Riap-Roi 101: An Introduction to Stylin’ in Thailand

Natalie Garro, TESS 129

Good afternoon (morning, evening, night, respectively)! My name is Natalie Garro, and I am an Education Volunteer with Group 129 here in Peace Corps Thailand. My cohort arrived in-country in January 2017, and I remember vividly the waves of anxiety that accompanied the madness that is purchasing/packing/unpacking/repacking as I attempted to fit my life into 2 suitcases for 2 years abroad in a country I knew little about, in living conditions I also knew little about.

I would first like to restate the advice I’ve given over and over: calm down, breathe, and know that anything absolutely essential to your survival, you WILL be able to find in Thailand. I promise, you are going to have better access than you think living here! That being said, it’s my hope in writing this article that the following examples of how we currently-serving volunteers dress will help you — my dear Invitees — thwart the beast that is pre-departure purchasing.

Best of luck with everything over the next few months! We can’t wait to have you in-country. So, without further ado, here are some examples of what we wear!


Education Volunteers


Andy Anderson
TESS 129 | Northern Thailand

“So PC will say pants and open-backed shoes aren’t okay: some schools care, mine does not. I literally just keep a pair of nice shoes in my classroom. High-collared shirts (polos are considered “dressy” here), dress pants (Thai people love straight-cut/skinny cut on women), and skirts below the knee. You’ll be able to buy more stuff that fits what you should wear here, but try to come with a decent starter set: a pair of dress pants, a black pencil skirt, a black blazer, a nice pair of waterproof shoes (Croc has a line [of dress flats], believe it or not), a yellow dress-shirt for July, light blue dress-shirt for August, and flexibility.”


Ashley Resurreccion
TESS 130 | Southern Thailand

“My school is in a small town, so they are more accepting of trendy styles. I wear solid colored collars or blouses over skirts for formal days and meetings and quirky, comfortable clothes when it’s a normal day. Fortunately, my school also provided me some of their uniforms as well, though some PCVs have to (choose to) buy them. My advice is to pack lightweight conservative clothes and preferably things you don’t need to iron!”


Eric Mills
TESS 130 | Isan Region (Northeastern) Thailand


“This is me and my co teacher. We wear these clothes every single day to school. From my experience this the norm of most Thailand. Good luck shopping 131!”

………….. Just kidding. You don’t have to dress like this.

“I am a simple man with 4 simple rules. Rule 1 comfortable dress shoes. Rule number 2 chinos. Various colors. And rule number 3 collared shirt. Various colors.”


Gabe Reid
TESS 130 | Northern Thailand

“On Fridays, our students and teachers wear a ‘culture’ shirt to celebrate the Wiang Haeng community. Monday – Thursday I usually wear my Peace Corps Polos while the students and teachers wear their Scout, governmental, or regular uniforms. During holidays at the school, like Mother’s Day, I will dress more formally with a button up and tie.”

Halli Benson
TESS 130 | Southern Thailand

“My school has a teacher and student dress code schedule like many schools in Thailand. On the days unspecified, I wear something generally loose fitting, at least 1 quarter length sleeve (not showing my armpits), and a skirt/loose pants below my knees. I love wearing my khaki pants/skirt and Peace Corps


Laura Hernandez Figueroa
TESS 129 | Isan Region (Northeastern) Thailand

“For school I dress very casual. Light colors are helpful to stay cool and keep mosquitos away. Also l avoid heavy fabrics because I do hand wash all my clothes as I don’t have access to a washer machine.”


Michael Marano
TESS 129 | Northern Thailand

“I normally wear black pants with a short sleeved button up. I eased into some more vibrant patterns as the year went on. Pair it with a worn boot and teacher’s feeling good.” (Note the sweater! Some parts of Thailand get cold in the cool season!)


Mo Mokhesi
TESS 129 | Central Thailand

“Like all [schools in Thailand], my school has a color for each day of the week; however, on Thursdays we get to wear whatever we want (respectfully).”


Ruhamaiah Bradley
TESS 130 | Southern Thailand

“My go-to outfit are pants and a Peace Corps polo with either my white converse or my black sneakers. I don’t pull out the converse often because I constantly have to take off my shoes at school. My other sneakers are more convenient because they’re easier to slip on and off.”

