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What I Learned Abroad: Style Tips from Europe


Style Tips from Europe
Photo Credit: Prague, Paris, Madrid

I just spent a semester “studying” abroad in Belgium, which really means traveling to a different European city every weekend. The architecture was incredible, yes, and the food was out of this world, but the clothes — let’s just say, I saw as much art on the streets of Paris as I did inside the walls of the Louvre. Mona Lisa has got some serious competition.

Remember, ladies: Fashion can be bought. Style one must possess. (Props to legendary Vogue editor-in-chief Edna Woolman Chase for the insight.) Europeans have a strong aesthetic sense that pervades their buildings, their art, and yes, their day-to-day style. Here are the highlights of what they taught me.

Go Trendy with Confidence

Jolene Bootie
Jolene Bootie – SHE Boutique

College campuses can be a sea of Uggs, black leggings, and North Face jackets. Resist the temptation to blend in. If you like a trend, wear it, and go all out.

Do you fancy lace-up boots? Don’t just buy a tame pair with discreet laces — get the real deal, and wear them like they were made for you. Just remember to do so with taste and discretion, and always remember the next rule…

Embrace Classics

Banana Republic Classic Trenchcoat
Trenchcoat – Banana Republic

Even though Europeans are on the cutting edge of fashion, they’ll never stray away from the classic pieces that pull outfits together, balance drama, and turn clothing into art.

Some of their favorites include leather jackets, curve-skimming basics, heeled boots, perfectly-tailored trenches, flattering peacoats, and an ever-reliable pair of medium-to-dark wash jeans. These are the things to invest in, because they’ll add class and flavor to any outfit.

It’s a Lifestyle

Style is a Lifestyle
Photo Credit: Flickr

Being stylish isn’t a choice you make in the morning, like whether you want cereal or a bagel for breakfast. Style is a way of life. In Europe, I never wore my sweats out of my room once. Pretty much everybody there looks good, whether they are eight or eighty. It’s not “dressing up,” it’s simply a way of life. And along the same lines, style doesn’t have to be expensive. It’s about how you wear your clothes, not the price tags they came with.

And here’s what it looks like.

Here are some outfits inspired by looks I loved in Europe. When you’re inventing your own, remember that style should be a mix of new and classic, trendy and basic. Don’t be afraid to experiment, and when you’ve got the perfect look, stroll out your door with confidence, and watch the heads turn.

Inspiration 1

European Style

Tights – Debenhams, Sweater – Arden B, Coat – Modcloth, Boots – Charlotte Russe

Inspiration 2

European Style

Scarf – Miss Selfridge, Gloves – Modcloth, Top – Hollister, Jeans – Free People, Coat – titty&Co, Shoes – Miss Selfridge

What do you think?

Have you ever felt really inspired by the street fashion in certain city or country? Are there any fun trends that you’re going to try out with these ideas? I’d love to hear about your own “style guidelines”, too — after all, the beauty of style is that it’s personal and unique.

Posted on on January 21, 2010 / Filed Under: Fashion Tips / Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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46 Responses to “What I Learned Abroad: Style Tips from Europe”

  1. 1
    January 21st, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    This entire post made me so happy, I love how Europeans dress, trendy and put together yet timeless.

  2. 2
    January 21st, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    Thanks for this article, I was wondering when you comes with an article about European fashion. I am from Czech republic and I belive that many of europeans read this blog, and this was what I missed here. Thanks

    (btw- I think that the first inspiration is more Russian, than European… I’ve never seen European girl wears coat like this one…. But maybe I’m wrong ;) )

  3. 3
    January 21st, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    Ha, this post really brought home to me how big the gap is, style wise between europe and america. I’m from england, and these outfits seem so much more obvious and normal and pretty than most things on here. Just on thing about the second outfit – over here, if your wearing hollister, that basically singles you out as a style no-hoper. Apart from that, lovely.

