Festive and fashionable outfits for a Cinco de Mayo celebration

Cinco de Mayo is the Mexican holiday celebrating the nation's victory over the French army at the Battle of Puebla. People in the United States often mistakenly assume that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico's Independence Day, but that holiday – which is of far greater importance in Mexico than Cinco de Mayo – comes in September. Cinco de Mayo, as it is observed in the United States, has come to stand for a celebration of Mexican culture, food, music and history. Celebrating Cinco de Mayo is an excellent excuse to eat delicious Mexican food, enjoy mariachi music, drink a couple of margaritas and dance the night away. It can be difficult to decide what to wear to a Cinco de Mayo celebration, but it's not a problem. Cinco de Mayo fashions tend to be casual but bright and colorful – with a little digging in the closet, it's easy to come up with the perfect look.

What to wear 

  1. Bright colors. Take a cue from traditional colorful Mexican dresses and incorporate bright flowing dresses with floral patterns or ruffles into your Cinco de Mayo ensemble. If you don't have a colorful outfit to wear, a few accessories can help brighten up a subdued look to make it more festive. 
  2. Flowers. If you can wear flowers in your hair, do it. An abundant flower garland, or even just a blossom or two behind your ear can add some Mexican flair to an otherwise regular dress, and if it starts to wilt, you can use it to decorate the rim of your margarita glass. 
  3. Ruffled off-the-shoulder tops. Many traditional Mexican dresses feature off-the-shoulder detailing or a plethora of ruffles. Add one of these elements – or both –

    to your look for Cinco de Mayo, and channel the country of Mexico in a contemporary way. 

What to leave behind

  1. Heavy shoes. May is springtime, and in the U.S., Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of the coming warm weather as much as anything else. Keep your footwear in line with the jubilant atmosphere by wearing sandals, open-toe shoes or a modern take on the traditional Mexican huarache.
  2. Formalwear. Cinco de Mayo celebrations traditionally comprise a playful party atmosphere, and your clothes should be fun, too. Skip the suits, heels and fancy dresses in favor of clothing that's light, versatile, bright and casual.
  3. Sombrero. On non-Mexicans, it's a no-no. 

Seasonal considerations

Cinco de Mayo generally falls during a warm period in most of the United States, but there's always the chance of rain, particular on the East Coast and in New England. If you're celebrating Cinco de Mayo outdoors, it's a good idea to bring an umbrella, and maybe a shawl or wrap, if rain is in the forecast. Some cities have annual Cinco de Mayo parties, so check local event listings for fun, free events with music, food, drinks and activities for families and children.

Travel considerations

Traveling by car for Cinco de Mayo will provide ample room to store any luggage. Traveling by air or train require a little extra time to pack: Roll clothes or place them in space-saving vacuum seal packs to decrease the bulk.