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How to Dress in Europe in 7 Steps

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Learn how to dress in Europe in just seven easy steps.

If you look on travel forums about Europe you will always come across a thread about how to dress in Europe. And they can get very heated. It seems there are two very opposing view points that travelers take.

On the one hand there are those travelers who feel they should not make any effort to dress any differently. They feel that the locals will spot them for a tourist anyway and would rather be comfortable in their own clothes than try and be something they’re not.

On the other hand you get travelers who feel if they make an effort to dress and blend in with the locals then they may receive better service, be less of a target for crime, and perhaps enjoy the sense of trying a new look to enhance their trip.

If you fall into the first group of people then this article isn’t for you, but if you are in the second group then here are a few simple rules to dress in a more ‘European’ style (but I warn you, not everyone in Europe is stylish, you will still see horrors worse than you would see at home too!)

1. Wear natural fibers

It’s sometimes difficult as a tourist to pack for a country where the weather can be changeable. It makes sense to bring your rain jacket and your light weight zip off pants. They will help keep you dry and weigh less. However, man made fabrics are rarely sophisticated and many Europeans where mainly natural fabrics such as wool and cotton. Just bring an umbrella instead of the shiny rain jacket.

2. Wear understated colors

If you’ve ever seen a tour group walk past it can be a veritable rainbow of color, with all the bright jackets and t-shirts. To get that classic European sense of style however, it is much easier to achieve if you stick to understated and muted colors, such as blacks, grays, and browns. Plus, it’s easier to pack using understated colors as more of your items will match each other so you won’t need to pack so much.

3. Avoid slogans and logos

Unless you are still a teenager, it is best to leave any items covered in slogans or logos at home. They do not say European sophistication. It is true that many Europeans wear designer labels, but the logo is confined to the label inside the garment, and not blazoned across the chest.

4. Get the right fit

Baggy and loose may feel more comfortable, but one of the best ways to appear more stylish is to have your clothes fit you properly. And in Europe fitting properly means a much slimmer fit than you find acceptable as fitting properly in the US. This also goes for your shoes as well. Stylish Europeans tend to favor shoes that are on the more streamlined and slimmer style.

5. Use accessories for color and detail

If you’re not used to it, then dressing in more muted tones might make you feel a little dull and washed out. A good way to add a bit more of a pop to your outfit and introduce some color and personality is through accessories. In Europe people seem to love wearing scarfs of every color, or an interesting belt, or even bright socks. A little goes a long way.

6. Wear with confidence

If you’re dressing in a style that you’re not used to then it’s easy to feel a little uncomfortable and self-aware. And this will translate to your body language and how people will perceive you. The trick is to wear your outfit with confidence as you stride down the boulevards or sip coffee from the pavement cafe.

7. Shop in Europe

Lastly, one fool proof way of dressing like a European is to wait until you get to Europe, see a look you like, then go find it in the shops. You can’t get more authentic than that. Just remember to leave room in your suitcase to bring your new purchases home.

Conclusion

After reading this article and visiting Europe you may think that it is all wrong. You will see people in even the most chic cities dressed in every riotous color, fabric and style. This is true. It really doesn’t matter how to dress in Europe. However, if you want to make an effort with how you dress in Europe then the seven tips above will always see that you’re on the right track and give you a good base. You can then hit the shops in Europe as you feel more confident to work on and evolve your look, or call home on your international cell phone and ask you fashionable friends for some extra tips.

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4 thoughts on "How to Dress in Europe in 7 Steps"

  • Slipping into American clothing one day the last time I was in Paris proved to be a magnet for those who cluster around to pickpocket and even for the classic “Look! There’s gold ring on the sidewalk” scam.

    While traveling, department stores quickly show you what average people wear and what they pay for it, whether it’s a Marks & Spencer (“Marks & Sparks”) in the UK or a perhaps too dowdy for Paris Printemps. (In Paris, you may want to spend more at a Galeries Lafayette. Thank of it as Nordstrom versus Sears in this fashion conscious city.)


  • Sonja Holverson says:
    June 21, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    This is good advice for city wear (even some smaller towns). Resorts are different, of course. Even the Europeans dress down.

    But whatever you wear, do not wear sweat pants (unless you’re really jogging)or shorts and skimpy tops in the city (unless you’re under 16 looking for attention you don’t really want. True for girls and boys).

    On the other hand, for evening wear, unless it’s noted to be formal attire, Europeans generally do not dress up in dressy clothes for the evening.

    As Mike mentioned above: for women a scarf will get you a lot of mileage.


  • My granddaughter, age 14 and 5’9″ would like to wear leggings with shorter shirts. Is it recommended dress and acceptable for churches in Europe?


  • Oops! Shirts should have read skirts!



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