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Europe’s Fictional Fashion Faux Pas


Self-conscious about your travel style? Wondering if it’s up to snuff by Europe’s standards? Judging from conversations on our Forums, determining what to wear abroad isn’t as simple as dressing for the weather. A simple question about what not to wear in Europe can yield torrents of clothing do’s and don’ts that hardly reflect the current state of fashion in Europe. The world is getting smaller; here are a few fashion faux pas that — with a little discretion — travelers to Europe shouldn’t be afraid to disregard.

Rule #1: Sneakers scream touristo!
Actually only white, bright, and bulky athletic shoes will mark you as an out-of-towner. Chic Europeans are known to kick around in tennies of all colors that are casual and comfortable but not gym-appropriate.

  • “They are very simple and in no way look like jogging shoes, but I don’t think they are for serious hiking or walking. I wear mine for casual events.” (more from the Forums)
  • Trendy trainers too flimsy for your feet? Suggestions for stylish and support alternatives.

    Rule #2: A suitcase is no place for linen
    While linen should never be worn on long flights, it should be included on your packing list if you’re partial to the breezy fabric at home. Don’t worry — with a little ingenuity, you can combat the wrinkles.

  • “I never iron (linen) when I’m traveling, but I always pack a small spray bottle that I can fill with water. I hang my wrinkled clothes up in the bathroom, spritz them with water, and the wrinkles come right out.” (more from the Forums)
  • Rule #3: Slacks, not shorts — even during heat waves
    Children in Europe are often seen wearing shorts in warm weather, but it’s not a preferred fashion item for European adults. If, however, the shorts are carefully selected you can get away with it. Various lengths, including capri pants and city shorts, are the grown-up alternative.

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  • “Europeans wear shorts only at resorts, beaches, or while actually involved in athletic activities. But women are allowed to wear city shorts, but only real city shorts — to the knee, tailored, fitted and crisp/clean with a smart shirt and either ballerina flats or wedges.” (more from the Forums)
  • Rule #4: Jeans don’t jive in Europe’s word-class cities070523_Kelly%20Borsheim_Fashion_EuropeF.jpg
    Denim is beloved around the world — there’s little reason to leave your favorite jeans at home. Women may find that smart trouser-style jeans make the transition from a day’s sightseeing to an evening meal best.

  • “I always wear black stretch jeans to fly in and find they are quite comfortable. I was in Paris last November and there were jeans everywhere and worn by all kinds of people, including some mom’s out shopping with their daughters.” (more from the Forums)
  • Rule #5: Avoid matching sets of clothing
    It’s true — track suits are the epitome of matching too well. While certainly easy to pack because they’re easy to pair, most are too relaxed. Exercise your penchant for simplicity with layered pieces in neutral colors that can be easily interchanged. Sweater sets, for instance, consisting of a shell and a cardigan, are just right for those days that include multiple museum or church stops; you’ll appreciate the coverage.

  • “My favorite blending-in technique is always to wear very simple clothing. I prefer black or navy, which I think looks chic and also hides not-so-chic gelato and other stains picked up as the day goes on!” (more from the Forums)

    Rule #6: Don’t dine at Paris’s Taillevant without your tux
    A tie and a jacket are not necessarily the uniform of all gourmands when dining out; if you’re trying to slim down your suitcase you may want to consider losing the bulky blazer. Research the dress codes of the restaurants you’ll be patronizing before you go to determine the appropriate attire.

  • “My husband and I will be taking our first trip to Paris in two weeks. One of our special treats will be dinner at Taillevant. Will a black pencil skirt, jacket, and heels be dressy enough? Will my husband need to wear a suit or will a jacket and tie be appropriate?” (more from the Forums)
  • Rule #7: European teens dress with decorum
    Parents dragging their teens to Europe needn’t fret over their son or daughter’s wayward fashion sense; there are cringe-worthy teen trends there too. Concern yourself instead with protecting your credit card from your 16-year-old, who may wish to adopt local fashion statements with a swipe.

  • “Teenage boys of the world all dress the same.” (more from the Forums)

    Rule #8: Don’t schlep around town with any type of “pack”
    070523_Lise%20Gagne_Fashion_Europe.jpgFanny packs and large back packs may be a no-no for anyone attempting not to look touristy. That said, there are certain types of bags and carry-alls that don’t offend delicate European sensibilities. Keep your guide books, maps, and camera in a secure tote, like a messenger bag.

  • “As for carrying personal items for the day, I use a small shoulder bag for my camera, small amount of cash, lip balm, travel guide (papers — not a whole book). I found when I carried a larger bag I became the pack mule for water bottles, sweaters, etc.” (more from the Forums)
  • — Katie Hamlin

    Primed for your European vacation? Start packing and planning with these tips!

  • Plan Your Itinerary: Paris | Rome |London | Venice | Barcelona
  • 9 Tips for Packing Light
  • A Foodie’s Guide to Tipping in Europe
  • 6 Tips for Wrinkle-free Packing
  • Paris on a Budget
  • Photo credits: (1) ©Istockphoto/ Natalia Bratslavsky; (2)©Istockphoto/ Kelly Borsheim; (3) ©Istockphoto/ Lise Gagne.

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