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What to Wear to Europe

Updated on November 13, 2007

What to Wear to Europe

Travelista helps travelers interested in looking as chic as Europeans while traveling.  Wether you are on a budget or backpacking it is simple to look good while traveling and I'm here to help.  If you don't want to be branded a "tourist" while traveling through Europe check out my tips for blending in with Europeans and at the very least you'll be considered a traveler.

What to Wear to Europe?

Does it really matter what you wear?

Why is what you wear to Europe so important you ask? Does it really matter? Well yes, yes it does.

Even if you don't give a flip about fashion there are a few things you should think about before you dust off your fanny pack.

First of all Europeans as a general rule dress up more than your casual Friday, make that casual everyday American.

Europeans dress to impress and as a means to communicate their good taste, it sounds pretentious I know but its true - just go with it. The amazing thing is that they accomplish this not by buying out designer showrooms each fashion season but by buying a few items of quality that they ingeniously accessorize. This is the essence of my packing and travel fashion philosophy.

Yes, there are those that can afford the luxury of the latest and greatest designer offerings and they do look breathtakingly fabulous. Alas we are not going to Europe to walk the runway. We're going to walk the streets and become part of the cultural landscape and try not to disrupt it with bright, white tennis shoes.

"Dressing the Part" of the European also helps dispel a tourist mentality. I don't like feeling like a tourist or an outsider while traveling. I prefer the idea of blending in with the locals and soaking up the culture in a more integrated way. If you don't look like a tourist you won't automatically be dismissed as one, which can lead to a more authentic experience.

They will still let you into the country even if you are donning your brightest, whitest tennis shoes along with your swooshiest track suit. However, trust me when I tell you, you'll feel much better while there even if you put forth just the slightest effort to fashion a stylish travel wardrobe. Check out my Travel Clothes section to get you started! Ciao!

My New Perfect Travel Outfit

This time I decided to include a dress into my repertoire, actually I included two. My trousers are quite comfortable and that is usually what I wear on the plane. They don't dig in to my waist necessarily but I thought I would try something new.

Following my Travel Clothes Guidelines I found that I already had a lightweight black mini shirt dress, I added black leggings, and my black travel shoes as my airplane "travel" outfit. It was quite a comfortable outfit as there was no binding waistband to have to deal with on the long flight over and I felt dressed and ready to go once we landed. Of course I also had my trusty pashmina wrap which served me well when the plane cabin got chilly.

I know some of you may be sick of leggings by now but they really are a useful inclusion in your travel wardrobe. Tights are also an alternative but they might be a bit too constricting to wear on a long plane ride. I was relieved once I landed to see leggings everywhere and worn by everyone, young and not so young (more on that in my upcoming Travelista Trend Reports). I topped off the look with my trusty trench and I was set. This was definitely a better alternative to the sweat suits favored by some while traveling and I felt super comfortable.

My travel shoes are Dansko Professional Clogs. My Dansko's have been on many trips and logged many miles, this time I upgraded to the black patent style. Now these won't be seen on many Europeans but they are comfortable and they give me an extra 2 inches of height, sacrifices must be made for functionality. Check out my footwear section for more options.

A ballet flat style shoe can also be a great travel shoe. The Cole Haan Nike Air Series has Nike technology that makes for a comfortable walking experience.

Got a favorite travel or in transit outfit? Let me know!

Get my Favorite Travel Outfit

Try the dress and leggings combo for comfort during long flights and don't forget the trench topper for crisp weather. As long as the leggings are comfy and don't bind you will be set. Ballet flats will up the cute factor.

Packing Light for Europe

Yes, it can be done!

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of packing light. What do I mean by packing light, well it means being able to "carry-on" your luggage on the airplane.

* No checking in suitcases, no waiting at the carousel wondering if your luggage made it, no wondering who may have rifled through your belongings while in transit.

* Packing light requires some planning, but when running at full speed to make your overnight train to Venice you will be happy that you have a light load.

