Are you visiting Europe and want to dress more European to not be obviously an American tourist? Or do you adore the the style of the Old World? Read this post learn about the key elements of and how to dress in Euro Chic Style.
- Key Elements of Euro Chic Style
- Sleek, High Quality, Polished, Comfortable, but Chic Footwear
- European Tops Are Dressy Even Off Duty
- Best Euro Style Pants
- European Ladies Prefer Neutral Color Skirts and Dresses
- Outerwear: No Fur in the West, Fur in the East
- Accessories Are Genuine, Never Fake
- Euro Chic Builds on Neutrals
- What is the most important item in a European outfit?
- Putting It Together
- Styling a Work Outfit with European Style Roots
- Makeup and Hair
- In a Nutshell
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Key Elements of Euro Chic Style
Euro Chic style is very conservative.
Many European office dress codes require coverage of the upper arm, closed shoes and pantyhose.
Sleek, High Quality, Polished, Comfortable, but Chic Footwear
In Europe, you have to walk a lot. The old cities lack parking space. Thus, you often have to park a couple of blocks away from where you intend to go. This means European shoes provide comfort for your feet, while being chic. Even when they have heels. Thus, Euro Chic style asks for loafers, semi-formal shoes, oxfords, Mary Jane type shoes, low heel pumps (for business or formal settings), orthotics, non-bulky, slender, lightweight, dark rather than white sneakers (e.g. Pumas, Adidas) only in spare time, Birkenstocks or similar sandals for the weekend, flats, tall boots with sturdy heel for winter (brown, tan or black). In many regions, mules and over-the-knee boots are considered Red Light District footgear. That’s why it took me forever to get a pair of mules.
General rule of thumb: The lighter the weight of the shoe, the better.
European Tops Are Dressy Even Off Duty
Europeans wear blouses (women and girls), collared shirts, A-line shirts, non-baggy sweaters and cardigans, cardigans with a camisole or plain shirt underneath. These items are never in extremely bright colors or pastels. On the contrary, they are in classic, dark or mid shade purples, blues, greens, browns, grays, reds, etc. Twinsets, thin fine knitwear, blazers, blouses, shirts are for the office. Wind breakers and medium coarse knit tops for the weekend.
Best Euro Style Pants
The myth “Europeans never wear jeans” is a myth. Europeans wear jeans, but in a different way Americans do. European jeans are not too tight, not too loose. They do not have holes or rips. They are a dark rather than light wash. They often have a regular weave (called Italian weave), i.e. the fabric looks quite different from your Levis or Wrangler. They are a bit higher than medium rise, but not high rise.
Khakis are a dead American giveaway.
Slacks, dress pants or corduroys are dark blue, gray or black. They are never wider in the leg than boot cut. Ideally, go for a straight leg, slender cut. Shorts are not worn as much in Europe as in America. Not to mention, if worn, it’s only for play and the weekend/vacation.
They are acceptable, but not at work (even in a casual work place).
Shorts are never ripped (i.e. no cut-offs) and never super short. Cropped pants like capris are more popular than shorts for the weekend and vacation. More on styling capris at this link.
Stylist tip: Fake the look by rolling up a pair of skinny jeans with one fold about 4 inches.
European Ladies Prefer Neutral Color Skirts and Dresses
To get the look go for straight and A-line around the knee skirts in wool, tweed or rayon, leather skirt. Sheaths are for the office, shirt dresses for the weekend and vacation. Skirts are worn with a top or blouse. Dresses and skirts are never short, but around the knee. Cleavage is modest.
Outerwear: No Fur in the West, Fur in the East
There is a distinct difference between West and East European outerwear due to the different weather conditions. West Europe has moderate maritime climate. This means windy, humid winters with temperatures around the freezing point. Thus, winter and water repelent outerwear is a Must. Thus, loden coats, trench coats (see the linked post for the original traditional details), pea-coats or jackets, leather coats or blazer-cut leather jackets are the typical outerwear. Note that there are historic reasons for this everyday luxe leather. In Western Europe it’s no fur.
