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What Do I Wear There? Study Abroad- Answering Your Questions


What to wear on study abroad

I was so excited to see all of your responses on my first study abroad post! The number of comments was so great that I decided to change up my approach a little bit for the rest of the articles. While I still want to do specific posts on exact locations, I figured I would take this time first to clear up some of the questions and comments from last week’s introductory article.

And be sure to read all the way to the end of this article for a chance to be featured in one of the future “What Do I Wear There? Study Abroad…” posts!

1. Personal Style Abroad

Reader Milana commented last week, asking:

“Why not bring your personal style abroad? Especially here in Europe we appreciate the fact that people are different. Be fabulous and be yourself anywhere you go. With the Internet it is not hard to figure out the temperature of the country you’re going to, so pack your style and have an awesome stay!”

And she is absolutely correct! I did not mean to give the impression that you should sacrifice your personal style when you go abroad. What I’m really aiming to do is give you some idea of what the current trends are in these different areas, as well as the expectations you can have for the climate there. As Debbie said,

“I’m all for taking your own style with you, but it can get a little uncomfortable sometimes if it doesn’t mesh with the country you’re living in!”

However, I want to thank Milana for pointing this out and reinforce that you should definitely bring your personal style with you wherever you go! Even if you don’t have a lot of space to pack all of your favorites, you can certainly express yourself through jewelry and accessories (which I will focus more on in following articles).

2. Respect the Culture

Lianne also made an important point in last week’s comments, saying:

“Although this is a very good idea for a series of posts, I do think the most important piece of advice anyone could take with them while traveling abroad is missing and that is to consider the cultural standards of the area. I love my summer skirts, but they’re not acceptable in a number of nations by cultural practice alone and it’s important to recognize and respect that.”

This is another great point. Since I had not yet pinpointed which locales I was covering, I had not yet mentioned this, but it is definitely important to heed the standards of appropriate dressing when you go abroad. As Lalalina suggested in the comments,

“For you girls going to Muslim countries, it is really important that you see if your program can provide you with a past participant to talk to, they will let you know if you need to wear a hijab or head scarf. Morocco is less conservative, but you SHOULD NOT wear any tank tops (without something on top) or cap sleeve shirts, and nothing low cut. You should stick with pants and longer skirts. And in terms of being stylish there, I looked a lot to the local girls, they knew how to cover up and be cute.”

The idea of talking to people who had already been there is great! You’ll hear about what they found to be appropriate and what their experience has taught them about the style there. It’s invaluable knowledge.

I also wanted to note that as Katharin said, even if you are going to a place like London or Paris that has less cultural restrictions on style, it is important to bring along some more conservative clothing if you plan on visiting any churches or going sightseeing in any other places of worship.

3. Check the Weather

CF reader Tamara pointed out how crazy it would be to try to literally pack for all weather, saying,

“About the post, I think it’s good, but I also feel no one should make a suitcase for “any” weather, that’s just impossible. You should check the weather on the internet before picking up your clothes: even if you’re staying away more than one season, I live in Argentina and I know our winters might feel like Canadian springs (for example), for example, so you wouldn’t need a super warm jacket or super warm boots.”

Now, I admit that I may be a little bit biased in what I suggested for basics (considering how excited I am for London!), as I know that I am going to have to deal with colder, rainier weather. However, it is super important that you check the weather for where you are going!

Try to see if you can find the average temperatures for the month you are arriving and the month you are departing so that you can figure out the range. Also, see if you can figure out how rainy/humid/dry it is, which is good to know not just for packing clothing but also for packing beauty supplies.

Remember: just because the season is still labeled “winter” does not mean it is the winter you are used to!

4. Study Abroad Inspiration

In my last post, I suggested looking for style blogs from locals in the area you are going to. However, I understand that finding a good blog for fashion inspiration can be tough to do! Therefore, I suggest going to

Lookbook is an amazing style site in which members submit pictures of the creative outfits they donned that day. The best part is that LookBook members are literally from all over the world, so they are perfect examples of fashion from abroad! If you click the “search” button, a list will appear along the right side of the page with search criteria, including the option to sort by country.