  4. 4
    January 21st, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    What a coincidence: I am from Czech republic too :-D I think you guys overseas really glamorize the “European Style” truth is, the fashion feel differs from country to country and, more importantly, from person to person. Oh, its too too flattering *blushes* But you’re true you can’t see anyone walking in sweats outside (except for running maybe?)

    To add some of our rumors, it is said that French women have the best style, Italian make best shoes (personally I think Austrians and German do a very well job there too), English women have nicest skin and that the Czech girls are the prettiest :-D there’s surely more, but I can’t remember. Any ideas?
    And I would love to hear some of foreign rumors too!
    The Modcloth coat is something similar we can see our grandmothers wear :-) Right Lucy?

  5. 5
    January 21st, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    Great post! I love the second outfit. Hollister is one of my favorite stores and I feel it’s gotten a bad rep. The important thing is to know how to wear brands such as Hollister, A&F, etc while not completely taking on the store’s style that they push. I’m glad you integrated the HCO sweater into that outfit perfectly. Very inspiring!

  6. 6
    January 21st, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    Great fashion blog! I love seeing the European styles.

  7. 7
    January 21st, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    I studied in Rome, so I totally get what you mean about Europeans dressing nicely (never saw a sweatshirt or sweatpants!). You are so right about them not trying to “dress up,” its just part of their lifestyle.

  8. 8
    January 21st, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    Great artical! I am going to Rome in March for vacation. I needed some style tips!
    The girls in my school; their outfits consist of juicy sweats,uggs and vera bradley. BORING!
    European girls know their style.


    why did my grandma have to move from england? i could have born there. ;)

  9. 9
    January 21st, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    and what is the link for the coat and shoes for outfit 2?

  10. 10
    January 21st, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    Super post! I like how you said it’s a way of life, not just style. As a british person, I have to agree. The fact is you look good- end of story.

  11. 11
    January 21st, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    I’m super jealous of European style. I want it sooo badly. I plan on moving to England when I get older. Great Post! :]

  12. 12
    January 21st, 2010 at 11:37 pm

    WONDERFUL post. More please!

  13. 13
    January 22nd, 2010 at 12:55 am

    I really want to move to europe for a year or so after I graduate. I absolutely adore Spain, the people, the fashion, the food, and the lifestyle!

  14. 14
    January 22nd, 2010 at 3:05 am

    I’m from The Netherlands and I would like to say that you American girls don’t realize Europe is not one country. There are different countries and woman dress up differently in each country. There are differences in style between states as well, aren’t there?
    However I would like to say that the outfits you put together are not really exciting to me. They’re just for an ordinary day and not dressed up at all.
    And the reactions of the American girls make me wonder. Do you dress that bad every day? Do you girls wear sweats that often!? Shame on you! It’s just a little efford to put on some jeans…

  15. 15
    January 22nd, 2010 at 3:39 am

    I am so unbelieveably in love with the sweater from outfit one. I must have it. Of course I can’t find it on the Arden B Website. I wanna cry!

    On another note, I’ve always thought of europeans as having impeccable style. I really want to travel to europe one day so I can see it in person!

  16. 16
    January 22nd, 2010 at 6:15 am

    lovely post!!!! I am a European too, I’m from Athens!!!European style is very unique….that’s why many fashion capitals are in Europe (Paris, Milan). Europeans are always elegant….like Chanel said “classy and fabulous”. Take a look at Kate Moss in Parisienne….

  17. 17
    January 22nd, 2010 at 6:54 am

    I completely agree about making style a lifestyle, not just a daily choice. I haven’t worn sweatpants once out of the house this year and it just makes me feel better about myself – the way some people feel great when they eat healthy, that’s how I feel when I dress well. :)

    Personally, New York fashion inspires me the most. It’s so diverse, so trendy, and always mixed with black basics. I love it! It’s so inspiring.

  18. 18
    January 22nd, 2010 at 7:05 am

    I strongly agree with Marisa. Plus I must add, the first coat is a thing no young girl would choose, but certainly something a middle-aged woman can wear.

