Clothing and Dress Customs in America, from Life in the USA: The Complete Guide for Immigrants and Americans

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Life in the USA
Everyday Life
Clothing

Clothing
In America, your clothing--whether business or casual--should always be clean, ironed, and neatly worn. Business wear is fairly standard, though northeastern cities like New York and Boston are a bit more conservative than places like Los Angeles. Both men and women in business wear suits, meaning the jacket is of the same material and matches the trousers or skirt. Shoes are well maintained and shined. Women wear nylon stockings of appropriate color for the season. Men wear neckties, and many women wear some kind of neatly tied scarf with a suit.

Do Some Research. If you don't know how you should dress in a particular environment, do some research by observing how other people dress in that environment. Other than in fashion-oriented businesses, conservative American cuts for suits and jackets are appropriate. Since clothing and appearance means a lot in American business, be careful not to spend a lot of money on a high fashion item that doesn't work.

The term business casual calls for taking general business dress a step down. Men would wear a neat dress shirt, but with no tie, no jacket or a jacket that contrasts with the trousers. Women may dress similarly, doing without a neck scarve, certainly wearing an outfit less formal than a standard business suit, but still maintaining a level somewhat more reserved than truly casual clothing. Short pants for either gender, for example, would not qualify.

In casual settings, exercise and sports clothing is widely worn by men, women and children, though in some environments it might be too casual. Blue jeans are worn throughout the United States by people in all walks of life. If you are in a casual setting but are afraid of appearing too casual, pick up a copy of a major golf magazine, and wear the same type of clothes the male golfers do.

Clothing Should Fit. Whether business or casual, the clothing should fit well, and be kept clean and neat. That means wearing a shirt, and certainly underwear, for a maximum of one day before throwing it in the wash. Many Americans find body odor extremely offensive (even though the same odor would not be out of place in certain other countries). Even if you yourself wash and use deodorant, your body odor could come across if you try to get an extra day out of your clothing before washing. Be sure that other people's noses will be more sensitive to this than your own.

Furs. Many Americans object to the wearing of fur coats and other items of clothing made of fur because of the pain and suffering caused to the animals involved. The humanitarian aspects of fur use may not concern you, but you should be aware that you will offend many Americans if you wear fur. If you do wear fur, you will be criticized for it.


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