Here are just some of the inspiring looks I found after doing a quick search!

lookbook-collage(Clockwise from top left: Looks from Brussells, England, Netherlands, Spain, France, China)

Star style blogger Susie Bubble also has a list of blogs along the left-side column of her page organized by locales that are worth clicking through to see style from all over!

5. Expert Advice

Lalalina kindly requested in the comments that I get some expert opinions from seasoned study abroad-ers in these articles, noting,

“Colleen I mean you no disrespect, but all of you with specific location questions should really consult someone who has been where you are going. They can give you the best advice on the fashion in those places.”

I completely agree! I was planning on asking some of my upperclassmen friends who traveled for advice, but then I saw all of the great comments from you guys who live outside of the United States and/or have previously studied abroad. So many of you were so helpful, detailed, and thorough that I thought I would first turn to you guys for advice!

So if you have studied abroad or are currently living outside the US and would like to share some fashion/packing tips with us, e-mail them to me at whatdoiwearthere AT gmail DOT com.

Tips about what is appropriate and/or trendy in the local you visited are definitely appreciated. If you would like to send some street style pictures, that would be great as well! Send over any info you think is important for a student planning on studying abroad to know. I will credit you in the post if the site you write to me about makes it onto CF!

What Do You Think?

Did this article help clear up any confusion from the last one? Is there anything still missing you would like to see?

Also, I will still be tallying comments to see which study abroad sites are most popular for the specialized posts for the next couple of days, so if you did not comment yet, go ahead and share your destination here!

Posted on on November 20, 2009 / Filed Under: Fashion Tips / Tags: , , , , ,

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17 Responses to “What Do I Wear There? Study Abroad- Answering Your Questions”

  1. 1
    November 20th, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    I might be going to India for June/July next year, and the modesty requirements are a bit stricter than what I’m used to. No shoulders, no backs, nothing low cut, no light coloured tops, and preferably long skirts as opposed to pants. If you want to suggest outfits that fit those criteria (and won’t kill me in 30 C temperatures), I’d be indebted to you forever, because I am STUCK.

  2. 2
    November 20th, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    I don’t plan on studying abroad for a while, but I do have to commend this article: you are really the first poster to have really considered her readers, and done it with extreme thoughtfulness – thank you! I will keep track of your posts more often from now on.

  3. 3
    November 20th, 2009 at 5:20 pm


    I moved to France from the US five years ago and wrote a post this summer on how to dress like the French – or at least not like an American in France. It may be of interest to some of you headed this way.

    Enjoy your study abroad experiences!

  4. 4
    November 20th, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    @ Emily:

    Just a suggestion: Why don’t you try long flowy gyspy skirts? They’re really airy, and aren’t a pain to wash! :)

  5. 5
    November 21st, 2009 at 2:10 am

    Scotland would be amazing — I’m studying in St. Andrews, but I know a lot of people also going to Edinburgh and Sterling. So if you could give some tips for that, I know I’d read it like a Bible!

  6. 6
    November 21st, 2009 at 6:23 am

    Love the fact that you’re answering the readers’ questions! Great post and keep up the good work, Colleen!


  7. 7
    November 21st, 2009 at 10:51 am

    just want to mention that in addition to looking at a country’s weather, don’t forget to look up the specific region as well. some countries have vastly different weather (& therefore fashion) depending on region, just like the US – china comes to mind. beijing is very hot & dusty in the summer & very dusty in spring. hong kong is extremely muggy in the spring & summer. so dress accordingly & always ask someone from the area or has been there & in the season(s) when you are going.

  8. 8
    November 21st, 2009 at 11:58 am

    Great post! I like to see that you’re so open to suggestions and questions.

    I could give some advice about South America, for any of you girls coming to study here. I’ve been in NY, London and Paris, and I`ve notices (also reading CF) that girls in those places dress up much more for every day than we Southamericans do, and also wear much more make-up. It also depends on the school: here we have private schools and public schools, and “dress code” (implicit) in private schools is always somewhat more expensive and dressy.

