Visiting Europe is a once in a lifetime opportunity for many. The way you dress determines how you are viewed by locals and other tourists, and can have a definite effect on the experience. Dressing for success is not just for the workplace; for all of history people have known that fashion and taste indicate much about a person. Remember a few simple rules of dress for your European vacation and avoid a fashion faux pas.
Bermuda Chic Hasn’t Arrived Sandals, flip-flops, or whatever you want to call them are not in vogue. A classy gladiator heel is acceptable for a night out, but walking around daily you are unlikely to see anyone wearing super shorts and flip-flops. Tourists are the exception to this rule, and many locals agree that it is the easiest way to spot a visitor. Tourists from the U.S.A. are accustomed to wearing sandals and shorts whenever weather permits, but European citizens tend to dress up a bit more even for day-to-day activities. The newest look in Europe is to wear a classy but casual suit jacket with nice designer jeans in the summer. Try out this new look if you’re headed to Europe this summer. Also try out the suit shorts with a suit coat. This style is emerging all over Europe. Try it not to stand out.
Keep Catholicism in Mind Any visit to Europe will inevitably include some Catholic monument or other. The Duomo’s in Italy or Cathedrals in France, big or small, have a dress code. Sleeves, long pants, good shoes, and high necklines cover most of the usual problems, but make sure to remember a little extra decorum when seeing a religious site. Short skirts, even skirts which may not be considered “short” in your home country, can become an issue with entrance guards at major historical sites.
Sleeves are Mandatory Along with Bermuda shorts and flip-flops, tank tops, wife beaters, and camisoles are never seen in public without an over-shirt. The European countries may be less puritan about their beaches, but showing too much skin on the streets is considered gauche. Bare shoulders and low necklines are another way to spot tourists, so if you want to blend in keep your skin to yourself. Can men’s tees look any cooler? Not in Europe. Make sure the shirt you are wearing is stylish and has sleeves. Do some shopping or at least looking around at department stores in Europe to find out how to fit in with their changing, modern styles.
Flags don’t Really Fly for many this goes without saying, but leave the nationalism in your own nation. There is no point to covering your attire with flags or other patriotic insignia. Doing so sends a not-so-subtle message of superiority and unwillingness to adapt to a new culture. At best, it makes tourists stand out. At worst, it seems rude and ethnocentric. This extends to “I heart NYC” or similar city-specific swag. Remember that most people you see on the street can in fact read and speak English.