot of items end up deeply discounted at the two outlet locations near Walt Disney World. We cover where these are (they’re not normal “Disney Store” outlets), how to score deals in our How to Save Money at the Walt Disney World Outlets post.
In addition to selling more trendy items at the theme parks, Disney has started doing more collaborations with third party clothing companies, with stylish results.
Some good options include Hot Topic’s Disney Department, UNIQLO’s Disney Collection, Urban Outfitters, and Neff. For a more comprehensive look at Disney’s collaborations with designers and fashion labels, check out this post on High Snobiety.
In addition to officially licensed stuff, there are approximately 35,282 small businesses on Etsy and elsewhere specializing in styles that evoke Disney without featuring the characters. Many of these are fan-run, and some feature incredible and creative designs. These clever designs (usually) stop short of copyright and trademark infringement–Racked did a fascinating piece about them a few years ago.
If you’re apprehensive about this merchandise being a bunch of poorly-designed “knock-offs” don’t be (although those do exist, too). The best independently operated fan shops are selling merchandise that’s arguably better, more unique, and innovative than what Disney is releasing. In fact, some of these small shops have done their own collaborations with Disney, and many more are deserving.
If you’re looking for non-Disney clothing, obviously your options aren’t going to be nearly as limited. Presumably you don’t need as much advice in this regard, either. One thing to note is that everyday outfits can be accessorized to evoke a Disney ‘look’ or to resemble a favorite character.
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.)
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 followed by Rue La La. The best deals here are most typically occur during their Sunday night sales any liquidation events. You need to make sure you check inventory right away when these sales start, as things sell out quickly.
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.
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.
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!
Have your own tips on places to shop while not breaking the bank? What to wear or what to wear? Favorite fan-run small shops selling ‘Disney Style’ items? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!