It would be easy to travel to a new place and observe the style habits of its citizens (in non-pandemic times, that is), but it takes being fully immersed in a new place for several months to see your own style change and be influenced by your surroundings. This is exactly what happened after I spent half a year living in Europe. As a college student, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to study abroad, and I'm about to share with you a few key European style lessons that my semester living in Italy taught me.
After travelling the length of Italy—from Milan to Sicily, peppered with a few jaunts to France, Germany and Switzerland—I observed exactly what makes European style so good. I took note of the way my Italian friends always carried their belongings around in a classic leather handbag and invested in similar staple pieces. After living abroad, I took the following six style lessons to heart and promised to never make my old fashion mistakes again.
SKIP: Flimsy Tote Bags
WEAR: Structured Handbags
At home, I was used to throwing all my daily belongings in a slouchy tote bag and running out the door. While in Italy, I quickly learned that opting for something more polished (but no less roomy) made a world of difference in how put-together I looked.
Shop structured bags:
Boyy Bobby Soft Large Buckled Textured-Leather Tote (£1270)
Loewe Double Handle Leather Tote (£1350)
Who What Wear Jeanie Faux Leather Crossbody Bag (£42)
Jil Sander Tangle Small Braided-Strap Leather Shoulder Bag (£775)
SKIP: All Black
WEAR: Colourful Accessories That Pop Against a Neutral Outfit
Though you may believe that an all-black ensemble is foolproof, I happen to disagree. All the stylish European women I spotted on the street knew that layering colourful accessories over their neutral outerwear creates a multidimensional look in autumn and winter.
Shop bright accessories:
Aquazzura Sexy Thing 75 Keyhole-Vamp Suede Mules (£515)
Bottega Veneta Cassette Intrecciato Yellow Leather Cross-Body Bag (£1565)
Free People Sheer Super Scrunchie (£10)
SKIP: Items With an Expiration Date
WEAR: Timeless Staples Like Loafers, Blazers and Black Jeans
This was one of the most crucial style lessons I learned abroad. I realised exactly why European women are known for their good style, and it has to do with their reliance on timeless pieces. I took note of their clothing choices and wisely invested in pieces like blazers, loafers and black jeans that I now wear on repeat.
Shop timeless staples:
Arket Oversized Wool Hopsack Blazer (£199)
Church's Kara 2 Prestige Calf Penny Loafer Natural (£420)
Goldsign Denim The Benefit High-Rise Straight-Leg Jeans (£385)
SKIP: Sneakers With Athleisure
WEAR: Sneakers With Tailored Pieces
On the whole, I observed that European women don't dress down as much as their American counterparts. I rarely (if ever) spotted leggings or joggers on the street. Classic white sneakers, however, were definitely a favourite. Europeans simply choose to style their sneakers with more elevated ensembles, and I quickly followed suit.
Shop polished pieces and sneakers:
H&M Cotton Shirt (£18)
Victoria Victoria Beckham Ivory Belted Wide-Leg Trousers (£295)
Reebok Club C 85 Classic Lace Up Sneakers (£55)
SKIP: Winter Coats That Add Too Much Volume
WEAR: Sleek Wool and Leather Options
Instead of piling on bulky layers like puffer coats, I noticed how my European friends wore slimmer coat silhouettes that allowed them to remain polished despite the winter chill.
Shop sleek outerwear:
Mango Belt Leather Jacket (£150)
Weekday Rumi Blazer (£45)
Max Mara Larix Trench Coat (£1905)
SKIP: Heels Higher Than Three Inches
WEAR: Low- or Block-Heel Shoes
Unlike back home in the States, where I'm used to driving everywhere, I rarely stepped foot in a car while in Europe, so I learned right away that my shoe choices were of much consequence. I favoured lower heel styles like kitten heels and block heels whenever I wanted a little lift.
Shop low and block heels:
BY FAR Tanya Sandals (£279)
& Other Stories Squared Toe Leather Sock Boots (£135)
Zara Block Heel Leather Sandals (£50)
Next, Discover which dresses influencers are buying this season.
This story was originally published on Who What Wear US and has since been updated.
This article originally appeared on Who What Wear
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