1. The ethnic groups wear colourful traditional costumes.
  2. The ethnic groups dress in colourful traditional costumes.

In the sentences, which word should be used, wear or dress in? Or are they interchangeable?

  • 1
    You can also say "dress up in" or "get dressed up in" if the garb is worn for a special occasion or ceremony. Aug 27, 2016 at 14:49
  • dress up is not the same thing at all. In the two examples given, dress in and wear mean the same thing and are both correct and formal.
    – Lambie
    Aug 27, 2016 at 15:20
  • @Lambie: Read the whole statement. There's an if-clause. Aug 27, 2016 at 15:36
  • Why confuse the issue? Also, traditional costumes here may not be a way of dressing up at all. I consider that a separate issue.
    – Lambie
    Aug 27, 2016 at 17:50

2 Answers 2


They can mean the same thing. Since dress is intransitive in this instance, the preposition in functions to tell us how they dress or what they wear. So we understand in either case the ethnic groups wear colorful traditional costumes.

The problem is dress can have a slightly different meaning than wear in the following sense:


  1. b : to put on or wear formal, elaborate, or fancy clothes

So, sentence 2 can imply that these costumes are worn during formal occasions, whereas sentence 1 does not.


I think the first one, "wear", is probably what you want most of the time. It sounds natural and idiomatic.

The second sentence only sounds ok if you're describing a specific event, as opposed to the general situation.

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