British vs. American Style – Observations from a British Girl Abroad

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A few months ago, I left the University of Birmingham (in England) behind to spend a semester studying abroad in Minnesota, USA.

As you can imagine, studying abroad in America has given me a bit of culture shock. But it’s also been an eye-opening experience.

Over the past few months, I’ve spent some time soaking up American fashion and observing how it differs from what we wear in England. And today, I want to share what I’ve learned with you.

Before I get started, I want to point a few things out.

First, while I have done lots of research, most of the information is based on my own experiences.

Second, most of the research I came across on this subject was very, very stereotypical and because of that, parts of this post may follow suit.

Finally, keep in mind that I am studying abroad in a northern Minnesota city. While I love it here, I know it is not the fashion capital of the world. I know fashion differs from state to state, and I’m sure what I see here in Minnesota is a world away from what I’d see in New York.

So, to sum it up, I know there are many, many exceptions to these ideas, and this article is not meant to suggest that everyone in either country dresses the same way. I’m not trying to lump people into categories – my aim is simply to lay out the overarching style themes I have noticed while studying abroad here in the US.

Emma Watson hit the nail on the head when she said, of British Style:

“It’s so funny because now that I’m in America, I’m more able to define it. Before I didn’t have an awareness of another style.”

This was precisely how I felt when coming to the US.

I’d heard that our high street was famous around the world, but as I would shop there on an almost weekly basis, I had no idea that it was so special.

I’d heard of fashion elsewhere was different and we were much more eclectic and unexpected in England. But I didn’t realize how different fashion would be until I got to the US.

British Style Basics

British fashion has always been acclaimed for its “fearlessness” and Brits are famed for their individual sense of style. We’re often described as having a “thrown-on” feel to what we wear. We mix prints, patterns and styles and many girls pull this off effortlessly.

In my experience, the key to British style is never looking too polished. The festival look is popular year-round – think bed-head hair and vintage-style pieces. Also, as Emma Watson said in that same interview, we’re governed by the weather in this country. We wear our skirts and shorts with black opaque tights, and flip flops are replaced with plimsolls. Colleen was definitely right when she said British style is “girly but definitely has an edge to it”. This is how I would categorize British style, and my own personal style, too.

British Style Key Pieces

British style basics

floral dress/striped top/plimsolls/trench/leather jacket/blazer/ shorts/tights/pearls/ boots/rain boots/scarf

I didn’t realize until after I’d made this collage, but you could easily mix and match nearly all the items here. The floral dress could be worn with the trench or the blazer or the leather jacket – florals and leather are a popular combination in England. The dress could be worn with tights and boots or tights and plimsolls – or even the rain boots.

If you want more info on British fashion staples, make sure you check out this list of 50 Things Every British Girl Should Own. The tea dress is a style staple – even better if it’s vintage!

British Style Icons

Carey Mulligan

Carey mulligan attends the premiere of

Photo: Pacific Coast News

Recently voted the best dressed woman of 2010 by Harper’s Bazaar, British actress Carey Mulligan mixes classic ’50s chic with modern designer pieces. And her style is all her own – she famously turned down Anna Wintour’s advice to wear a short dress to the Oscars. Carey’s style is tailored, yet ladylike, and her daytime style is simple but eclectic.

Alexa Chung

Alexa chung on the red carpet prior to the elle style awards in london

Photo: Pacific Coast News

Alexa exemplifies the archetypal British style – eccentric, fun and edgy. She mixes her girly pieces with tough leather jackets and always looks utterly effortless. Her festival-chic style really demonstrates the just-threw-this-on side of British style.

Kate Moss

The always stylish kate moss treats herself to some retail therapy during paris fashion week

Photo: Pacific Coast News

And what list of stylish Brits would be complete without Kate Moss? The woman who started the skinny jeans and ballet flats trend is always effortlessly stylish, and yet her model-off-duty look is also completely wearable. She is a huge fan of layers, as well as mixing textures and prints.

British Style Shops

In my experience, the most popular stores in England include, of course, the ultra-famous Topshop. But if you’re shopping in England, don’t forget to check out Miss SelfridgeRiver Island and All Saints, plus Primark and New Look for on-trend bargains.

British Style in 5 Steps

1. Layer, layer, layer.
Invest in a few great jackets- especially a leather one and a blazer. Scarves are always a great accessory for keeping you warm as well as stylish. Also, wear tights with everything!

2. Always be prepared for rain!
It rains a lot in England, so if you’re spending some time there, always pack a cute umbrella and make sure your shoes are waterproof!

3. Add edgy pieces to a feminine look.
Wear leather boots with a lace dress, a studded bracelet with a prom dress or a leather jacket over your tea dress. Even after all these years, British Style still has an element of punk left in it.

4. Never look too “done.”
Keep your hair messy or your eye makeup slightly smudgy to get a real festival feel. Don’t worry if you have a run in your tights- wear them anyway! Mix and match unexpected patterns and textures for a “I just threw this on” look.

5. Be brave and have fun!
My favorite thing about British style is that we’re not afraid to have fun with fashion. So wear bright tights instead of black, or pair two loud-print pieces together instead of keeping one simple. Incorporate catwalk trends into your everyday look, and don’t be afraid to rock outlandish items with confidence.