Natalie Garro
TESS 129 | Central/Northern Border Thailand

“I chose these pictures, because you can also see how some of the other teachers dress! I fluctuate between wearing skirts a lot and wearing pants a lot. Both are acceptable at my site. I think a good rule, generally (for Education volunteers), is – if you’d wear it to the office in the States, it should be appropriate to wear to school in Thailand!”


Tiffany Fitzgerald
TESS 129 | Southern Thailand

“I usually wear skirts past the knee and shirts that cover my shoulders and armpits. I keep my wardrobe simple, sometimes wearing the same skirt for days but switching the tops. I accessorize too. Best thing is to utilize the unlimited supply of polos you’ll receive throughout your service.”


Youth Development Volunteers


YinD 130 | Isan Region (Northeaster) Thailand

“My ‘uniform’ most days is a PC polo and slacks. It’s appropriate for my office days, biking around, and class time. Since I’m really tall, I knew I needed to bring all the pants and shoes I would need. The PC polos can be ordered once training begins. When I get home for the day, after an aap-nam (shower), we’re talking t-shirts and capris! Since my government office is within walking distance, I often wear skirts on office days, but that’s just personal preference. Don’t forget cute clothing for Bangkok and beach trips though!”


Andrea Aribe
YinD 130 | Northern Thailand

“Typically, I will wear a Northern Thai shirt, polo, or blouse along with a skirt or pants and tennis shoes or flats. At site, Mondays we wear yellow, Tuesdays pink, Wednesdays purple, Thursdays orange, and Fridays blue. For integration, I try to follow my community’s assigned colors of the day.”


Casey Butler-Camp
YinD 130 | Isan Region (Northeastern) Thailand

“My government office and the schools have their own outfit schedules, so I try to follow those guidelines as much as possible.  On most days, I wear khaki or black denim pants, a long-sleeved button-up or short-sleeved polo, and black slip-on dress shoes. Wednesday is “sports day”, which means athletic wear and tennis shoes.  And on Fridays, most people wear traditional Thai outfits, which you will accumulate quite quickly upon arrival.”


Daylisha Reid
YinD 130 | Northern Thailand

“Traditional Thai clothing is always an appropriate ‘go to’ when in doubt, but there are also designated days such as Fridays or special events when it’s more appropriate to go the traditional route. I also enjoy wearing funky pattern skirts below the knee, and when I wear pants, I go with loose fitting high waist slacks, with a blouse tucked in. As you can see I like my funky designs, patterns, and bright colors.”


Yaneth (Janet) Peña
YinD 130 | Northern Thailand

“I live and work in a fairly relaxed community. Typically, I have a “uniform” I tend to wear daily, which is a polo and either pants/capris/jeans or long “summer counselor” shorts. I already had a wide variety of polos because of my old job, so I brought them with me here. I also sometimes wear Northern [Thai] style shirts and some button downs when a special occasion calls for it. I rarely ever wear skirts or dresses, and my community has never asked it of me. Best of luck with your shopping, friends!”


Kayla McCabe
YinD 129 | Isan Region (Northeastern) Thailand

“I have a couple nicer blouses that I wear to events like graduation and retirement parties, but on a normal work day I wear a polo. I brought a couple with me and have bought a couple PC polos since coming here. Definitely bring a lot of colors to match with the color of the day! I’ll occasionally wear a skirt (mostly for site visits or meetings), but I prefer pants, and – because I’m not a full time teacher – no one minds that I wear them. When I bike from my office to the schools, I wear basketball shorts and Chacos, and then, when I get where I’m going, I change into my pants and ‘dress shoes’ (they’re actually Croc flats, but 10/10 recommend – my one pair has lasted 2 years, and they’re super easy to clean).”


Kyle Kvamme
YinD 129 | Central Thailand

“At my schools generally a polo or jeans are acceptable attire; however, I enjoy dressing professional, or ‘Riap Roy.’ Therefore, my favorite outfits to wear to school are short sleeved collared shirts (cotton or a cotton/polyester blend are most comfortable in the heat) and a pair of slacks (I’m so happy I brought gray slacks, as I’ve found I can diversify them with different colored shirts). Happy packing!”


Romil Pineda
YinD 129 | Lower Northern Thailand

“So I have 5 schools. I usually wear a button down and slacks, but Wednesday is sports day so I wear a sports polo. I’ll usually bike in clothes that aren’t cotton and then change at the school or office. When it hits 60-70 I break out a sweater in the morning.”


Zari Havercome
YinD 130 | Central Thailand

Read more articles written by Natalie here.


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