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London Dress Code Explained

London Dress Code Explained

We often get asked questions about what the London Dress Code is. I think there is a preconception about etiquette affecting dress codes and about there being a formal dress code in certain places. In this guide we will give you advice on how not to look like a tourist in London by answering your most frequently asked London outfit questions and giving you some outfit inspiration. 

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FAQS About the London Dress Code

In this London dress code guide we will look at both specific items of clothing and specific locations and their related dress codes and appropriateness of items in them along with outfit suggestions.

Is there a dress code in London?

Generally speaking there is not a specific London dress code per se. However there are some places where dress codes are encouraged and even in some places are enforced.

How do Londoners dress?

Londoners sat in front of Tower Bridge in Summer
How to dress like a Londoner / London dress code

I have lived in London for a couple of decades, and why one the things I love about London is that it truly is a melting pot and full of cultural diversity. And one of the way this manifests itself is in the fashions you see on the streets of London.

I don’t think in my 20 years of living in the city, that I have ever felt like I have dress incorrectly or stood out because of my clothes. Therefore the most important thing you can do when putting together your London packing list is feel comfortable in the clothes you pack.

Can I wear shorts in London?

Yes you can absolutely wear shorts in London and you will find locals often wearing them for sports aswell as round the city itself.

Typically shorts are more commonly worn in Summer and you will see anything from cotton to denim shorts for women, and anything from chino shorts to cargo shorts for men.

You may even find people wearing shorts with tights in Winter in London.

Can I wear crop tops in London?

Yes you can wear crop tops in London and you will often see them in the city. Personally however I would not wear them if I were visiting a church such as Westminster Abbey and St Pauls Cathedral. Dress codes at London churches are not as commonly enforced as they are in Italian churches for instance, however I think it is respectful to wear a more modest outfit.

Do you have to cover your shoulders in London?

Generally speaking you do not have to cover your shoulders in London. Again though I personally would cover my shoulders in a church.

Can I wear jeans in London?

Woman in jeans and jumper taking photo of Big Ben from across the river
London Dress Code

Jeans are perfectly acceptable to wear in London. In fact, jeans are my go to trousers for most seasons. Though in August you may find them a bit warm.

Again, the great thing about London is the variety of fashion styles you will see on the streets. This is particularly true in relation to jeans. As such you will see everything from skinny jeans to boyfriend fit, ripped jeans to tailored so feel free to pack the jeans you are most comfy in.

Can I wear sneakers in London?

Yes, you can absolutely wear sneakers in London, in fact sneakers are the shoes I most commonly wear in the city.

London is a city best seen on foot, and you will see lots of different terrain types from grass to cobble stone streets. And I find sneakers are the best shoes for coping with all of these surfaces.

Again, you can wear anything from white sneakers, to more sporty sneakers for London in most daytime sightseeing places such as palaces, museums and parks.

However there are some restaurants and London clubs which will not permit sneakers. Therefore we always recommend packing 2 types of shoes for London.

In summertime we tend to recommend sneakers and sandals and for Winter sneakers and ankle boots.

Can I wear flip flops in London? 

Yes you can wear flip flops in London, there are no rules against it but I would advise against it. The reason for this is that they offer no arch or ankle support.

Again, given the terrains and amount of walking you will be doing in London it is a good idea to have comfy walking shoes with you instead of flip flops.

Do people wear leggings in London?

I am always surprised by how many are worried about wearing leggings when traveling. However you should not worry about them in London.

Leggings are commonly seen on locals and tourists in London. Usually you will see them paired with longer length tops or with dresses. For this reason I would say if you like wearing leggings feel free to pack and wear them in London.

What do you wear at night in London?

London Eye lit up in red with river thames at night
What to wear in London in February

What you wear in London at night will largely depend on the season of travel and your plans for the night. We will examine different locations in more detail below. However generally speaking, I feel most comfortable in smart casual dress codes in most places in London at night. And as a general rule I thumb if I am concerned about dress codes I tend to avoid sneakers in restaurants.

