Saturday, January 7, 2012

Practical European fashion

When I moved to Germany in 2005 I didn't own a pair of skinny jeans.  All my purses were small and I'd never had a pair of knee high boots.  I owed lots of delicate stiletto heals and cropped jackets.  The only flat shoes I had were flip flops and a pair of sneakers I used to wear to class sometimes.  The most walking I did was around my college campus.  I thought the Germans were funny for wearing their boots over their pants and that their jeans were too short. 
Me and my pre Europe clothes

Most of my clothes got chucked or put away indefinably within a year.

I like being warm and dry and able to walk around without pain, things that were pretty much impossible to do with my old wardrobe.  As I watched my stilettos shred and break on cobblestones and felt my boat cut jeans soaking up rain like sponges, I realized that European fashion isn't about looking good so much as it is about being comfortable.  These wise Germans were wearing short jeans so they wouldn't get dirty!  They tucked their pants into their boots to stay dry!  Here's a brief rundown of some other things I've learned about dressing in Europe.

Europe can be cold and rainy year round.  Even though I have a car I still spend a lot of time walking from place to place in bad weather. It's important to always have an umbrella.

In winter I almost always wear waterproof boots over skinny jeans.  I like heels but I stick with something that's low enough that I can walk and carry a heavy bag most of the day without pain.  I also choose a knee length coat in stormy weather.  Shorter coats are cute but they don't keep me dry and nothing puts me in a bad mood like a wet butt.  Snow boats are great but I only wear mine in the snow because they get dirty in rain.  I also always bring a hat and scarf so my hair is covered and won't get wet when the wind turns my umbrella inside out.  I wear gloves because the wind is bitter.

It isn't always warm in summer.  I've worn jeans and jackets in August more often than I have sun dresses.  I recommend strappy sandals and water proof flats for lots of walking.  I never wear flip flops unless I'm going to the beach or pool.  I also always have a light sweater or jacket in case it get cold or rains.  Usually it's cool in the morning and warmer in the afternoon so I wear layers that I can take off.

I always have hand lotion, sunglasses, tissues, lip balm, make up, my wallet, a liter of water, my phone, a small hair brush, gum, eye drops and an umbrella.  Depending on how long I'm gone and what the weather is like I might also need to bring a snack, hat, gloves, sweater, my ipod and a book.  If I'm going to work I need space for my teaching materials, laptop, dry erase markers, pens, post its, games, colored pencils and class notes.  If Redgie is with me he needs a water bowl, blanket, some treats and poo bags.  When I stop to pick something up at the drug store or super market I put everything I buy in my purse because I never remember to bring a separate bag for the groceries.  Some stores let you buy plastic bags but others don't. 

Since I hate backpacks and refuse to carry one now that I'm a college graduate, I like roomy, light weight purses with lots of pockets that can be worn multiple way.  It's true I occasionally realize I've been carrying around a forgotten jar of molasses for a week but I find it's easier to carry one big bag than two or three smaller ones.  My coach purses are the only ones that have lasted all the wear and tear for more than a year without breaking. 

I almost never buy shoes in American anymore because they don't last on cobblestones and the heals always get gouged.  My favorite places to buy shoes in Germany is Zara and Shoe 4 You.  Sometimes I buy shoes from Görtz and Tamaris. 

In General
I stay away from short shirts and low rise jeans and any clothing that rides up or down or won't let me move freely.  I don't want to be pulling my jeans back up every five minutes and worrying about my clothes while I'm busy doing other stuff.  If I can't bend down and pick up my dog in an outfit then I don't wear it.

Those are the only things I can think of now.


  1. I just found your blog today and have enjoyed reading it so far. I'm moving to Hamburg for the year so appreciate all your tips (I'm Canadian.) I'll be blogging as well! :) Thanks! Especially love the clothing advice as I have a feeling I will be replacing my whole wardrobe once I get to Europe! Guess I shouldn't pack much :)

  2. Thanks for commenting! I'm glad that you like the blog and find it helpful. Good luck in Germany!

  3. No problem and thanks! I'll keep on reading as I prepare for my trip. :)