American Style Basics

From what I’ve gathered in my time here, American style is much more classic and much less trend-focused than British style is. The style here is much more casual, comfort-focused, and laid back.

To me, American girls just seem to wear simple pieces with impeccable style. A simple black tank or white t-shirt is always made to look much more interesting with the addition of accessories. Plus, American girls (and guys!) really know how to rock a pair of jeans!

American Style Key Pieces

American style basics

hoodie/plaid shirt/white shirt/blue tank/jeans/shorts/flip flops/cowboy boots/sneakers/tshirt

First and foremost, I have to talk about denim! Americans have a way of wearing jeans so they don’t look like a last resort; they look effortless and casual. I especially love the way American girls dress up jeans with heels and a nice top for a night out!

Above, I chose pieces inspired by clothes I saw on campus here. All the pieces I chose are incredibly versatile and simple, but also cute and classic. Denim shorts seem to be a staple over here in the summer, and of course, the denim jacket is, too. I love that you can do double-denim in a completely cool way, without looking too try-hard! Cowboy boots had to be included, too – we Brits can never seem to wear them without looking like we’re trying to be ironic!

American Style Icons

Jennifer Aniston

Jennifer aniston in good spirits after appearing on the popular breakfast show

Photo: Pacific Coast News

Jen’s style is so timeless – it’s simple, yet elegant, and feminine without being too girly. She always looks perfectly polished, whether she is at a premiere or walking her dog. She also always wears classic pieces and chooses dresses that show off her figure, without being too revealing.

Whitney Port

Whitney Port

credit

We all love Whitney’s style because she takes risks without trying too hard. Her look is fun but sophisticated. She loves to mix prints but still has that cool Californian laid-back look, and she can rock a pair of short shorts like none other! Of course, she likes to follow trends, but she knows what suits her and has fun with it.

Katherine Hepburn

Katharine Hepburn

Photo by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio (work for hire) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

You College Fashion regulars will know we all love Katharine Hepburn’s style. Her look is a mix of old Hollywood glamour and never-outdated menswear-inspired style. She is the epitome of taking something simple, like a plain white button down, and making it look amazing.

Katie Holmes

Katie holmes looks like a woman on a mission as she exits a building in nyc

Photo: Pacific Coast News

For me, Katie is the epitome of the all-American girl. She doesn’t try to be a style icon, but she makes a fantastic statement in everything she wears. She rocks a casual look better than nearly anyone else! Her style has definitely evolved from awkward teen to Hollywood royalty.

American Style Shops

American Eagle, Forever 21, Urban Outfitters, Target

American Style in 5 Steps

1. Keep it classic.
Go for simple pieces but make them your own. We have two great posts here and here on wearing a simple plain white tee in unexpected ways. Simple pieces do not have to be boring!

2. Invest in key pieces.
I wrote a piece on the twenty modern classics every girl should own (part one and part two) and I think these pieces are essential to having an easy-to-navigate wardrobe for any occasion. These pieces are the ones you can easily mix and match to create something new and fun, without having to constantly shop. This simplicity is definitely a big aspect of American fashion.

3. Don’t follow every trend.
One thing I love about American style is that everyone seems to be so comfortable in their own style – they know exactly what suits them and how to wear it well. To me, American style is all about finding out what suits you and looking good in it, instead of always being swayed by the catwalks. Of course, experiment with trends, but stay true to yourself and your style.

4. Think simple, laid back, and cute.
Americans get a lot of flack from Europeans about their style being “boring,” but I love its comfortable and effortless simplicity. It’s more about style than fashion here in the US. In America, it’s not so much about what you wear, it’s about the way you wear it.

5. Think (and shop) outside of the box.
The local mall here in Minnesota is an uninspiring array of preppy and plaid, so I love to see girls on campus who dress outside of this. One of the first posts I ever read here at College Fashion was this one, and I also think this one is fab for finding your own style. I have found it’s easy to shop in the same places as everyone else, but I have also found there are amazing items available online in stores you might not have nearby (for instance, Forever 21). So if you find all the stores nearby are too “American” in style, try new places!!

Your thoughts?

What do you think? Are you a British girl loving American style, too? Are the majority of your style influences a different nationality to you? What fashion experiences have you had in other countries? I’d love to hear what you think!

91 thoughts on “British vs. American Style – Observations from a British Girl Abroad”

  1. This was very interesting to read. It’s nice to know that not all Europeans think we’re slobs! I liked your point about how Americans don’t focus on the runways as much, because I certainly don’t. Runway fashion is often impractical, and it’s not very expressive to copy runway looks. Since you’re only in Minnesota you don’t get to experience the diversity of fashion, because different regions in the US have different feels. Nevertheless great post!

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  2. I think the pieces you chose are definitely a very Midwest look. I went to school in Chicago last year, and that was the uniform! You’re right though, I’m from around NYC and the style is very different there. If you ever visit anywhere else in the US, I’d love to see your impression of that area’s style!

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  3. very interesting! I think the American look you pinned down is very college-girl, in its way–college campuses in general tend to be pretty casual places! but I agree on the basic differences between the styles. I noticed this when I studied abroad in Europe.

