March 04, 2016

What Clothes Should I Bring to Cuenca If I Want to Blend-in? Updated March 2016

We are so happy that we're still here after almost five years so we can bring you all the details, changes and updates that have been happening in Cuenca Ecuador!

As far as personal dress goes everything we mentioned in this article still stands true and if there are any changes or updates you will find them in red text.    

This video of El Centro (webcam) will give you a pretty good idea of how Ecuadorians dress in the Andes Mountains of Cuenca.  
How Do Women Dress in Cuenca?

Most Ecuadorian women dress smart and practical in Cuenca. Jeans and or black slacks are popular with women of all ages. The employed women wear nice grey, black, or navy blue two piece pant suits or skirt suits. These suits are matched with a tailored, usually white, tan or blue blouse to match the suit color. They usually wear black sheer nylon stockings with their suits and black pumps.

Most of the younger Ecuadorian women wear tight fitting dark colored jeans (it’s a cultural thing) with a nice sweater or blouse and high heeled shoes. A small percentage wear stretchy pants that also fit quite tight. Some of them wear tennis shoes or boots with their jeans or slacks, probably depends on where they are going and what they are doing. Jeans are always tucked into the boots probably because they do not sell "boot leg" jeans here; I haven't seen them. All the jeans fit tight all the way down to the ankle.

Very seldom will you see an Ecuadorian woman wearing shorts or low cut blouses, but there are a few that do. We’ve seen some women wearing shorts here, but they are usually young gringas—they love to wear short-shorts, flip flops and a t-shirt, even on those chilly 60ish days. 

Update 2016 - Many solo gringa travelers to Latin America are complaining on their blogs about men whistling and cat-calling out at them when they walk down the sidewalk. You will find that there is more of that if the gringa is wearing clothes that are inappropriate. If we want to curb this kind of disrespect from men then we should be more careful about how we dress walking in the streets in the Andes Mountains. After all, its certainly not the beach or hot as the beach, for that matter.  It's not warm enough here for shorts. 

The older Ecuadorian married women dress in slacks and a nice sweater and many of them will have shorter hair than the younger generation. About 70% of the women wear their hair pulled back in a pony tail and they all have long hair. Rarely will you see short hair on the women here. About 5% of the women, usually those who work in the banks, have dyed their hair with blonde highlights, which makes their hair light brown.

March 2016- Most people in Cuenca dress modest, clean and neat. You will not find too much holey jeans here or clothing that looks like it needs to be thrown in the trash. People are very clothes and shoes conscious here and take care of how they look and dress, while nothing looks extravagant or overly done.

The indigenous Ecuadorian women wear traditional suede Ecuadorian skirts (purple, green or red) and sweaters. They wear a wool wrap-around scarf for the chillier days. Simple, black, low heeled pumps are the shoes of choice. They top this ensemble off with a panama style hat made here in Ecuador.

If you want to blend in bring several pairs of dark blue or black jeans and or slacks, and several sweaters. I see a lot of women wear the v-neck solid colored (thin) sweaters with a tank top underneath the sweater. Bring a couple a pairs of good walking shoes, tennis shoes. If high heels is not your thing, no problem, I don’t think you have to wear high-heels to blend in because there are a lot of women here who wear low-heeled boots and tennis shoes.

Update March 2016 -  Guess we're getting used to the weather. Rarely is it actually cold enough for a sweater except for early in the morning and in the evening. Homes stay chilly here in the winter, especially if its a cloudy day, that's when you'll want your sweater.  

Women don’t wear t-shirts as often here as they do in the U.S. Blouses and sweaters are seen being worn a lot here and or simple pullover short sleeve tops. The younger women wear t-shirts but they are seldom tight fitting or white in color.  A few times we have observed a young woman wearing holey jeans. So the holey jean look is not that popular here, nor is tattoos, or nose or lip rings. Most of the Ecuadorian women dress nice and take pride in their appearance.

Update August 2014 - We've seen more of the holey fad style jeans lately. Ecuador must have gotten a new shipment of clothing in from North America's thrift shops. Putting all joking aside, we still see the holey jeans look only occasionally in Cuenca.

You might want to bring a couple of sweaters or long sleeve shirts with you. Believe me when there are four seasons in one day you’ll be glad to have something warm to put on when the wind starts to blow, clouds roll in and it gets chilly. We’ve been out when the day started out at 45 degrees and by noon it was 72, but by 3PM it was 50’s and windy and rainy. So be prepared and dress in layers.  Hoodies are VERY popular with everyone here!!

How Do Men Dress In Ecuador

The employed men wear suits and or slacks with a dress shirt and a sweater over the dress shirt. Clothes are almost always dark colors. You’ll seldom see the Ecuadorian men wear tan or white slacks. They wear nice dark brown or black dress shoes. The younger men wear dark-colored jeans, t-shirts, and pointy toed dress shoes or tennis shoes. The shoes they wear probably depend on what they are doing or where they are going. 

Update 2016- We're seeing more colors in the clothing here as the years progress. Some of the young men wear red pants. The styles have not changed much

The men wear lots of black leather jackets. Hoodies (did I spell that right?) of all colors are worn both by women and men. They like to wear the hood often, even when it is sunny out. Most people dress presentable and practical. The only thing that would not be too practical is some of the heels on the ladies shoes might be a bit high for walking around on Cuenca's side walks, but they look nice.

I would have to say that the younger Ecuadorians dress smart, stylish but practical, (four seasons in one day here often) clean and presentable compared to the younger generation in the U.S. They take pride in their clothes and how they look. The men are almost all clean-shaven with short hair. Seldom do the Ecuadorian men have long hair. Jeans do not have holes in the knees or pockets. Most of the men do not wear their jeans tight, but they are not falling off the hips and sagging to the ground either. The men here wear solid colored pullover sweaters and hoodies. 

If you want to blend in bring dark colored (not holey) jeans and pants and dark colored solid t-shirts, collar shirts or dress shirts (short or long sleeved) for every day wear and walking around.

Popular t-shirt and shirt colors are brown, gray, dark blue, and black, and sometimes red. You may want to bring a couple of dark sweaters or long sleeves for the chillier days and a light jacket. Bring a couple pair of good tennis shoes and or other good pair of walking shoes. The men do not wear flowery or vibrant colors here and seldom do they wear white t-shirts.

The bottom line is no matter how we dress we'll never actually blend in because we're a foreigner, but by dressing the way they do we are being respectful; and we will be dressing more practical for Cuenca weather, and we're going to get less gawking at our attire. 

You can come here and wear the touristy Hawaiian shirts and big flared hats and you can wear the short-shorts and flip flops but they don’t dress like that and you will stand out in a crowd. It’s not the beach here in Cuenca, it’s the Andes mountains—big difference.
Watch the video at the beginning of this article.  

Update 2016 - We recommend to bring shoes, jeans or pants because they may not have your style or size here. It's best to have what you need for your visit or extended stay because you may not find what you need in the clothing stores in Ecuador, at least not right away. 
Until we write again, you might like to read these articles about Cuenca too. 
We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy Abroad. We live in Cuenca, Ecuador and travel the Ecuador coast whenever we get a chance. We just adventured throughout the country of Panama for five weeks! Come along and enjoy some of our experiences with us!


  1. Thank you for this post. My husband and I plan to visit Cuenca for about 4 months in June (which from what I understand is a winter month). We both have several tattoos and I was curious as to how people react to them.

    1. Hello, I also have tattoos, on my shoulder, not big, sun with eye in it and on other arm I have lotus. About 3 by 3 inches big. I had no problem with them at all and I see some Ecuadorians with tattoos too now!


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