What to Wear on a Cruise Traditional Dress Code

At the turn of the 20th century dress codes were rigid and there were extensive protocols for every conceivable occasion. There was little deviation from the out fit described for every social and leisure event.

Charlie Chaplin and Albert Einstein

Charlie Chaplin and Albert Einstein

Today we have dispensed with the Edwardian constraints which leaves today’s society with little confidence when it comes to dressing for an event not least a black tie formal occasion.

According to Britain’s authoritative etiquette guide Debrett’s New Guide to Etiquette and Modern Manners:

‘ indecision about what to wear is one of the most visible manifestations of contemporary social confusion and insecurity.  The elevation of comfort above all other considerations, the flawed belief that informality equals conviviality, and downright laziness have resulted in a contradictory and illogical dress sense.’

A sense of occasion

Dress codes provide us with parameters and a sense of occasion, they gives us clarity and self- confidence and take away the dread of what to wear.

When you are traveling on a cruise line that adheres to a dress code it gives importance to each event, it allows you to take part in dining in an elegant atmosphere that may be different to what you enjoy at home. It is very easy to don your finery and only have to travel from your cabin.

Cruise ship formal nights exemplify how prescribed dress elevates an ordinary occasion into an elegant grand event.


1909 saw the most lavish edition of the Harrods catalogue. With vibrant colours and intricately detailed illustrations, it was truly inspiring.

Formal wear was expected at social events of early 20th centuries and earlier.  Royal Ascot marked a momentous social occasion, as depicted by this catalogue painting. Bounding with luxury, exquisite fashion and the obligatory statement hat, it seems little has changed in over 100-years at Ascot anyway where the hats are still lavish, although today one will see more of the 21st century day dresses.

Ladies travelled by the early cruise lines would be seen in similar outfits to those worn for Ascot.