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  4. Thanks for this, I’m heading off to study in Pennsylvania in January from my University in England and one of the main things I’ve been worrying about is obviously what to pack. I’m glad to see my style is already very American and casual, whereas I always feel underdressed in jeans and a T-shirt and struggle to stay constantly on trend here in England I feel my style would be much more suited to America now.

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  5. I’m from Iowa, and I would say that you’re much more likely to find girls here wearing what you had in the collage for England, rather than what you had posted for the US. Many people in small towns do dress like what you’ve seen in Minnesota, but anyone in a real city has more options (like Forever21). There is a HUGE variety of fashion in the US. And I would say that the posts on CF are a great representation of what we do wear here. Great post though!

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  6. Wow, I love this article! I live in the US and I am surprised to see how similar I dress to the British, haha. Which is relieving for me because I will be studying in London next semester and I did not want to stick out like a sore thumb! Thanks for this article!

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  7. AMAZING POST! Although, depending on the place you go in the US, the style is very different. I went to an artsy high school so we definitely tended more to the girly punk and alternative/grunge than plaid abercrombie shirts (although there were lots of those around too). Loved all of the british looks and the ensemble you put together! I’m looking forward to reading your posts!

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  8. Eh, I’m up in Boston, and that’s basically the staple, good jeans and well fitted T’s which you can dress up or down depending on the occasion, what’s nice about it is that its very body conscious in some ways…its all about how style and fit work for you and your body.

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  9. This was awesome! And the denim point is SO true, Americans practically live in jeans. Minnosotian (is that would you’d say..) style seems to be a lot more country-western. Everyone where I’m at in Florida is EXTREMELY bohemian. Lots of little braids, dip-dye, flowy skirts. 🙂

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  10. All I can say it was a great eye opener to see across the pond fashion I love Kate Moss she always has this boho chic and always so stylish even in the rain looking forward to see more of your post

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  11. Dude, I’m in Minnesota right now! Wondering if you were at my college…lol anyways i dont think so coz my school is really in the middle of no where… if it’s not in the middle of some corn fields…lol I was very shock to see some girls in my school wear PJ pants to class…and most ppl here wear sweat pants and sweatshirt ALL YEAR LONG… oh dont even get me started to complain… whenever I and/or my friends dress as NORMAL, ppl will think we dress up too much and staring at us/asking why we dress up lol And I had to put away all my high heals coz ppl think im crazy wearing them to class… sigh* …

    but it’s just my school. As soon as you get away from it… i mean even ppl in the Twin Cities dress better and the Cities are not big cities.

    Don’t get me wrong I LOVE my school! Just when it comes to fashion… we need some serious improvement….lol

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  12. I think the reason everyone on here seems to dress more “British” is because we’re the kind of girls who read fashion blogs and are more interested in fashion than the majority of the US population.

    Even though I’m Canadian, our style is very similar to American style, which is why I liked this article. I was in Europe this summer and I noticed that absolutely everyone seems to live in heels and seems so runway all the time. I loved it! Then I come home and go back to my government job, only to see women wearing runners for the commute to and from work.

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  13. This was so interesting to read! I think it would be a great opportunity to write articles focusing on different countries’ styles (Spain, France, Japan, Mexico, etc.) or even regions of the U.S. (South, Midwest, West, New England etc.).

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  14. Thank you for all the positive feedback guys!! I was really nervous about this post!!]
    Vivian- I’m at UMD in Duluth :]]]
    Do any of you have any idea for future posts you’d like to see on the English Girl in America theme? I’d love to write more like this :]]]

    Charlotte xxx

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  15. Charlotte!

    I loved this post!! Small world- I studied at the University of Birmingham in 08-09 and I now go to school at the University of Minnesota. Small world!

    It was really interesting to read your descriptions of the two different styles. I noticed my own style changed significantly during my year in England. And then it went right back to American when I got back. I’m sure you’re experiencing the same thing 🙂

    Allie

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  16. Lol! I live in the Southern California Desert and the Minnesota fashion is spot on, for us, too 😀 We’re pretty laid back. Jeans, hoodies and flip flops (or sneakers) are our fashion basics. I agree that here in the US it’s more about style rather than fashion. I seriously don’t know *anyone* who watches fashion shows or knows what the current trends are. Everyone I know say they just go to the mall and shop for what they like. Since I live in the country, and we only got one small mall, we tend to dress really alike. To us “fashionable” is Forever 21, lol. Humph, the British Fashion looks kinda city-like to me. Like stuff I saw people wear on my trip to San Francisco (with the exception of the dress).

    I have always wanted to travel to England. I really enjoyed this post and found it very interesting. I would definitely like to see more great posts comparing US/UK fashions! 🙂

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  17. This post made me want to travel to England! (: In my opinion, I favor the style there rather then what we have here in the US. And of course, who doesn’t love Emma Watson? 🙂 I thought this was a well-written post, and I DEFINETLY think you should continue a series similiar to this, but focusing on perhaps different countries & regions!

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  18. I looooved this blog like u have no idea! It is probably my favorite so far. I’m also abroad in America, so i see the style differences, im not from europe though hah im from south america and there is and our style probably also needs an article to explain! But anyways, awesome post!

