What to Wear on a Yacht
When you’re on a yacht you’re obviously going to dress for the weather but, in general, you want to keep it light and cool. Casual is good within reason as long as you don’t go overboard, so to speak, and it need not be formal but it shouldn’t look inappropriate or out of place. There’s no set in stone dress code for yachts
The most expensive yachts in the world cost hundreds of millions of dollars and, for most of us, that’s a bit out of reach. But that doesn’t mean we’ll never get on a yacht for a weekend charter or even a yacht party and when that happens knowing what to wear is something you may be curious about. Let’s dig into some deeper details of suitable yacht attire for men and women so you don’t have to worry about feeling self conscious when you’re living it up on a fancy yacht.
Yacht Styles Suitable for Men
In 80s movies you may have seen some yacht captains decked out in full formal jackets with hats and pipes and everything. You can still do that and, no word of a lie, a guy at my uncle’s yacht club used to wear the navy jacket and a captain’s hat everywhere he went for years. But most people like to keep it casual on a yacht and far less formal with a simple, casual outfit.
Linen is a popular choice for yachting because it’s very light and breezy and keeps you cool under the blazing sun. A linen shirt, like linen button downs, have a real casual but not inappropriate quality to them that has been linked to boating for years and would ensure you never look out of place.
Light cotton works just as well, of course, and something like a polo shirt wouldn’t make you stand out in a crowd, or a simple button down. Even a t-shirt wouldn’t look out of place but you’ll want to tailor that to the situation. If you’re literally just day sailing then that’s great. But if it’s a slightly more formal outing or maybe a party then you may want to keep it a little more upscale
Here’s another case where you should take the situation into account. Shorts and trunks can definitely be appropriate on a yacht but if you’re having a party in the evening then maybe consider longer pants. However, if you’re actually traveling on the yacht, especially if you’re fishing or sailing/racing, a good pair of swim shorts will do you well. Not just for the freedom and for keeping you cool but in the event of an emergency and you do end up in the water, it’s never a bad idea to be ready to swim.
Boat shoes are a must for any boat ride. You don’t want to be skidding around on the deck in inappropriate footwear but at the same time you want to be comfortable. These are often called deck shoes as well, and they are very close to loafers with the addition of laces.
You’ll definitely see people in loafers on yachts but loafers don’t have siped soles, which means they aren’t textured to provide the proper grip on deck. If the yacht is going to be actually out there sailing and moving on the water, you want deck shoes.
Some people wear flip flops and that may be fine for a casual day with friends.
You should be wearing sunglasses on a boat whether or not its a yacht just because you want to keep your eyes protected from dangerous UV rays and the glare off of the water. Polarized shades are the best but anything is better than nothing. A nice pair of aviators won’t look out of place, or some Ray Bans can be great as well.
Yacht Styles for Women
Traditionally the difference between men’s fashion and women’s fashion on a yacht has been one of practicality. In the past, men were the ones always controlling the yacht and women were passengers. Boating has a somewhat shady history of not being friendly to women, you’ll recall. And for that reason women were mostly seen wearing swimsuits and lounging on yachts. But if you’re a woman running the boat, you’ll likely want the same freedom and comfort that a man in a simple shirt and shorts is enjoying.
Now if you’re not piloting the boat and instead are just around to enjoy a yacht party, then swimsuits tend to be the order of the day and potentially some kind of wrap or cover up as well. Basically whatever feels most comfortable and appropriate to the occasion.
Things like kaftans, sundresses, and various wraps and coverups that would work poolside or at the beach when you’re not in the water are just as welcome on a yacht and won’t look out of place at all. A knee length summer dress is something you’d likely see on any yacht.
Like men, you can get a good pair of women’s boat shoes that look a little more elegant if that’s what interests you, and they’re a good investment. Again, a boat shoe is less about appearance than function when the boat is actually in motion and you want something that gives you firm footing, which a boat shoe can do.
Both hats and sunglasses are more than appropriate for women on a yacht and offer the added protection from the sun that you’re going to want anyway. You won’t look out of place and you’ll be doing your eyes and skin a favor by keeping them away from harmful UV rays. Remember the sunscreen as well.
What to Wear to a Yacht Party
Now a yacht party is a different sort of monster than just being on a yacht. This will likely be a more formal occasion and that means dressing up a little. Ditching the shorts for this is probably a good idea.
Unless you have been specifically told this is a formal wear event, black tie affair don’t dress for one. Most yacht parties aren’t that formal because, well, they’re on boats. Leaning into the boat aspect is a better option. A suit would be as formal as you should expect unless told something ultra formal like a tuxedo is expected. But most yacht parties are likely to be a little more casual than that.
Consider dress pants and a button down shirt or a blazer. A sport coat and tie, maybe with a matching jacket, is also very common for parties on yachts.
A more formal occasion, a wedding for instance, will probably clue you in as to what would be expected in terms of dress. And, hopefully, your hosts are going to be gracious enough to make it clear if you do need to dress to the nines.
You can find some more formal boat shoes and, if things get a little fancier, some dress shoes that don’t have slippery soles will work as well.
Are Cocktail Dresses Appropriate for Women?
At the more formal end of things, a classy yacht party could very well require you to wear a cocktail dress or in rare cases even some kind of fancy gown. Cocktail attire is a little less formal than evening wear and more suited for a casual affair. Hopefully it will be made clear before you agree to show up just how formal the event is, but it’s definitely not unheard of. If it’s a party at night, and you’re going to be moored out on the water with a view of the city, for instance, a dress would be well within reason.
If things aren’t so formal as a boat wedding, then consider a wide-legged pant, a romper, a wrap skirt or really anything you’d wear to a gathering on a beach, or pool type party.
One thing you want to remember when attending any event on a yacht is to not wear heels. I’ve seen it in person and it’s a bad idea. Not that you’re guaranteed to lose your balance, but the odds are definitely leaning towards it. It’s an accident waiting to happen, so stick with flat shoes.
Are all Boat Parties the Same?
People can throw a boat party for weddings, anniversaries, charity events, retirements and probably a hundred other things. Don’t let the fact that it’s on a yacht throw you off if you’ve never attended one. A party is a party, after all.
If you’re unclear of expectations, feel free to ask. Consider bringing a sweater or light jacket just in case it gets cold and remember that good footwear is extra important on a yacht so you keep your balance. Whether it’s ultra formal or super casual, that will never change.
The Bottom Line
Classy but casual is often an easy way to approach dressing on a yacht. If it’s a party, you may need to step it up a notch, but that will really depend on the party itself and what your hosts expect. Consider linen and other very light, breathable fabrics. Remember boat shoes are the best idea to keep your grip on deck, and don’t forget swimsuits as well as sunglasses and other sun-protection gear.