Since I recently got back from a trip abroad, I’ve had travel on my mind. Actually, I’d been planning this trip since October of last year, so I’ve had travel on my mind for a while now!
One thing a lot of Americans think about before traveling to Europe is what clothes to pack, so I thought I’d give a few tips for all you stylish ladies on what to cram into your suitcase before your European excursion.
And just to preface, it’s important to remember that Europe is an entire continent with a ton of different, distinct cultures, and therefore lots of variation in fashion. I refrain from making any claims that begin with “Europeans wear…” because not all Europeans dress the same. And within each country, people have varying aesthetics and tastes. The purpose of this post is to share some ideas for how to feel chic and comfortable on your trip, not to treat European style as a monolithic entity.
1. Dark neutrals: black, navy, gray, etc.
Black and navy are my go-to colors both at home and in travel. You can’t go wrong! Dark neutrals like these are extremely versatile. Plus, they don’t show stains and sweat as easily as whites and bright colors, which is great for all of us sweaty, dirty travelers out there.
If you want to get the most out of your travel wardrobe, pack items that will mix and match easily. And I feel the easiest way to do that is to pack a lot of dark neutrals. Of course, you can pack whites and ivories and pastels too, as long as they go with the other colors in your suitcase.
And of course every travel blog will go on and on about how Europeans wear a lot of black. I guess it’s true, but you’ll see people wearing clothes of all colors. And personally I always find it weird how people talk about wearing black like it’s some esoteric concept. Do Americans just not wear as much black as Europeans? I mean, I wear black all the time…
But if you’re not used to wearing black, it would be a good idea to bring along some black staples: a black dress, black tights, black jeans, a black skirt, a black top. Black goes with everything!
In travel and everyday life, I feel you can never go wrong with wearing black!
2. Pack light, and include a couple skirts.
Skirts are awesome for travel. You can get a lot of wear out of them before having to wash them (which keeps you from having to pack too many clothes), you can dress them up and down, and they’re just generally cute. Both the above outfit and the one at the beginning of this post are outfits I wore while in Europe. I always love a nipped waist and circle skirt, not only because it looks great, but because it’s also comfortable. Plus, packing a high-waisted black circle skirt like this one allows you to pack some crop tops (like the one pictured above), thus saving a little space in your suitcase!
When packing, I made sure to choose lightweight skirts and dresses that were a cotton/poly blend for easy washing and drying.
Just remember, if you’re going to visit any religious buildings, you’ll have to keep skirt length in mind, since some places will keep you from entering if your skirt is of a particular length. It’s usually easiest if you just wear pants if you know you’re going to visit a religious site on a particular day.
3. Limit your shoes.
I know some people like to bring many pairs of shoes with them on vacation. I’d suggest not doing that. If you bring a bunch of shoes, you’ll probably end up not wearing all of them, and you’ll still have to haul around the extra luggage. Bring a pair of flats that will go well with dresses and skirts and some type of shoe that looks good with pants. That’s really all you need.
I brought a pair of simple navy flats and a pair of brown mid-calf boots. Both looked great with dresses, skirts, and pants alike. Both were classic designs and didn’t hurt my feet. Though wish I put some gel insoles in the boots at least (my shins were on fire on our second day in Amsterdam).
And of course, there’s the cobblestone situation. Lots of European cities have cobblestone streets, so wearing heels above two inches (or shoes with a thin heel) is not a practical idea.
4. Scarves are nice but not necessary.
How many travel blogs have you read that say “omg Europeans wear scarves all the time you should totes bring a scarf”? Probably a lot. Yeah, I guess you see a good number of scarves in Europe, but it’s not the end of the world if you don’t wear one out there. People aren’t going to point you out and be like “Look at that scarfless idiot. Did they not get the scarf memo upon arrival to the continent?”
I don’t recommend packing a scarf. If you want to wear a scarf in Europe, I recommend buying one there. That way you have a pretty souvenir that you can wear both during your trip and after you come home.
Also, don’t feel like you have to wear a scarf if you’re in some warm Mediterranean city in the middle of the summer. Which brings me to my next point:
5. Dress for the weather.
On our recent trip, we went to the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, and Switzerland. In four out of five of those countries, we got on-and-off crazy downpours. It’s why the region we traveled in is so lush and green and totally beautiful. But because everyone stateside kept telling me how nice the weather is in Europe in May, I didn’t think to bring a raincoat. In fact, I don’t even own a raincoat because California is in the middle of a drought, and when it has rained in the past I just kind of put on a trenchcoat and go with it.
Since I love the rain, the downpours didn’t bother me, but I felt totally silly walking in the rain in my black denim jacket. Not dressing for the weather makes you stick out as a tourist (like whenever I see people wearing shorts on the Golden Gate Bridge). In the future, I will bring a raincoat. I saw people wearing some nice ones out there, so next time I’ll invest in something cute and functional.
Do some research on what the weather is like in each city you’re visiting. You have the whole internet at your disposal. Be more prepared than I was!
But please never pack one of those plastic rain ponchos. For the love of god.
6. Be yourself!
I feel like this tip gets neglected when Americans talk about how to dress in Europe. Americans often get so wrapped up in trying to nail down some concept of “dressing European” that they forget that European fashion is varied, complex, regional, and personal, and it’s silly to try to essentialize it. When you pack for a trip to Europe, sure, think about packing some stuff that will make you feel chic and romantic while you’re skipping through the streets of Paris and Berlin, but don’t pack things just for the sake of blending in.
And while you’re there, observe what other people are wearing. Notice both the similarities and differences between fashion in Europe and the US. And if you see some style element you like that you don’t see often in the states, be inspired by that and add it to your own fabulous, international aesthetic!
And of course, I must finish the blog post with an Odo outfit photo outtake.