* Packing light will help you avoid the pain in the butt (and back!) of shlepping your heavy loads of luggage from train station to pensione. Even if you take a taxi you still have to navigate a crowded train station to get to the taxi stand, a task made much easier with a lighter load.

* Don't forget that you will also have to accommodate your luggage onto trains. You will feel silly taking up multiple racks of luggage space when the European traveler next to you has their entire luggage reduced down to one bag.

* Packing light also means you will not be horrified when you realize that the cute little pensione you've booked in Florence is on the 5th floor (that's over 100 steps if anyone is counting) of a building with no elevator.

* News flash, hotels in Europe are small, small, if you take too much luggage it could very well take up any extra space and make for a crowded stay

Please take these scenarios into account when you get the urge to pack a separate outfit for every day of your trip. The old cliché of "less is more" definitely applies and should guide you in choosing what items to pack. With my detailed suggestions I'll show you how it is possible to pack light without sacrificing style.

Great Gear to Help You Pack

Packing light does not happen on its own. A packing system is vital to help compress and contain clothing.

I use packing cubes because I can cram many items into them and somehow they manage to compress my clothing with a minimum of wrinkles.

Two sided packing cubes are great because items that have been worn (but still have some wear left in them) can go on one side separate from clean clothes. If you put scented dryer sheets in with your clothes this will also help "freshen" them up. Smaller cubes can hold underwear and socks as well as a multitude of other things. Once you start using packing cubes you will use them for just about everything you pack. I always carry extra small ones just in case

As a traveler you will be constantly unpacking and repacking your bag. This task is made much easier if everything has a place and is contained.

12 Tips on What to Wear to Europe

When packing for your trip to Europe it's not all about functionality like hiking boots and tennis shoes. Yet it's not also about being a slave to fashion, wearing stilettos and inpractical clothing.

Rather when traveling to Europe it's better to blend in with Europeans and they generally wear dark clothing in fitted cuts. They add accessories such as scarves, jewelry, or a distinctive handbag to compete the look.

For a more detailed look on packing check out my Travel Clothes section.

1. When you pack, make everything count. Clothing must intermix to layer easily and complete different outfits

2. Dark neutrals work best with distinctive accessories or pack all black. Most Europeans wear dark colors

3. Lightweight and quick drying (these launder easily in your hotel sink) clothes allow you to pack light

4. High synthetic fabric clothing dries quickly (lyocell, modal, nylon, acrylic, rayon, polyester)

5. 100% cotton this takes forever to dry and isn’t as compact as synthetics (a cotton blend is OK)

6. Flattering fits will make you look more European

7. Avoid loose fitting clothing (relaxed fit jeans, etc.). You may not feel out of place here but in Europe you’ll feel dowdy (compared to chic and glam Europeans) in comfortable but loose fitting clothes

8. Dark colored footwear blends in easily with dark clothing and minimizes focus on sensible but not so sexy shoes.

9. Padded foot beds, EVA insoles, and rubber soles, provide cushioning while walking and ease fatigue.

10. When choosing a walking sandal look for the same features that you would in a walking shoe

11. Waterproof sport sandals serve double duty for hostellers (to wear in showers), light hikers, and those hitting the beaches.

12. Accessories will help make the most of your look. Scarves, jewelry, or a distinctive handbaga add personality and liven up neutrals.

Maps - Don't leave home without these.

A good map is indispensable when traveling. It can help you plan out your daily itinerary and ensure that you get to where you want to go. The streetwise series is my favorite. Easy to use.

Beauty on the Road

TSA Toiletry Hacks

How’s a girl to stay gorgeous while traveling and not pack a steamer trunk full of lotions and potions and sprays? That is the question my dears.

It is possible to look great while traveling but a simple approach must be taken. Once again we take our cue from European women who manage to look super sexy without looking tarty. European women take a “less is more” approach to beauty and you’ll notice they wear minimal makeup or just highlight one part of their face, like emphasizing their lips with the perfect shade of red lipstick.

