The Fashionista is in: Study abroad style

We’re doing it wrong.

Melanie Richtman

Let’s face it: Americans aren’t known for having great style. We live in one of the most powerful countries in the world, yet the average citizen struggles to properly dress themselves in the morning.

Take some tips from Europeans to look fashionable before you study abroad. Even if you never plan on leaving the country, I highly suggest a style audit. The world will thank you.


Wear nice shoes. And no, your sneakers are not nice.

For some reason, Americans tend to dress for comfort rather than style. We throw on our sneakers to let the world know that we don’t care enough about anything to put on real shoes. In Europe, this doesn’t fly, and frankly, I don’t know why America lets this happen.

Contrary to popular belief, Europeans aren’t wearing 5-inch stilettos every day, but they are wearing nice shoes — whether they’re chic ballet flats or edgy ankle boots — that are just as comfortable as your precious tennis shoes.

Visit any European city, and I guarantee the only people wearing sneakers will be runners or tacky American tourists. Nothing says, “Hey European criminals, mug me!” more than a pair of white New Balance shoes. The worst part is your pickpocket will probably be wearing cooler shoes than you.

Do yourself a favor and invest in a nice pair of shoes, preferably ones without Velcro. Ankle booties, loafers or a quality pair of leather riding boots will work just fine and fit seamlessly with the rest of your current wardrobe. This advice applies to males, too!


It’s all in the details.

Europeans make monochromatic outfits interesting by playing with textures and accessories. From far away, their all-black ensembles might look basic, but upon closer inspection, they’re actually wearing leather pants, suede shoes and knit sweaters. The mix of textures takes a basic color palette and makes it unique.

One thing you might notice abroad is that Europeans play it cool with accessories. They’ll add colorful scarves to simple outfits or wear floppy hats to show off their individuality, but you’ll rarely see them over-accessorizing.

As Coco Chanel supposedly said, “Before you leave your house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory.” Europeans follow this philosophy, and we should too. Add visual detail to your look with strategically chosen accessories rather than piling on all of the bling you own.

This idea also applies to beauty. European women focus on enhancing their looks with natural hair, subtle makeup and clean nails. If you have curly hair, don’t spend hours trying to make it straight. A French woman would never waste precious time doing her hair when she could be out making American tourists feel inferior with her effortless style.

You are just as beautiful as the French, so keep your look simple with a coat of mascara, a hint of blush and some ChapStick. Finish your beauty routine with a spritz of perfume for the full effect.

Good grooming habits apply to men, too. Maybe try getting a nice haircut and pushing your hair back? It seems to work for European men.


If your clothes don’t fit, you won’t fit in.

It’s that simple. European men and women understand that the secret to looking good is wearing clothes that fit properly. Rarely will you find a man wearing baggy, ill-fitting pants.

You don’t need to sport a pair of skinny jeans that cling uncomfortably to your manly thighs, but you should wear pants that are actually your size. They’ll look good with the shoes you will inevitably buy now that sneakers are banned for life.

Girls, on the other hand, need to make sure their clothes are not too tight. Skin-tight clothing is not chic. If your shirt is so small that you can see a sliver of stomach à la Britney Spears 1999 to 2003, you’re doing it wrong.

If you can’t find clothes that fit perfectly, don’t worry — you are a normal human. A little tailoring can go a long way and help you look like a well-dressed Parisian, even if the pants you’re rocking are from Walmart.


Limit your denim.

Because we’re on the subject of pants, we should talk about jeans. Most Europeans wear dark-wash jeans for two main reasons: They’re flattering, and they look cool.

Only the trendiest of individuals can pull off a pair of high-waisted acid wash jeans. Confused? Ask yourself this simple question: Am I a 14-year-old Russian supermodel? If the answer is no, please stick to fitted dark-wash jeans like the rest of us mortals.

I fully support colored denim as a way to express your individuality, but if you’re heading to Europe, think long and hard about packing your neon pink, skinny jeans. You could definitely use the extra room in your suitcase for the multiple pairs of black pants.

Black might not be the most exciting color, but there’s a reason it’s a staple in every European’s closet: It always looks good. Save bright colors for your accessories. Jean shirts or jackets are fair game as long as you wear them with non-denim pieces. Remember: This is Europe, not the Midwest.