What To Wear On Chicago Architecture Boat Tour

Chicago Architecture Boat tours are a truly remarkable experience, showcasing all the town has to offer from the comfort of the luxurious boats. Witnessing the picturesque skyline from out on the water is a popular way to explore, especially during the summer months. A boat tour on the Chicago River is the perfect way to explore the city and appreciate the monuments, statues and architecture. Since the trip brings you up close and personal with some of these majestic structures, it is important to dress to impress. Here’s a guide on what you should wear when going on a boat tour in Chicago.

Comfortable Clothing

As with any outdoor activity, it is advisable to wear comfortable clothing that suits the weather conditions. Comfort should be of top priority if the boat tour will last several hours. Avoid constricting or bulky pieces, or overly dressy or tight clothing; opt for something that moves along with your body. Wearing light and airy fabrics works great on hot days, while packing layering pieces like a light jacket or scarf helps ensure that you are warm enough if the temperature drops.

While dressing for comfort will make the experience more enjoyable, it’s also important to follow the general dress code of the boat tour company. Cargo shorts, comfortable trousers, trousers without the belt tucked in, cotton shirts, and blouses are a good option. Also take into consideration any activities you may be doing during the tour; if you plan to be photographing the scenery, make it a point to wear clothes that have lots of storage pockets, such as cargo pants or casual jackets.


The type of shoes you choose to wear on the boat ride can be a major deciding factor in how comfortable you are during the tour. Ideally, opt for shoes that are breathable, lightweight and provide good cushioning, such as running shoes, Slip-ons, or other types of sporty shoes. Also, pick an option that has non-slip soles; again, depending on what activities you’ll be doing on the tour. Sandals, flip-flops, and high heels are a big no-no.


From hats and scarves to visors and sunglasses, picking the right accessories is essential to ensure an enjoyable and stylish tour. Depending on the time of year, it may be wise to add a light scarf or a hat to your look. This will protect your hair from the sun in summer, and keep you warm in cooler weather. Accessories like stylish tote bags and backpacks are also useful for carrying a camera and storing other necessities. Even though you’re on a boat, sunglasses and visors can help keep your eyes from getting too strained from the sun’s glare.


If you plan on taking a dip during the tour, swimming costume is a must. When picking the right swimwear for your tour, remember to look for pieces which are colourful, light and appropriate for the water. To go along with the swimwear, make sure to wear a t-shirt or a lightweight jacket to ensure your skin is covered. Lastly, make sure to also include a towel, or two, and also some sunscreen.

The Right Colour Scheme

When out on the boat tour, your attire will likely be in the format of numerous spectators. Many people opt for the classic monochromatic look, with shades of white, blues and greys. However, you should feel free to play around with different shades and textures. A key to success when going for a more bold look is to keep the colour palette simple.

For boat tours, colour coordination helps give an elegant and put-together look. A polo shirt, paired with lightly coloured trousers, or a cute dress along with comfortable sandals and a neutral toned cardigan or cover-up can make the perfect ensemble whilst being comfortable and stylish. A dressy tropical print or some vivid-lilac trousers can look out of place on a boat tour; with that said, don’t be afraid to go out of the box — just think about what is appropriate for the occasion.

Hats and Caps

If you’re looking to stay stylish and keep the sun off your face, hats are always a great option. From classic fedoras to snapbacks and panamas, opt for a hat style that reflects your personal style and also suits the rest of your outfit. There are also stylish straw hats which can be useful and fashionable on hot, sunny days. Depending on the tour company, baseball caps may be a good option for men, but try to avoid floppy or wide brim hats if the company has no rule against them.


Despite the unpredictable Chicago weather, you may need to bring an umbrella on the tour. The sun or rain can be too strong and even if the tour company may provide rainwear, an umbrella can be a great accessory to complete your outfit. Make sure to pick a type of umbrella with light fabric, in case the wind picks up. In many cases, collapsible umbrellas are the best option, as they can be easily stored away according to the weather.

Seasonal Wear

No matter the season, the weather can often be unpredictable in the windy city. The best thing is to check the forecast in advance and plan accordingly. Wearing lightweight and breathable fabrics keeps you cool and dry, such as linen, cotton, silk, and rayon. For colder days, opt for pieces like jumpsuits, jackets, hats, and scarves. If you plan on bringing extra layers, make sure to have a bag handy to store them in.

Eye-catching Accessories

InChicago’s vibrant lake shore, you don’t need to be overdressed to fit in. Accessories like watches, jewellery and fashionable hats can complete a boat look. Scarves, sunglasses and pocket squares are subtler accessories that will add to your overall boat tour ensemble. They also offer a beautiful way to play around with colours and textures. During the summer months, sunglasses are your best bet to protect your eyes and also add a fashionable touch.

Fabrics To Avoid

Most fabrics won’t fare well on a boat tour because of the strong winds and the wetness from the lake. Fabrics like satin are too delicate and will quickly become tarnished in such an environment. Spandex and other synthetic fabrics tend to get hot and uncomfortable quickly and this can ruin your tour experience. Other fabrics such as wool and velvet are just too heavy for the weather, and can quickly become wet.


When it comes to what to wear on a boat tour in Chicago, there are a few key principles to keep in mind. Opt for lightweight, breathable fabrics that are comfortable, and ensure your casual attire follows the general dress code of the boat tour company. Include statement pieces or eye-catching accessories to create a fashionable look. With the right clothing, you can get the most out of your boat tour with minimal fuss.

Anita Johnson is an award-winning author and editor with over 15 years of experience in the fields of architecture, design, and urbanism. She has contributed articles and reviews to a variety of print and online publications on topics related to culture, art, architecture, and design from the late 19th century to the present day. Johnson's deep interest in these topics has informed both her writing and curatorial practice as she seeks to connect readers to the built environment around them.

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