In Accessories, Cocktail Dresses, Shoes, Sundresses on June 1, 2010 at 5:50 pm

Sorry for the delay in posting — along with the rest of the Eastern seaboard, I headed to the Delaware beaches for the Memorial Day holiday weekend.  One of the little ladies on my trip is Europe-bound in a matter of days, and had asked: “What do I wear for a three-week tour of Western Europe?”  How does an American avoid looking like…well, an American?  I have a couple of “do’s” and “don’t”s I’ll go over prior to cherry-picking some must-haves.

1.  Avoid tourist gear.  Likely intuitive for most of you, but I would be remiss if I didn’t include this no-no.  “Tourist gear” includes white sneakers, fanny packs, cameras-around-the-neck, stiff-brimmed baseball caps, and t-shirts with group names plastered all over them.  Fairly obvious.  (And that includes you, Carrie Bradshaw.)

2.  Less obvious: avoid shorts.  Europeans tend to wear shorts only at the beach or resort and — occasionally — when involved in some sort of athletic activity, which is (at least in my experience) fairly rare.  Wear pants somewhat sparingly as well — skinny-leg jeans and cigarette pants are permissible (the JBrands below are my absolute favorite pair of jeans — $180, Net-A-Porter), but you won’t see much bootleg over there.  My fiance just returned from a trip to the Baltic States and reported that all the girls were wearing dhoti pants (much to his confusion — he also called them “weird, super-low-crotch pants”).  I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m thinking this might be  a trend to skip, regardless of how fashion-forward you’d like to appear to native Europeans.

3.  Layer, layer, layer.  This was the first thing I learned from French women when I lived abroad.  So many of them have this magic ability to layer on seemingly mismatched light separates, look fabulous and “together,” and still look unfussy.  I would reach for lots of breezy, somewhat loose-fitting separates, including gauzy scarves (adore the Franco Ferrari  scarf below — $138, La Garconne), drapey light cotton sweaters, and so forth.

4.  Lean towards the neutrals.  This is somewhat subjective, I suppose, but I always felt a bit more under-the-radar / a bit less American when I wore neutrals abroad.  (Check out the utilitarian-chic dress by Zero and Maria Cornejo below — $414, La Garconne.)  When my fiance landed in Lyon, he wore preppy pastel polos, madras shorts, nantucket red pants, and so forth — and stuck out in a major way.  (Insert looks of confusion upon the brow-knitted faces of French women — “oh, la…qu’est-ce que c’est, ca?”)  I love that he fearlessly rocked his personal getup there, but if you’re looking for ways to blend in, I’d suggest leaving your candy-colored polo dress collection at home.

And now for some creme-de-la-creme fashion picks — the things I’d want to bring if I were headed abroad.  For daytime museum-going and sight-seeing?  This uber-chic, very of-the-moment, ladylike black romper ($78, TopShop):

Pair with killer fringed black sandals (or any other strappy gladiators will do).  These Sigerson Morrisons are bananas ($425, La Garconne):

Pair with enorma-shades (below, by Oliver Peoples) or classic Ray Bans:

I’d just as readily throw on this little nautical-inspired number ($69, Mango):

Something about it is just off-kilter enough to make it more Parisian chic than Nantucket preppy.  Pair with some nonchalant-cool brown leather sandals (these are also by Mango — $79, Mango):

Add on a quirky-cool cross-body studded bag ($128, J. Crew):

(If you’re uncertain about the cross-body style, just tie the strap shorter and wear under the arm.)  Alternately, throw on some versatile gray snakeskin flats (these are by House of Harlow — $178, Shopbop):

And add a lightweight, soft gray crinkle cardigan (this one by Splendid — $92, PiperLime):

I like the idea of off-setting the crisp white fabric with shades of soft gray — you might even pile on this lovely greige carry-all by JPK Paris (on sale for $129, Nordstrom):

Alternately, go Audrey Hepburn chic in a Breton-striped shirt.

You can find them all over the place, but I’m loving this cashmere-blend Theory version for a cooler afternoon cafe stop (on sale for $140, Net-A-Porter):

Pair with cropped black cigarette pants (or jeans — these are the J Brands featured earlier) and tidy little black flats ($245, London Sole) for a literal look:

Even though I very much prefer the ladylike to the edgy, I’d consider roughing the look up a bit with this biker-chic Rebecca Minkoff ($575, Rebecca Minkoff):

Chic-ly unexpected.  For those of you who prefer to “color within the lines” (I’m there with ya most of the time), this gold-accented Kate Spade lovely would be ideal and super-versatile (on sale for $316, Zappos):

I’d probably wind up sticking to slightly-off-beat printed dresses, however.  I love this little Dolce Vita “Delilah” dress ($165, Dolce Vita):

Pair with these little white flats by Bloch ($185, Net-A-Porter) or kickin flat espadrilles by Paloma Barcelo ($180, Net-A-Porter):

Check out Dolce Vita’s dress shop for alternative Euro-chic options.

These are just some pointers to help you get packin’ for your trip across the pond.  The bottom line is that you can get away with a lot in Europe, but you’re safest with layered neutrals, comfy flats for sight-seeing, and slightly off-kilter, nearly-vintage prints.  BON VACANCES!

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