Makeup regimes should be streamlined to cut down on the products packed and time spent getting ready. Finding the right products can also cut down on what we pack. Double duty items or all in one small makeup kits will take up less room.

Most women in Europe wear minimal makeup. Of course it helps to be gorgeous like this girl. Take a cue from her and note that sunglasses always up the glam factor. These and more photos of the stylish can be found at The Sartorialist.

Fortunately or unfortunately the TSA has put into place rules that drastically affect the way we pack toiletries, specifically liquids, gels, and aerosols. As of 9/26/06 the rules basically state that all carry on toiletries (liquid, gels, or aerosols) must be in 3 ounce bottles or smaller AND these bottles must all be contained within a clear quart size zip top bag. There are exceptions for breast milk, formula, and prescription drugs check TSA guidelines for specifics. Larger amounts of toiletries must be checked with luggage.

The TSA rules basically mean we have to be a bit more creative in packing toiletries. One option involves only packing your absolute are essentials such as toothpaste. After arriving to your destination you can purchase all your toiletries at the nearest drugstore or grocery store.

If that sounds like too much of a hassle you then must begin the task of transferring any liquid or gel into a 3 oz. container or smaller if you can’t buy the item in travel size form. Of course wherever possible try to trim the amount of toiletries that you bring and look for double duty items.

There are also toiletry items that don't come in the traditional gel, liquid, or aerosol form and don't have to be included in your quart size Zip Loc bag. Websites such as, ,, and provide travel size toiletries and makeup.

Tips for getting around TSA rules for toiletries

-Makeup wipes replace liquid facial soap

-Tooth powders and dental mitts can be used instead of toothpaste

-Effervescent tablets can be used instead of mouthwash

-Antibacterial wipes instead of sanitizing gel

-Hair Bars replace shampoo and / or conditioners

-Some baby shampoo can be used as a body wash as well (double duty)

-All in one shampoo & conditioners do double duty

-Natural products such as Dr. Bronners Organic liquid soap (shampoo, body wash, and mouthwash) & Campsuds (shampoo, body wash, laundry wash) serve multiple uses

-Lotion wipes provide an alternative to lotion

-Mineral powder foundation can replace liquid foundation and concealer

-Facial moisturizers with sunscreen serve double duty

-Good old fashioned bar soap can replace shower gel

-Hair Powder (Aveda)/ Hair wax can replace styling gel or hair spray

-Cake mascara instead of liquid mascara

-Lipstick ,lip gloss pencils, or lip balms instead of liquid lip gloss

-Solid deodorant, deodorant pads, or wipes instead of gel or aerosol deodorant

-Sunscreen wipes instead of sunscreen lotion

You MUST wear a Scarf in Europe

The real secret to achieving a European look

Alright I’m about to give you the true secret to achieving a European look, it’s all about the scarves and wraps.

If you don’t wear a scarf in Europe you will feel absolutely naked, because EVERYONE wears them, seriously EVERYONE. On my first trip to Paris, the first day I had to go buy a scarf because nobody gave me the memo that they were de rigeur. I had to figure it out the hard way. Don’t make this same mistake.

I think there is some sort of law that forbids Europeans from leaving the house without a scarf somewhere on their person, even if it’s in the form of a turban (which I’ve seen work on really cute French girls).

The ways in which Europeans tie their scarves have to be some sort of family secret. The scarves are tied in a deceptively simple manner. While I cannot profess to having cracked the code of European scarf tying, a few basic looks will carry you far. Trust me scarves will not be going out of fashion in Europe anytime soon.

Since we aim to blend in with our European counterparts a scarf or wrap become necessary accessories. Fortunately there is much function to be found in them.

Scarves can really help you fight the “blahs” of wearing the same set of travel clothes for the duration of your trip. A thin weave pashmina style wrap can be used as a shawl or scarf and can be worn several ways. Large wraps can be used as blankets on planes and trains as well.

Thin and lightweight silky scarves take up little packing space so please splurge and bring several. Scarves can introduce color and pattern into your neutral travel wardrobe and of course add that little je ne sais quoi that we’re all after. Different styles and sizes can be worn different ways.