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  19. Annie- we totally do have a Topshop in the US! One opened up here in NY not too long ago and I think they’re hoping to open up another one somewhere else soon. The one in NY is huge- 4 floors and a giant shoe section.

    This was a fantastic read- I loved hearing about another country’s perspectives on our style. Though, like someone else pointed out, I feel like the American style shown is pretty specific to the Midwest. Big city style in America is.. interesting. I’m not even sure how to define the style in New York lol. I wouldn’t call it British exactly but it’s definitely a far stretch from Hollister/Abercrombie. I wish Charlotte would just visit and describe it for us! =)

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  20. Jennifer Aniston, a style icon? Huh? But, the outfit’s you talked about fit high school girls more than college girls. (Washington State). Pretty much, in HS, hoodies, sneakers, flipflops.

    But, in college, things start to change. Especially on the weekends. Lol.

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  21. I am live in connecticut and i definitely agree that americans dress like this. Everyone in my high school does. I love British style though! I want to go to London so badly!!! Love Kate Moss as well.

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  22. I prefer the British style than the American style since it is really funky rather than the casual pieces because I like to stand out even though I am an American in the United States. I love Kate Moss:)

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  23. I live in Florida and I can definitely say that this is pretty spot on for the way girls dress around here! This was a very interesting article to read.

    I would really love to see an article on how British boys dress compared to guys in America 🙂

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  24. Kathleen totally hit the nail on the head:

    “I think the reason everyone on here seems to dress more “British” is because we’re the kind of girls who read fashion blogs and are more interested in fashion than the majority of the US population.”

    I doubt any one of you can honestly say that the majority of the population of females on your campus, with maybe the exception of NY, do dress like the author of this post summarized. It was completely dead on. Great job! That is 100% the Average American Girl wardrobe.

    Great post, extremely interesting, would love to see more!

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  25. So true…though funny enough I am still a bit mystified as to what city/country/style I dress like. I’m very girly, classy, lots of dresses and tights and heels, quirky-vintage and colorful but never punk/edgy – much softer than that. And how you found a way to actually admire typical, plain American collegiate style, I the detail-oriented will never know, but kudos to you.

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  26. I’m Canadian and I find that most people’s styles that I’ve observed (and my own) seems to be a blend of British and American style, similar to how our humour is similar to both (some say we have a British sense of humour but still appreciate American humour). It probably has something to do with the weather though, perhaps it’s that in the colder regions, people layer and layer and it becomes a sort of style with the people.

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  27. Funny, the way you set this up I expected to be offended (as an American). Totally didn’t happen. Though I don’t really fall into the American fashion category, I’d say you provided and accurate portrayal of average American fashions.

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  28. Hmmm. While I loved your take on both styles, I feel like the American essential samples you chose is a bit of a misrepresentation. That is very much the kind of clothing the girls wore in high school and very similar to university campus style. Any ladies who have matured their style (more city colleges) really straddle closely to the European staples with still an American casual attitude.

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  29. I go to college in South Florida,but I’m originally from Brazil. What you see in the school where you are is pretty much what I see here. I rarely see someone in my school dressed like the girls from “the look on campus” column. I think the way they dress around here is comfortable, but I prefer to dress up a little bit more. Actually, when I went to college in the Brazilian northeast, most girls were wearing jeans (pants) and a cute tank top, sandals (mostly flats or wedges) and big earrings. I think the earrings are kind of a Latin American statement piece.

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  30. Charlotte, this is such an awesome article! Love the angle! Duluth’s style is very different from Minneapolis/ the Twin Cities, partially because Duluth is a small town and probably also because we have the Mall of America here in the cities! 🙂 Definitely think you nailed it, though!

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  31. I love this post!
    I’m an American living in Germany, and it’s great to see this kind of comparison. Some of the things you mentioned, I’ve seen when I run into groups of Brits and Americans here on study abroad; sometimes you can guess who’s from where based on their style!
    I’m from the western US so when I came to Germany, all I wore were jeans, and that’s what I was used to seeing. It seems like all the girls here wear skirts with tights or leggings, and it was a small fashion culture shock. I definitely mix German and American style, especially layering and people’s love of hats here.
    Again, great article, it was really fun to see and read 🙂

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  32. I’m actually studying in London right now but I’m from California and I must say you did a really good job on capturing the over-arching American and British styles! I love being in England because I feel like I can express my style more and not feel like I’m doing too much (most college kids wouldn’t know personal style if it slapped them in the face) or trying to hard. I feel much more at home with the style here as opposed to back home in California. However, I am excited to go back and look even more out of this world to my fellow colleagues at school haha

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  33. Wow, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts ! This is so true !
    Every time I go to another country I try to define what is different in their style and where its essence is. I always notice immedietaly that it’s different and when somebody is trying a style from yet another country. I gathered more experiences in Asian countries (China, Korea and Japan in particular, very distinct ways of styling) though, but from my stay in the UK I recognize British style at once (I only know American style from movies though, but it’s just like you said).
    Laying out the differences in style is not easy, I can explain it with naming essential items, but describing the message or attitutde behind it is the next step and I can only do it when I spent some time in the country or when I dealt with its fashion for quite a while (like China, Korea, Japan and the UK).

    thanks again 🙂

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  34. I’ve always been amazed with British style and often wonder what are the essential elements and subtle differences. This post truly nails it (:

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  35. this british girl is far too wrong. that crap she describes as American style is cheap and ugly. i think that americans do dress in both the ways that she described. if she had gone to a LA, NYC, Seatle, or any of our other major cities, she would find that our stye is what she’s used to. I think this post is an insult! You can’t base american style off of what you’ve seen in a non-major city.