  19. 19
    January 22nd, 2010 at 7:47 am

    I’m also from Europe ( I’m from Slovenia…it’s a small country between Austria, Italy, Hungary and Croatia, which is quite unknown around the world) and I must say that I like the ideas you put on this site but this one just doesn’t work for me.

    About european style : As said before by girl from Netherlands, it should be considered that each nation has their unique style. My ultimate favorite is french (and key to this one is confidence, elegance and the less is more factor…no bras, no make up, no ironed hair ).
    In my country is all about, wearing things form US, UK, France and Italy….uggs are considered ugly, but ppl wear them because it’s so cold right now (the same thing is with Moncler), a year ago it was all about A&F and Victoria’s secret, now it’s about Burberry. Some people buy cloths in NY, London or Paris, but generally Slovenians love Top shop, H&M, Zara and sales in Italy.

    The general preppy style for European girls would probably be Longchamp bag, burberry trench, ralph lauren polo shirt, skinny jeans and flats (I’ve seen it from Paris to Rome, London to Berlin).
    The rock chick and bohemian style are usually inspired buy english girls (Sienna, Kate Moss, Keira)

    I think the IT things are the same in US and EU…we just wear them differently. You americans maybe try to much or don’t try at all? Here it’s not about perfect make up or ironed hair, but about feeling good in whatever you wear and showing your personality with your cloths.

    keep up with the good work CF =)

  20. 20
    January 22nd, 2010 at 10:27 am

    I always feel very inspired when I go to Paris and see the street style because no matter what I have on I am definately never the best dressed person in the room in that city because everyone’s outfits are just so flawless and contain so much movement. I actually feel really inspired by your second outfit where you mixed a Hollister top with more trendy pieces which is really interesting to me. Most people assume that Hollister and Modcloth and the like are for two completely different people but the Hollister tee looked so natural with the rest of the outfit. I’m definately going to break out my neglected Hollister pieces more now.

  21. 21
    January 22nd, 2010 at 10:50 am

    I’m also from the Netherlands and completely agree with Marisa.
    I’m also seriously wondering why american girls are living in their sweats.
    I never even thought about wearing sweats outside my room. To be honest, I don’t even own a pair of real sweatpants.

  22. 22
    January 22nd, 2010 at 10:55 am

    Thanks everyone for all the interesting comments!

    Just to clarify the meaning of this post, for our European audiences — these are just general concepts I picked up while I was traveling, and they’re not meant to emulate the exact trends of a certain city or country. I definitely saw a lot of variation from country to country, so for this post I tried to pick up some of the dominant aspects that left the biggest impression on me, and present them in a kind of “Euro-American fusion” :)

    But — it’s great to hear from all of you, and especially to learn about a lot of the subtleties that I didn’t notice as a foreigner!

  23. 23
    January 22nd, 2010 at 11:34 am

    Great to see some european style on here! And, yes, it’s true, most people on this side of the big pond would never wear their sweats on the street. Truth to be told, I don’t even own some. But: yes, europe isn’t one single country. I beg to differ! We germans dress so differently to italian girls, or french guys, or czech woman, or spain boys… every country over here has it’s very unique sense of style. And, of course, stereotypes.

    Nevertheless I like to outfits you posted – well, maybe not the green grandma-coat with the fur collar, but hey..

    A funny story about the hollister stuff: the first hollister store opend in Germany a few weeks ago, and people went crazy about the “cool american surfer style”. Everything is way overpriced (compared to the Hollister store where I shopped when I lived in the US – I’m guilty of loving their tees!) and people stand in line for hours. It’s really strange…

  24. 24
    January 22nd, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    The main lesson i learned from going abroad: don’t wear flip-flops in Paris…I think it’s frowned upon. You will most definitely look like a tourist.

