…when your clothes identify you as an alien
In 2006, I visited Germany, the country I grew up in. I realized that people dressed quite differently than they did in the US. Whenever I was in line for some service like buying a railroad ticket, renting a car or just checking in at a hotel, the personnel addressed me in English.
It certainly has happened to you before, at least in the opposite roll. You stroll thru the mall of your hometown and you immediately know that a person is a tourist or a business visitor from abroad. You can’t quite nail why, but you know when a person is from abroad.
Global fashion market fails to overwrite cultural dress codes
In today’s fashion and style blogger roundup, “dress code and fashion differences” among countries are in the focus of interest. I asked several fashion and style blogger who live today in a different country than where they were born to answer the following question:
What are the biggest differences you see between how people dress in the country you were born and in the country you now live in, and how have these influenced your style, if applicable?
Yvonne Aeberhard Stutz, blogger at Funky Forty
I come from New Zealand and live in Switzerland.
The main difference is that in NZ people always look more casual and in Switzerland people tend to dress up a lot more in expensive brands – or Zara look alikes. Zara hasn’t made it to NZ but we have a lot of lovely local designers such as Trellise Cooper.
Sometimes I feel like I have a split personality because I dress so differently depending on the country I am in -haha – not really spit personality though.
Whenever my husband doesn’t like what I’m wearing he says it’s my NZ taste again.
Kirsten Wick, blogger at The LIFB Issue:
What I definately notice is that rainwear in the UK is so much more fun and there’s a huge choice. Everybody says it’s constantly raining in Britain which of course isn’t true at all (it’s basically the same as in Germany – the country I was born) but I so love the fun and playful rainwear here. It speaks to me, always has but I live here now and can truly enjoy it. Also Barbour style is so popular in the UK, it’s often about the English countrystyle which is timeless and I absolutely love that. I was always a lover of this style but am happy to enjoy it to the fullest now and share this style with my blog readers. What makes me smile is that when fashion mags say plaid will be huge this season, it’s always huge here. Thank God!
Tiina Lehtoranta, blogger at Elegance Revisited
OK, let’s get down to business… My situation is maybe not quite as straightforward as you presented in your prompt: the dresscode in the country I was born in vs. the country I now live in.
Strictly speaking I still live (and work) in the country I was born in (Finland), but I also spend a lot of time in the UK, where my (German) husband works. Thus, we have a flat in Helsinki, Finland; and we have a house in Canterbury England. We usually spend weekdays apart (when working) but weekends together, which means that we travel between these two countries all the time… When I’m really busy with work, it’s often my husband who flies to Finland for the weekend, whereas I tend to spend a bit longer stretches (sometimes weeks at a time) of time in the UK when I have time off.
But, about the biggest differences between how people dress in Finland and in the UK… The way people dress in Finland is always determined by the weather. Winters are long and cold, and nobody would even dream of going out without sensible shoes and a proper winter coat. And in summer anything goes: the overall vibe is very casual (even at work), and showing off some skin is perfectly acceptable whenever the temprerature hits double digits. However, anything clingy, flashy or overtly sexy is considered a bit tacky, try-too-hard or pretentious. Clothes are uncompromisingly practical and comfortable, whatever the occasion. If you see a woman wearing high heels in Helsinki in January, I bet she’s either Estonian or Russian; a Finnish woman is more likely to wear trainers and carry a backpack. Even fashionistas tend to be rather understated, preferring to look ‘cool’ rather than ‘sexy’, and stick with simple, streamlined clothes in mostly black and neutrals.
And the UK… well, the biggest difference is probably that I’ve seen young girls wear tight, skimpy dresses and sky-high shoes in mid-winter (it does get cold in the UK, too), and no coat whatsoever, dolled up to the nines… Of course, British women dress for the weather, too, and you see a lot of practical windbreakers and wellies in winter. However, it seems to me that British women maybe put more effort into their outfits when they go out, and they’re not afraid of wearing colour or statement accessories. The clothes might be more fitted and sometimes a bit fussy with lots of details such as frills and bows and belts. And layering, that’s definitely a British thing! There’s a shirt and a jacket and a coat, and a huge scarf… This very British idea of ‘adding an extra layer for warmth’ when the weather gets cold, that’s just not going to work for me; I just get a thicker coat instead. But I definitely wear more cardigans in the UK as it’s often a bit cold indoors.