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  36. Sandy-You over reacted. Charlotte wrote in the third paragraph, “keep in mind that I am studying abroad in a northern Minnesota city. While I love it here, I know it is not the fashion capital of the world. I know fashion differs from state to state, and I’m sure what I see here in Minnesota is a world away from what I’d see in New York.” Maybe you want to read other’s article carefully before you say something rude…

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  37. Hey! I’m an American (Midwesterner) currently studying abroad in Edinburgh (Scotland, UK). I completely agree with everything said here! I could never have defined “American vs. British” style differences until I was here, but now it’s really clear. I’ve watched my own style change over this semester, and I can’t wait to get back and share it with my friends. I especially love your British rule 1: Layers!! I knew that was “stylish” in the UK, but being so far north here it’s absolutely vital – I would literally freeze to death in Edinburgh if I didn’t layer. I cannot find a coat that can single-handedly keep out the damp chill of November. And I would definitely like to think I’ve picked up the signature British ability to make it look good as well. 🙂 Thanks again for this article! Hope you’re loving the States as much as I’m loving Britain.

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  38. I love the idea of this article, but when I scrolled down to the collage of “American style” I cringed — please, please, PLEASE leave Minnesota (fashion wasteland) and travel so you can see that American style is not so easily defined.

    I’m from Chicago, a surprisingly stylish place, and I had a bit of culture shock myself when I came to Missouri for school. Just a state away, fashion and style are vastly different.

    The U.S. is so large and such a great mix of cultures (our country was founded as a “melting pot” of backgrounds) that it’s very difficult to define style here. Yes, that “Western” plaid-shirt-and-cowboy-boots look is American, but I never saw anyone wear that until I went into the rural, country areas. I just hope you don’t leave thinking that we have no style! 🙂

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  39. i am from england and i think what you said is really quite true. a lot of people at the moment are going for the ‘individual’ look and so vintage and charity shops are really popular. (also alot cheaper to shop this way)
    i really agree with the bit about the festival look being fashionable all year round, its so true. messy undone hair and just thrown on colthes that dont match perfectly
    i love having british style, its looks quirky and rockish and although its not the best plavce to live in the world, i love being recognised as british because of the clothes i wear.

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  40. I feel like the British fashion is really close to what we wear here everyday in Seattle. And I know for sure that the American fashion is what people wore when I lived in Texas…

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    • My guess is this is because British fashion is still quite heavily influenced by the ‘Seattle scene’ fashions of the 90s. And the Seattle fashions themselves were influenced by the Punk styles of Britain. I suspect Seattle residents and Brits share a love of the rebellious and unkempt.

      I’m a Brit and I have the typical traits of an aversion to too much formality and an irreverent sense of humour. Brits are very comfortable mocking authority figures, and our political satire can be ruthless. I think this anarchic aspect of our culture is expressed through our edgy fashion.

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  41. As a Canadian who has visited both countries, I thought this was pretty accurate. I liked this article because it made me think about where Canada fits into this. Like most other things, I’d say were a mix of British and American, but with some of our own key style items, too (chunky knits winter accessories, for example). I think that I lean more towards the British style, but I’m not as polished – when I was in London, I don’t think I saw a single person in jeans!

    I’ll stop rambling now. Amazing article Charlotte.

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  42. I love British style clothing for the part that it is elegant, classy, and cute. I have worn nice clothing by following British trends in America and it’s more of a question mark look on other people’s faces, I think cause everyone in America does focus on like you said, laid back, and cute. But I do wish more people dressed in British style clothing maybe than we wouldn’t have people who wear their pants to their ankles, or girls who go around in a skirt that shows to much and a very low cut top. Thanks for the post :D!

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  43. i love love love british fashionn,,especially from london everyday is like a catwalk with u guy andd i admire thatt,,the greatest superrmodell cam frommm naomi(my namesake )and kate of course. anyways i think the american style you potrayed is pretty acurate for like midwestt,,, come to new york and u will c where the style is at lol..

    alsoo for any british people does anyone watch the tv show skins ..i just started watching it and they sstyle is pretty acurate to wat u postedd..