    Another thing: in South America, the bigger cities (were the best and biggest schools are) are usually located in warm and specially humid weathers. Anti-frizz here is a must, even for us straight haired girls, and so are anti grease skin products (anti acne, black dots, visible pores, etc).

  9. 9
    November 21st, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    @emily…in india the temperature might get a little too hot sometimes, especially during june/july…the best option would be tunics or cotton tops…they let you breathe and are amazingly comfortable as well. I would also like to warn you to avoid wearing shorts or shorter skirts even though they seem heaven during summers.

  10. 10
    November 21st, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    Here is my request for those of you that are going to study abroad: check out some fashion blogs from the country that you are going to!

    In comments of the resent post, someone was going to Finland. So, my advice for anyone going to Scandinavia: pack a lot of warm clothes! It can be really freezing over here. Here are two very different type of Finnish fashion blogs, and the first one also has translations to english:

    So there you might get some tips for what to wear in Scandinavia! And have a great time over here!

  11. 11
    November 21st, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    For those going to Muslim countries and are concerned about making creative style choices with head coverings or modest clothing, there are a couple blogs you can check out for inspiration. These ladies mostly live in the US or UK, so there might still be cultural differences, but for basic covering up ideas, they’re helpful:

    We Love Hijab
    Site with video tutorials of various hijab styles, features on hijab-friendly clothing items, etc.

    Muslim Style Queen aka Islamic Fashion
    This blog consists entirely of outfit posts. Some of the items are expensive, some are not. This is a great site to get ideas from – just looking at the outfits, you can figure out what are the basic pieces for covering up (long skirts, maxi dresses, cardigans/jackets, etc.) but also still look cute. **For those of you who will be in a Muslim country during warmer months, check out the archived posts for summer months (e.g. June, July, August).**

    Hijabs High
    I’ve heard this site referred to as “the Muslim Sartorialist”. It’s still pretty new, but you might find something that piques your interest there.

  12. 12
    November 22nd, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    Although this is totally irrelevant to the topic of this post, you guys should do a post on outfits for family thanksgiving dinner. Finding something cute and that your grandmother would completely approve of can sometimes be hard.

  13. 13
    December 2nd, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    @Emily: I’m heading to India the same time as you too!
    I hear that people in India are still pretty conservative fashion-wise even in the big cities, because you never know who you’re going to meet. I suppose the usual sexy ensembles will fly in the evenings at clubs frequented by Western expatriates, but long-sleeved shirts and skirts are the best bet. (From those who came back from there)

    Also, look up the ‘salwar kameez’, a traditional Indian garb for females. You may be able to pick a few quirky and bejewelled ones off the markets when you arrive in India or imported ones (more expensive) in the ethnic enclaves near your city.

    Good luck..I’m gonna get myself a couple salwar kameez and try to “merge” with the local girls. :p

  14. 14
    December 15th, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    @emily –
    where in india are u commin”?
    cause if u commin to mumbai no problem bout dressin..evry1 here wear evrything frm shorts to skirts to tank tops et al..i wud rathr suggest, u come here and shop cause thrs plenty to choose frm & value for ur money :)

  15. 15
    July 16th, 2012 at 2:58 am

    In certain parts in certain countries in Europe there are some clothing restrictions. For example, in the Vatican City, women can’t wear shirts with sleeves above the elbow or bottoms above the knee.

  16. 16
    August 26th, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    Hi Emily!
    My family is from Bangalore, India, and I would say you can get away with most things as far as tops go. Shorter skirts/dresses are usually fine too. I haven’t seen women wearing shorts all that much though, so I would steer clear of those. If you’re going somewhere more rural, gypsy skirts are a fantastic idea. They’re airy and still conservative. You will likely be able to wear jeans with short sleeved tops even in a rural area. I would avoid tank tops in anywhere rural though.

  17. 17
    September 6th, 2014 at 6:59 am

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