Young ladies, I know that scarves are typically thought to be a bit on the maw maw side but they can look quite youthful when worn correctly. An oblong scarf is the easiest style to work with because it can be worn around the neck, as a belt, or even a headband. Scarves combat “couchette head” after an all night train trip by working as a babushka or headband. Even just tying a scarf to your handbag adds an element of nonchalant chic.

On a more practical note, scarves can help you keep track of your travel mates. In crowded streets surrounded by a sea of dark clothing it’s difficult to find someone. There were several times on a trip with my mom that we would lose track of each other in the course of window shopping. The only way I could find her was to look for the flash of pink and whit

Travelista Shows You How to Wear a Pashmina - Easy Ways to Wear Your Pashmina

Pashmina's Will get you that European Look

I can't emphasize enough the importance of wearing a scarf in order to achieve a European look.

Pashmina styles are a good place to start because they don't require intricate tying to look good.

Great Cameras for your European Trip - Take tons of great photos with these cameras

Every time I return from Europe, my only regret is not having taken more photos. Even after with my past trip with over 800 photos under my belt there were more photo opportunities that I could have taken advantage of. Having a great camera to capture all the beautiful and inspiring sights of Europe is a MUST! A trip is a great excuse to try out a new camera.

My Digital SLR camera pick is the Olympus E 5-10. Voted Best of Test by Wired Magazine, it is my new camera to covet. 10 mega pixels, minimal noise with super crisp images, mechanical image stabilization (really a must have in the next generation of cameras), 16.2 oz keep it fairly light, True Pic III gives true to life colors, dust reduction system, amazingly fast processing with almost 20 photos in 10 seconds, an extra xD card slot means that you won't have to stop to reload cards if the regular card fills up. Photos can be composed with a live view LCD screen or optical viewfinder. This camera is for the photography enthusiast really looking to take their photos up a notch.

The Canon PowerShot A630 is what I took with me on my last trip. I'm quite happy and surprised with the results. I shot in a variety of situations: outdoors, indoors, night, and action shots of snazzily dressed Europeans. It performed well and has a variety of settings that are easy to use: auto, night, indoor, kids and pets (this is a good one), landscape (perfect for Europe), portrait, macro (my fave) and a whole host of others. The zoom is incredible. It also allows flexibility with manual modes that control aperture and shutter priority (but I haven't had a chance to use these settings yet). All in all this is a great camera for the price with loads of features. It's slim profile allowed me to carry it comfortably in my hands and fit easily in my purse.

Here's a close up of some chantarelle mushrooms taken at the Mouffetard Market in Paris.


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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      For me, this is very helpful. I will be going to Europe next year and I just want to make sure I have planned everything properly in advance. I am so glad this is here, otherwise I would look like those tacky tourists, lol. Thanks so much! :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I think it matters what one wears in Europe ... most of the places we visited were more out of the way places ... places where shorts would not be the favored apparel.

    • seashell2 profile image


      6 years ago

      These tips are very useful, thanks so much for sharing!

    • traveller27 profile image


      7 years ago

      As a traveler whose favorite destination is Europe, I totally agree with the points you have brought up.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      thanks for the scarf tips, i always wonder what is the right clothes for europe this is the first time i am going on a trip and with my husband, your awesome thanks again take care!!!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      nice info and practical tips. Thank you

      from fellow lens: bigsaveontravel

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Hi Travelista ,Great Lens. I have also created a lens in same niche . Hope u like itï Hereâs a brief intro:

      click here

    • Piksychick profile image


      11 years ago

      These are awesome tips. I love traveling Europe. The apartment that I stayed in in Florence had well over 100 stairs! It would have been smart to pack light.

    • MassmannPLUS profile image


      11 years ago

      My wife and I just got back from traveling for Europe for 3 weeks. We didn't take very much stuff--a backpack each full. Good advice on your lens. I'm going to add you to my lensroll on my Rick Steves lens.


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