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  44. I’m a 21 yr old born and raised californian, with my maternal grandma& aunt being from england, so that’s the source of my perspective. I was curious to see if british women wore mostly slacks instead of jeans and fit the steriotype of dressing prim and propper. I am happy to learn that british style isn’t as formal and cookie-cutter as i thought, and actually seems very much like what i see in the SF bay area, although we definitely wear jeans as a staple, at least i know i do, even when i worked at Forever 21. I loved this article the only correction i would make is that the tennis shoes you picked out are only worn in urban areas from my experience, converse,vans,flats,and sandals are common all over CA , heels and nike are cool in urban areas and citys. hope this gives a different perspective

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  45. I think what it all boils down to is dressing appropriately for the environment where you live. I loved what you said about Americans being more interested in style than fashion–I think this is true in general for the average American girl, but others who commented that styles differ vastly by state or city are also right. For instance, in the Miley Cyrus song, “Party in the USA,” she sings about arriving to LA from Nashville, and everyone staring at her for “rocking kicks,” when all the other girls were wearing stilettos. Sometimes I think the amount of pavement available is directly proportionate to a women’s inclination to wear heels–lol. I’m from small town Mid-Michigan, so my style is very much like the look you painted for the typical American girl–and I LOVE flip-flops (which I’ve read is a total don’t in Parisian Chic). The Parisian style is one that I admire, but I think I might die if I couldn’t wear flip-flops in the summer! Also, I love heels, and have at least half a dozen pair collecting dust under my bed right now. Reason being? There just never seems to be enough opportunity to wear them practically (or comfortably) for my lifestyle. People here are used to super hot, humid summers, where we hang out on lakes, have barbeques and go to bonfires at night. We also have freezing cold winters with sledding, chili cook offs ON the frozen lakes, ice skating, snowmobiling and hot tubbing…many of us just stay inside til the weather warms up–lol! I know my favorite spot is by our wood burner downstairs 😉 The point is there’s not much room for high fashion in the average Mid-Michigan life style. What there is room for though is NOT dressing like a slob, but being comfortable and stylish in clothing that is durable, practical and cute–hence the ease of wearing denim so effortlessly well. I love being American, AND dressing in a way that works for how I live, but I do very much admire my European ladies and their beautiful fashions…I just think I would fall over and break an ankle trying to wear them while running around my countryside–especially with the extremes of both seasons, and the mud of the in between!!!!

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  46. I live in Michigan and i am in LOVE with British styles! I honestly cant stand the fashion here, its so boring. At my high-school basically every girl just wears yoga pants and an abrecrombie tee Every Single Day! I dunno, it just seems kinda trashy, you know? and abrecrombie is soo expensive! I would love to be able to be fearless with my wardrobe, haha i still do, i just get alot of flack from my friends for it (but i know some people with similar style sense who give me compliments so its all good haha). I do go to canada alot though and they seem to have more European styles there, its alot of fun:) Ripped tights, leather boots, mix matching, “bed head hair”<3 oh, and thats another reason why i wish American fashion was more like yours. I have the most perfect kind of wavy/curly messy hair without even teasing it but it still looks nice, just not in America :/ haha i have to iron it till i see smoke instead

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  47. I bumped into this as a 55 yr. old American from rural NY, looking for English style dresses (upcoming wedding, need a mother-of-the-bride dress). I really enjoyed reading your insights into another culture. Your assessment of American essentials are typical for western NY for the most part. I have often thought our use of jeans is almost universal, across most ages, almost a uniform of types. There was a time that was not so. Jeans went from men’s workwear, as Levi Strauss made famous, to fashion in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Prior to that, a girl or boy in jeans was likely to get picked on in school. (Those earlier ladies jeans were also side-zipped.) Denim bell bottoms started showing up then. However, the whole designer type, desirable name brands were a bit later. I think Jordache was the first of those. Patches went from necessity to fashion somewhere in there. Along with that came the rise of the t-shirt as a sort of billboard, not just a work clothes item. Oh, yes, “sweatshirts” were also a work item, now named hoodies. I thought maybe you’d enjoy knowing that. All those clothes were the things of working men originally, especially in the country. Farmers would wear jeans or overalls, t-shirts with plaid shirts over them, and sweatshirts, and still do. Country style still employs all those elements. Time to keep dress shopping.

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  48. I think style in America is specific to what state you are from. America is so large that I do not really think there can be “American Style”. I am sure British style is the same.

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  49. I’m a Minnesotan as well, and I don’t know how entirely I agree with representation of American style here. I think it represents a high school student’s wardrobe more so than a college student’s. However I do think some college students do dress this way in smaller towns/ less urban areas. I’m from the twin cities area, and I’d say the British look is more accurate at my college. The hipster look is HUGE on my campus. The only difference would probably be that the American hipster look is a little earthier than the British pieces shown here. There are definitely many college students that don’t dress in that style though. I’d say a typical American college girl’s wardrobe would have a pair of flat riding boots (and in Minnesota I’d add a pair of Uggs), a pair of darker wash skinny jeans, a pair of yoga pants, a great sundress, and a college sweatshirt of some sort. After that, I think it varies from area to area and state to state. There are so many different styles and. cultures here that I think its hard to pin down what a typical American style would be. I don’t know know much about British day-to-day dress, but knowing their big designers, I’d say American style is less quirky overall.