And how does all this affect my own style? Hmm… I’ve always loved colour, and I like statement accessories. I’ve learned to experiment more with colour combinations, even combining prints. But the outfits I put together are still all about the understated Scandi Cool, with simple, streamlined shapes and fewer details.
Shellie Bowdoin, blogger at The Fabulous Journey
I have lived in the Philippines for the last 7 years. On the whole, the Filipino people are pretty casual when it comes to fashion and they are huge fans of jeans. Even when the temperatures are soaring above 100 degrees, you’ll see the Filipino people walking around in their jeans. I have lived in Asia for over 2 decades, but I still can’t bear to wear jeans when it’s that hot outside!
I would also say that Filipinos dress more modestly than typical Americans, which actually suits me well because I also prefer to be fashionably modest. I always wear a camisole under tops to keep my underarms covered. This serves the purpose of modesty, but I also think it is a beneficial tip for women over 40 because it keeps your look refined and pulled together.
Sheela Goh, blogger at Sheela Writes
To provide a full perspective, I’d have to name both Malaysia as well as Singapore in terms of the former being my country of birth, and the latter, my surrogate home.
Growing up in Malaysia from the 70s to the early 90s, there was no such thing as style save for what you see in the pages of a magazine, or playbacks of the UK’s Top Of The Pops music videos. So, it’s safe to say it did nothing to influence and/or shape my personal sense of style. As you can imagine, my allowance was mostly spent on purchasing fashion glossies and poring over them, thumbing the fashion spreads so frequently that the pages would (quite literally) fall apart from the rest of the magazine. I was in love with Japanese street style from a very young age, 10 I believe, and my outfits reflected that love. Black. Interesting shapes (think a balloon maxi skirt with elasticised hemline). And, of course, shoes. I remember one Chinese New Year, I wore a cropped black tee with a pair of knit harem, drop crotch pants (grey with silver threads), finished with a pair of suede pixie ankle boots. I was 15 and stood out.
I moved to Singapore when I was 22 and that provided access to more international designers, from luxury to indie, and everything in between. When it comes to fashion and clothes, Singapore stands on a par with New York, Tokyo, Milan, London, Paris. It really does. I mean, little wonder that one of the most influential bloggers of today is from Singapore (Instagram @yoyokulala). And I was able to absorb that vibe, immerse myself into the design scene, and incorporate what I liked. It also helped that I worked within the luxury fashion and lifestyle industry for over two decades, and was privileged to meet designers, chat with them, understand their vision, and how they themselves sourced for inspiration. I’d say that, from a sartorial perspective, the most important impact of living in Singapore is how much it helped me to not just define but refine my sense of style. To dare. To experiment. And to explore.
Now, I live in Houston. And it’s not quite the same thing. Fashion is interpreted very differently, and to be perfectly honest, I do not see much in terms of style individuality, a unique point of view. Everyone tends to look the same here, be it intentionally (so as not to stand out) or sub-consciously (it’s ingrained). I do wish the style scene was a lot more vibrant, more exciting and diverse and dynamic. Perhaps in time?
Anna Krembs, blogger at Kremb de la Kremb
I’m in year 20 of living out of the States. I’m originally from Spokane, Washington State and return to our summer home out at Spirit Lake, Idaho each summer. During the school year, I live overseas. At present I’m currently in Hong Kong, but before that there was China, India, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, El Salvador, and Italy -all places that have left an impact on my wardrobe and style. The one major difference I have found year after year between the Pacific Northwest and the other seven countries I have lived in is casual verses formal. Not every country I’ve lived in is super formal, yet none of them – except for maybe my time in Beijing, China – compare to the dressed down code of the PNW. The moment I land home for summer during the last 20 years, I have to remind myself to dress down as dressing up just doesn’t happen over there – at least according to my dress code. If I do style my daily outfits the way I’m used to during my working expat life, I am always overly dressed, overly accessorised, and overly done – all characteristics that never take notice in the other places I’ve lived. But, you bet, I still like to shock in subtle ways while I’m at home sweet home!
Sylvia, owner at 40+ Style lived in various countries and wrote an entire post about how the country you live in may affect your style.
You may be also interested in reading about the different way Alaskan and Alaskan snowbirds dress.
Have you lived in a foreign country? Did you see differences in how people dress? Did you try to fit in? Did it matter when you dressed differently? Let me know, send me an email. I am curious.
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