  25. 25
    January 22nd, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    hiya,i’m from the UK.I don’t want to sound really rude,but do americans wear sweatpants out like all the time?no-one here wears them except for going to the gym,maybe thats cause you have nicer sweatpants?we seem to only have hideous ones here.
    I think Europeans are slightly more stylish than americans but not as much as a lot of people make out.I love american style.I think its just because we both like each others style because it seems different to ours.The outfits shown don’t seem very interesting or imaginative to me as its the sort of thing I’d expect people to wear but when i read other posts on this website it really inspires me to try new things.
    I loved visiting America a couple of months ago and seeing all the shops i read about here and in teen vogue,they were good but I think I really like the edgier style we have here.I think we should just learn from each other to be the most stylish we can be (:

  26. 26
    January 22nd, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    I also have to agree with you saying that looking nice is just part of life rather than an effort to dress up.You are definetly discriminated against in the UK,at least,if you aren’t well dressed.

  27. 27
    January 22nd, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    Defitely agree with this, especially on the sweats thing – wearing them for anything else other than staying at home or exercising is a crime here in Madrid. And we do actually wear Uggs here, but we try to make the look less sloppy with nice jeans/skirts, scarves, leather jackets, etc.

    I also always make an effort to look good when going out with friends – I do it most of the time for school as well, but not as often. There’s something to be said about looking put together and great that makes you feel great and puts you in a good mood :)

  28. 28
    January 22nd, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    Whilst I think it’s great that you have done an article on European style, and I think the actual content of the article is great, I don’t think that transmitted into the outfits you created.

    I love the boots from outfit one but don’t particularly like the rest of the outfit. Perhaps black leggings instead of lacy tights? The coat as someone said in an earlier coat is something a much older woman would wear in Europe.

    Accessories are big in Europe (well particularly in the UK – where I am from) so perhaps that could have been emphasised a little bit more.

    I do have to say that Hollister and A&F are very popular here in the UK. I own some of their stuff myself (the assistants in the stores have to say generic American sayings) and think it’s great as long as you don’t treat it as your go to for everyday clothes. I agree with all the above european posts that no one wears trackie bottoms out.

    Anyways, I’m an avid reader of CollegeFashion! A small suggestion is that I’ve noticed many of the outfits created by contributors are at times 80% Forever 21. Whilst I love their clothes (wish there were some stores in the UK) it would be nice to see some other stores included in outfits!

  29. 29
    January 22nd, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    like the other readers i thought that the content of the article was great, the clothes which you showed- not so much. as an american i think the appeal of european fashion is because although we may wear some of the same clothes we wear them differently, and its interesting to look at new ways to wear something. i also have to agree with many of the other readers comments, european fashion shouldn’t be lumped together as one catagory, since the people of each country each have their own personal style.

  30. 30
    January 22nd, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    I can’t wait for my senior trip to London. I plan to do some major shopping damage and leave my Uggs, Northface & leggings at home.

  31. 31
    January 22nd, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    I’m from Europe too and I must say that sweatpants thing is very alive,even here. Well at least in my city, that is like medium sized. It’s is all about having as thigh sweatpants so everybody can see line that divides your ass and that is, and yikes :S
    But when I go somewhere else in my own country, for example Zagreb, I see that European style that everybody is talking about.Btw.the country is Croatia. :D

  32. 32
    January 23rd, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    Those outfits are cuuuuute!

  33. 33
    January 23rd, 2010 at 11:15 pm

    I really like these outfits, not because they seem unusual but because they seem like something I would actually wear. And I am not from any European country.

    Also, dear Europeans: Don’t give up hope yet. Most American girls wear jeans way too much, but most people don’t really wear sweats that often. I, for one, don’t even own any sweatpants or tracksuits, and, if I did, I certainly would only wear them around the dorm or the gym.

  34. 34
    January 24th, 2010 at 7:36 am

    I’m from Belgium, and I must say that the outfits shown in this post really aren’t very exciting…Here in Belgium, EVERYONE wears those exact clothes, just differing in colors…It would be far more interesting to do your own thing and not to blend in. I’m not saying you should wear sweatpants, but be stylish in your own way, you’ll be appreciated for that. It’s boring if everyone wears the same.

  35. 35
    January 24th, 2010 at 10:51 am

    I’m from England and from the times I have visited different countries in Europe, the French seem to have the best style.