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  50. This article is pretty close!! I live in Pennsylvania and most of the girls here wear all of the pieces you mentioned as being American. We always wear a bunch of dresses and jumpers (well a British jumper is a sweater, I believe, and I really don’t know how to explain an American jumper. Maybe there’s another name for them but I can’t think of it at the moment LOL) we also tend to wear heels in the spring and summer (as well as flip flops and sandals) but stick to sneakers and boots in the winter and fall.We do wear a lot of jeans, though, but we wear them in a THOUSAND different ways. Umm…..we don’t really layer, but that might just be a comfort thing. I have a lot of denim skirts and jackets but I do have one leather jacket that I wear all the time! Edgy over here pretty much means girly and sweet with simple jewelry and up-dos. I dream of visiting London one day, but I hope I don’t get looked down upon if I stick to my American fashion!

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  51. I am American currently living in London. British fashion is totally amazing. Just walk around central London and be amazed by the style and variety of fashion worn by normal people.

    People I work with shop at “charity” shops and come into the office wearing clever ensembles of old and new ….amazing ideas all the time.

    I LOVE the lifestyle as well as the fashion, every American who wants to see how to really live with accessible stle for all should visit here, Brits are great once you get to know them, so different from Amarican boys, self-depricating and not self-obsessed with their “wealth”.

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  52. I think a lot of the English girls have great sense of their own style because most of their mothers and grandmothers lived through the sixties, which began a fashion revolution. We weren’t afraid of wearing gold coats, coloured stockings and bright floral dresses.
    I am now in my sixties and still love dressing up and standing out in a crowd. That is what fashion is all about, being an individual and not looking like everyone else.
    I would love to be young again but it doesn’t stop me following the fashion trends from around the world and still spending money on clothes.
    Remember, it’s not how much you spend on an item, it’s how you wear it and what you add to it. That is real style.

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  53. I find your selection quite funny. I’m from Tennessee in the U.S and I go to school here. Your picture of the items from the U.S. look like what I wore to High School, in Autumn, and when I was on my period. I know that sounds funny. I’m in college now and the only time I wear those items are Monday and Wednesday at my 8 am class.. I think it might be the area you were at. If you were in the city then you would see a lot of trendy styles. A lot of people in their 20s and early 30s are doing this Hipster look.

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  54. Amazing article!!!!!!! I live in Ukraine and heard a lot about creative British style, but never got to know much before your article. My favourite store is New Look, I am glad to know it’s among most popular clothing stores in Great Britain!

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  55. really interesting article! you were basically spot on for both styles, from what i can see. i’m from florida and everyone around here wears denim shorts or jeans with flip flops and a basic shirt or tank top from hollister or something so you got that whole collage pretty correct. i personally love the british style more than the american one, even though i am american, but if i started dressing that way people would probably start judging me cos i’d stand out so much! haha but i’d really looove to study abroad someday!!!

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    • that is an awesome point. american style is about NOT standing out. now i am in russian and to throw a third style into the pot, I’d say russian women are a lot about standing out. They are like trying to outdo each other and themselves. Esp. they are overdoing it with labeling. If it is chanel, it has to be written with the bigest letters possible. I find it tacky and amusing…

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  56. Great read! I know exactly what you mean about not realising the UK has its own style until you go somewhere else. After living in Germany for a few years, I’m a lot more aware of UK style, haha!

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  57. This was really interesting. I never looked at American style from a British perspective. I also think that British style is way way WAY better than American style. Weird, huh?

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  58. lol so freaking awesome, Im from Phoenix and all we wear here is definitely summer clothes year round. You could literally catch a girl wearing shorts in February-November thats how hot it is here, out winter only lasts for two-three months and it only gets about 45 degrees minimum. I definitely love the British fashion better than where Im from its so awesome. Sadly you could only dress like that for two months cause then it gets too hot for a scarf. Wish I could go to London
    🙁

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  59. I believe Audrey Hepburn is the original one to bring the skinny pant and ballet flats to fashion. That look is iconic. Pre dates Kate Moss.

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  60. Hi^^,

    I’ll just start by saying that I love this blog! Especially the articles on studying abroad (I’m leaving for Verona in a few months, you guys are lifesavers).
    Now for something more relevant: I’m writing a paper on British street fashion (I’m not British, I’m from Belgium, but I love the style). I was wondering if you had some tips on finding other sources?

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  61. Hi, i would really appreciate if I could get your email, to get your points on which country you preferred studying fashion at.

    Thank you.

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  62. I loooooove British style but I have neither the skill nor the resources here in the States to pull it off. I go on long term trips to the UK for school, and I drive myself crazy trying to put together my nicest clothes so I don’t stick out too much. I don’t have lots of nice clothes even by American standards. Dx

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  63. Maybe you should compare Minnesota to somewhere equally remote? Maybe Carlisle, UK? I know you mentioned this discrepancy, but your article amounts to comparing American McDonalds to London’s The Ledbury when really McDonald should be compared to – say, fish n’ chips. Also, the people above are dressed for two very different situations. For example, Americans in jeans and tee’s running errands during the day (above) is not properly compared to Brits in the evening on the red carpet (also above). Not a single one of your american examples is out-on-the-town (one lady is leading a powerpoint!!!), while all of the Brits are dressed up.

