If this sounds improbable, you’re right. If it sounds impossible, think again! Yes, there were some fights over suitcase space. Sure, I missed the plethora of wardrobe options (especially shoes) I had at home. But I quickly discovered minimalist packing makes voyages much easier. You can travel without overburdening your suitcase, and you don’t need to sacrifice style to do it! The trick is opting for sophisticated, timeless, comfortable styles that go the distance. Wondering how to travel in style? I teamed up with Maggy London to walk you through the strategies sophisticated Italians use. There’s a reason Milan is considered the fashion capital of the world!
First, a bit of background… This summer, I ventured to Siena, Italy with my husband/toddler to teach a course in travel writing. As part of the class, I asked the students how they prepared for the trip. What research did they do? What questions did they have? The most common answer really surprised me. They all wanted to know how NOT to look like a tourist. Most spent ample time searching Pinterest, so they could mimic Italian elegance. I don’t blame them! When you’re exploring a culture responsible for majestic art, enchanting architecture and awe-inspiring cathedrals (see video below), you want to match your surroundings.
Italian (and European) style is generally chic, tailored and minimalist. It strikes a timeless, not flashy note. Moreover, it typically leans more conservative than we see in the states. Italians certainly do wear color, but neutrals reign supreme. Consequently, if you want to blend in with the locals, black is always a safe bet.
The Italian “uniform” in many of the cities we visited consisted of a well-cut black T-shirt or blouse paired with tailored pants/skinny jeans. Sound boring? It’s not! European women elevate these basics with their accessories. They’ve mastered the art of mixing up their looks by adding a statement bag, bright scarf, or unique shoes to a simple outfit.
Italians also love elegant black dresses and sophisticated jumpsuits. Why? They offer a striking, yet understated silhouette. For example, with its pleated detailing and sailor-inspired buttons Maggy London’s Janci style puts a unique twist on classic black. Easy to dress up or down, this versatile piece is appropriate for sightseeing, work, even a dinner out. Additionally, the fabric has a good amount of stretch, making it super comfy! One-piece dressing is quick and easy.
While Americans don’t mind a wrinkle or two, Europeans almost never look rumpled or disheveled. I was always amazed to see Italian women perfectly turned out, even for a trip to the grocery store! The athleisure workout gear we tend to wear everywhere in the states, sticks out like a sore thumb in Italy. My top secret for those wondering how to travel in style? Only bring pieces that are machine-washable and wrinkle-resistant.
Because we had very limited space in our suitcase — and a toddler — we did a ton of laundry in Italy. Wash and wear pieces like the Delinda dress were crucial. You’re probably thinking a pleated, chiffon dress has to be dry-clean only… I did too, but Maggy London has its materials down to a science. This dress emerged from my washing machine good as new! Its flowy, light fabric was also super helpful when dealing with Italy’s summer heat.
This might go without saying… However, I saw plenty of tourists walking gingerly and ridiculously down Siena’s cobblestone streets in stiletto heels. Just… don’t… do it! You will sprain your ankle and look rather silly in the process. European travel means a lot of walking. We averaged 6+ miles per day. Therefore, you need comfortable, practical footwear. If you want something dressier for evening, opt for a wedge or block heel.
While American style is often relaxed and casual, Italians (and Europeans in general) prefer dressier styles. Furthermore, they are not afraid to embrace their femininity. Styles with lace, silk, crochet detailing and ruffles look right at home on Italian streets. Flowy summer dresses or tailored sheath styles are also smart choice.
Additionally, when packing for your trip, you will want at least one “evening out” garment. This should be something that is comfortable, but also makes you feel like a million bucks. Ideally, it should be a piece you can style multiple ways. The Charlene was that piece for me.
The crepe style looks great with flats and a cardigan for daytime. Then, throw on a pair of block heels/wedges, and you’re ready for a night on town. (Note: The Charlene is dry-clean only, so it broke my “machine-washable” rule… but I loved it too much to leave it home!)
Still unsure about how to travel in style? Check out this post featuring my Amalfi Coast Style Guide. Now, to conclude, let’s cover some “dos and don’ts”