    I love though, how in America they love the European style and in the UK after watching things like gossip girl and 90210 there are loads of articles about getting the american style and their clothes etc!

  36. 36
    January 24th, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    Hey guys, I’m from Germany and I gotta say, you Americans sure have high expectations when it comes to European fashion… ;-)
    To be honest, in the City I live 90% of the oh-so-fashionable European girls tend to dress in H&M-uniforms, with the occasional pop of Zara of Mango.
    Then again, I guess Germany isn’t exactly the world’s fashion capital, and people in France or particularly in southern Europe tend to prefer much dressier clothes. Just thoght I should give you a warning, if you ever happen to come here on your study-abroad-Europe-marathons ;-)
    Something you might be able to learn from European girls though is to:
    1. Embrace your natural hair structure (what’s up with you guys flat ironing/ curling/waving your hair all the time??)
    2. Cut back on the makeup (seriously, if I see 15 year olds walking their high school corridors with more make up on then I’ve ever owned in my life, it creeps me out…)

    Apart form that, and the occasional pair of pajama pants in public (wtf?), I think you guys are pretty fabulous! So just be proud of your style, I think you’re doing just fine =)

  37. 37
    January 28th, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    I like your post and you really got it right about the European style and fashion. When I came to America and saw so many people that can not match clothes or don’t care about how they look – that’s when I started a fashion blog. Didn’t think about it at all when I was living in Europe :) So, great post and I am glad you saw that side of the world :)

  38. 38
    January 30th, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    Thanks so much for this article! I really love both looks. Europeans just have a style that I would love to emulate. Is there any way that you could put together more European looks?

  39. 39
    February 4th, 2010 at 10:12 pm

    I really liked this article! I just arrived to France and I´ll be studying here for a year and a half… it´s true that french girls really know how to look all chic and polished… but as some of you might said, I also think it is because they are more relaxed, no so-much make up and elaborated hairstyle… they live fashion and are always in style without even notice it… très chic!

  40. 40
    April 27th, 2010 at 7:54 am

    I’m studying in Vienna, Austria. And the style really differs from major to major. There are clichés for every major and the are generally also true for majority of the students in that subject.
    Law students and Business students tend to dress very similarly, except the law students love their brands a lot more. Typically the girls from the business university have skinny jeans, long cardigans, Ray-Bans and their Longchamp bags. The Biology students tend to be very alternative – loose clothing, a bit hippy like, dread locks are very common, oranges and purples and so.
    So it really depends on what you’re studying.

  41. 41
    August 12th, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    Oooh I love that coat in the first Inspiration. Stunning!

  42. 42
    March 9th, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    I agree with some of your comments about the sweatpants. A no-no. I am from Canada, and its scary to see what some girls wear outside. I know Yoga pants are better than sweats, but still, dress up a bit! Same with Hoodies … its so boring.
    I do own a pair of Yoga/sweatpants, but I NEVER wear them outside of my home.
    Good article!
    There are different styles in every country, but we should try and dress up to look our best!

  43. 43
    August 11th, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    It’s a bit hard to be fashionable when you live in the South and it feels like 103 outside (39 celsius for our European friends). Even in the winter, it’s not pratical to wear trench coats or even heavy sweaters.

  44. 44
    May 7th, 2012 at 1:02 am

    I am american and i never wear sweats unless i go for a quick run.
    i am planning on doing study abroad in Eurpe but i dont know which country yet.
    and yes i do know europe isn’t one country.

  45. 45
    November 16th, 2012 at 9:47 am

    Hi everybody! The girl who wrote this article pretty much nailed it. Here in my country in southern europe, everybody dresses this kind of clothes. It’s just like the article says, we don’t really think about it. I think it’s really inerent to europe girls to dress really nice! Even though, i love different styles from around the world and it would be great to see posts about different styles from different countries ;)

  46. 46
    March 16th, 2013 at 5:50 am

    I agree with the author of the blog.She has exposed the commun in the continent, of course all the people dont’ wear the same

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