    I actually started researching the subject of american vs. british fashion trends because it seemed that London fashion trends are a few seasons behind NYC/LA fashion trends. It’s not just different, it seems a little late. I was recently in London and saw girls in Soho in tube tops and jean skirts. Like a lot of them. That has been out of fashion for some time here in CA. It’s not too “edgy” for us; it’s just outdated now. I do, however, agree that brits are very edgy with somethings – green fur coats, thick gold link chain jewelry, and the like. We see it as sort of tacky, but now that I read your article, I see it’s supposed to be fun, which I like!

    Fashion sense:

    1. France / Italy
    2. US (excluding Minnesota, apparently)
    3-5. A lot of other fashionable places
    6. UK

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  64. I’m actually American and I was curious what people consider to be an “American fashion sense.” I came across a lot of people who said that Americans tend to dress “sloppily,” “filthy”, etc…. and I suppose it’s all true, what with the sweat-pants and motorcycle jackets and backwards caps, but I like how you chose to describe it as “casual” and “laid back.”

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  65. I live in rural Ohio, but my style is definitely more on the British end than the American end, at least in colder weather.

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  66. I am an American but having spent quite a bit of time in the UK I would say you’ve nailed the “typical” styles which girls from each country sport. While I maybe American I certainly feel and dress more British. I would rather mix up my prints, layer clothing, and am always prepared for the rain (where I go to school in the US it rains at least twice a week if not more), plus Topshop is my favorite store! Although the American style which you wrote about is very midwestern, I appricate that you actually like our style (it seems like most Europeans don’t)! However, I also think their are some of us who do love to defy stereotypes- I mean I’ve always felt a bit overdressed in the states but in England I fit in completely. Great post and looking forward to reading what your observations are on living in the states, being British, ect. 🙂

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  67. This is so true! Even though the pictures on the American style look nothing like california style, (they can be REALLY slutty sometimes) the descriptions sound almost perfect! Nice job!

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  68. fyi, America is a huge melting pot..You can’t exactly label a style on the U.S..if you know what i mean..But its all about HIPSTER.

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  69. Thanks for this post! It’s cool to see someone else’s point of view! I’m from Iowa and I feel like you described the kind of style I see/wear!

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  70. My god. I don’t think I’ll ever wear jeans, flip flops, or hoodies ever, EVER again. I’m from South Dakota, a neighboring state of Minnesota, and after seeing the blatant difference between the midwestern region of the US and Britain, I am mortified by how I dress. However, it does make me feel better that you liked it! Thank you for this ridiculously good article.

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  71. I am Irish, live in Dublin and spent the summer in Toronto, Canada. I believe you were quite accurate in your article. However, you forgot Urban Outfitters as a British store to shop in. Also, although it is true that in Europe eveyday is seemingly a fashion show, we do sometimes, wear sweats. Jack Wills? For the days when you are lounging around? I believe the equivalant in the US is Abercrombie and Fitch. I favour a classic/trendy look: shirts, skinny jeans, woolen jumpers, scarves, barbour jackets, oxford shoes, wellingtons, long jumpers with leggings or tights etc. Also, I found (in Toronto) that people in general didn’t tend to dress up to the same extent when going clubbing. Here, we wear dresses etc. There, they wore jeans and a top.

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  72. Charlotte – I love this article, I am a Wisconsin girl who dreams of traveling to England. 🙂 So cool that you are at UMD! I’m going to college in Superior, Wisconsin right across the bridge. I love the British fashion and wish that I could pull it off here, unfortunately living in a town like Superior, where it’s very much laid-back, it’s a bit tough. But my style is comfortable but unique and cute. At least I hope it is. 🙂

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  73. that’s the way i used to dress when i was in high school so i guess it’s true for the most part. now that i go to school in nyc i’ve been exposed to many different styles (that have probably been influenced by the british of course, along with many other countries’)!

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  74. I’ve been so in love with the british style of clothing. It’s always so thrown together, edgy, and punk-like. I want to go to England someday! I admire the fashion there and of course I want to see the sites! I would have loved to live in england back in the 70’s or 80’s.

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  75. Such an interesting article. A key part of the style of smart Americans is impeccable grooming, it seems to me, and for professional people the look is definitely more conservative. The differences between countries and regions are fun to read about. French women dress beautifully but they also have a sort of “uniform” and so it can be (perhaps?) a little boring sometimes. Italian style is wonderful, and definitely sexier, for both men and women. People in the UK do seem to like quirky things, are not afraid to clash patterns, colors and moods. Your example of a vintage dress, a leather jacket, boots and pearls is spot on. In the UK countryside I see people wearing a sort of camouflage (with a focus on mossy greens, soft browns and purples) and you get a sort of soft all-over light in England that does odd things to pale and pastel colors and makes them glow. Also, patched and repaired clothes can be chic, at least if good quality originally, and if the wearer can signal in some other way that they are not doing so out of necessity!

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  76. I feel sad to say that the key pieces chosen in the photos for Americans feel a bit outdated especially from an article last updated 2019. Yes we wear flannels, flip flops, ripped jeans, tanks, but the types presented in the photo are not considered to be very fashionable. I have many friends and family from Minnesota or Wisconsin but I myself am from California. They normally wear active gear or sweats/sweatshirts from my own experience. I feel that the majority who wear the same style posted above are worn mostly by the white American community.

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