For more information on what to wear in London for dinner check out this post.

Do I need swimwear for London?

Personally I never usually put swimwear on my packing list for London. Very few London hotels have swimming pools so unless you are staying at one of these it is unlikely you will need swimwear.

The only other times you may wish to pack swimwear is if you are visiting London in the summertime and want to visit one of the Lidos i.e. Brockwell Lido, Hampstead Heath Lido or the Serpentine Lido to name just a few.

Also if you are visiting in Summertime, and want to head to the beach for instance in Brighton or Cornwall you may also want some swimwear with you.

Places in London with Dress Codes

Now you know that in most places you can dress as you please in London we will turn our attention to places in London that do have a dress codes. Alongside some London outfit inspiration for them.

Generally speaking there are five main places that have dress codes associated with them:

Contrary to popular belief, not many places in London actually have strict dress codes. The four main places you may be worried about a dress code are:

  • religious settings i.e. St Pauls Cathedral, and Westminster Abbey,
  • London nightclubs
  • Sporting venues
  • London theatres
  • Buckingham Palace
  • fine dining restaurants and
  • at afternoon tea / high teas in London.

And the truth is that some of these places do have dress codes and some do not. We will look at each of these and let you know if they have dress codes and what you should wear to them.

Religious Settings

Woman at Westminster Abbey in London
London Dress Code

Most London itineraries will take in at least one religious venue. Usually Westminster Abbey or St Pauls Cathedral.

London churches do not enforce dress codes like those in Italy and Spain, however it is always a good idea wherever you are in the world to dress modestly in religious settings even when no dress code is enforced.

London Nightclubs

London nightclubs are one of the places in London where dress codes are most strictly enforced. Some London night clubs will not allow sneakers or trainers, as the Brits call them, so I would avoid them to be on the safe side.

Also it is worth checking the particular nightclub dress code for their policy on jeans.

Sporting Venues

Although if you are a normal spectator at a sporting fixture in London you can just dress for the weather. However if you are going to a special area or members area i.e. the Members Area at Lords Cricket Club or the Royal Box at Wimbledon there is a dress code. If you do not meet it you will be turned away.

Therefore if you are going to one of these special areas be sure to check the dress code and have appropriate outfits i.e. shirt, tie and blazer for instance otherwise you may not get in.

London Theatres

London West End at Night with Billboard of Les Mis
What to Wear to London Theatre Shows

Most people expect London theatres to have strict dress codes, however this isn’t true. Especially for matinees.

However some London theatres and particular shows may have a dress code. For instance the Last Night at the Proms held at the Royal Albert Hall does have a dress code.

For a full guide on what to wear to the theatre in London check out this post.

Buckingham Palace

If you are just doing a tour of Buckingham Palace then there are no dress codes. However events at the palace will usually have a dress code and it will be enforced.


What to Wear to dinner in London
What to Wear to dinner in London

It really depends on the restaurant you are going to as to whether there will be a dress code. For most restaurants in London jeans and t shirts will be commonly seen.

However for higher end restaurants and Michelin stars I would recommend sticking to a smart casual dress code.

Afternoon Tea

Ritz Hotel Sign - What to wear to Afternoon Tea in London
Ritz Hotel Sign – What to wear to Afternoon Tea in London

As with restaurants, afternoon teas sometimes have dress codes. For instance at the Ritz. For a complete guide on what to wear to afternoon tea check out this post.

London Dress Code for Special Events

Although I have lived in London for many years, I would say there are not many special events that require special dress codes.

Although there are festivals i.e. St Patricks Day, Notting Hill Carnival for instance, most people will just wear their normal clothes to these events.

However if you are lucky enough to get an invite to a special event at Buckingham Palace like a Garden Party for instance, this will have a dress code but it will be stipulated on the invite.

Are you traveling to London? Is there a question you have we haven’t answered? Then please leave us a comment below and we will do our best to answer.