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, whatever you want to call them, they 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 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.
Keep Catholicism in Mind
Any visit to Europe will inevitably include some Catholic monument or other. The Duomos 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, wifebeaters, 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 mens tees look any cooler? Not in Europe. Make sure the shirt you are wearing is stylish and has sleeves.
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.