In East Europe, winters are cold and precipitation is mostly snow. Thus, in Eastern Europe fur coats and shearlings with wool blanket scarves are among typical outerwear. Especially, when the Siberian High extends wide into Poland. Russian floral print scarves are worn either as head gear or wrapped around the shoulders.
Accessories Are Genuine, Never Fake
Thus, neutral color leather belts of the width of the loops of your skirts and pants fit the bill. Go for a leather tote, leather messenger bag of leather satchel for work and a leather chain shoulder or saddle bag otherwise. Jewelry encompasses delicate necklaces, a white or cream pearl necklace, a bold gold color watch, gold color bangle, small ear studs. All jewelry is low profile. Silk scarves are worn in the cleavage of winter coats in west Europe (see this post on how to curate a scarf collection), wool scarves with silk fringes are popular in East Europe.
All accessories are never gaudy, big, fake or tacky. They complement the outfits, are understated pieces.
Euro Chic Builds on Neutrals
This style’s second name should be Neutral. Most outfits are made up by just neutral colors: brown, white, and blue. The trick to keep such outfits interesting is to choose pieces/elements of interest, or the bright and shiny necklace. Other tricks are to play with different texture like smooth leather and a knit twinset. Euro Chic style also often applies the contrast of very posh and leather, for instance, a white blazer with black pants. A casual piece like the denim shirt can also help to keep an outfit from landing in boring land.
See this guide on how to create non-boring looks with neutrals.
What is the most important item in a European outfit?
The shoes! the overpopulated Europe it is considered rude to look at people’s face in malls, etc. Thus, you look at the shoes first to assess a person. This means your shoes give the first impression. Therefore, people buy the most expensive looking shoes they can effort and keep them polished. In germany, there is even a children song goes “zeigt her eure Füße, zeigt her eure Schuh…” Translation “Show your feet, show your shoes…”
Putting It Together
Styling a Work Outfit with European Style Roots
When I lived in Europe and had a meeting to go to, I would pick an outfit with all neutral colors and one piece with pattern, just like this one here. I would always go with a skirt, top, blazer combination, pantyhose, and pumps. I even had an extra pair of pantyhose always in my work tote! Just in case.Runners are never in style. #EuroChic #dress4success Click To Tweet
A little black dress is always appropriate.
It is quite interesting that in the US, people are more open to wearing color in their professional lives. It seems like in the US a wider range of colors is accepted as looking professional when the attire is looking put together. It seems that even in a conservative office, nearly every color goes, but those that start with neon. There is no Casual Friday culture in European work places.
A sheath dress works all by itself. It is easy to style with a jacket of any type – which of course – changes the vibe. Furthermore, a sheath can be worn multiple ways. So you can wear nearly yearround. A sheath also gives a straight-up-and-down body some curves. Need that. 😉 You can even enhance your wardrobe outfit opions by styling a jumper as a skirt.
Makeup and Hair
Being well groomed is important. Makeup is a Must, but is barely there. For how to get a barely there makeup look see the linked post. No matter how cheap the clothing were, the European woman keeps them neat, ironed and tidy. Shoes are always polished. If needed, they polish them everyday before wearing them!
Oily hair or yellow teeth are No Nos as they would scream sloppy. A good haircut is a Must at least every 6 to 8 weeks in West and every 4 to 6 weeks in East Europe.
Grown out haircuts are considered sloppy.
Long hair (worn down) is for girls and young women (< 25 yrs old). The hair should never blow into the face. If long, it is put up in tight buns, braids, a pony tail, updos or put away with a headband or bobby pins on windy days. Dyed hair is to keep up with. Even artificial blondes have no roots!
Nails are of a neat length. Toe nails are lacquered when worn with sandals. Bare legs are flawless and only for the weekend and spare time. More on how to get flawless legs at the link.
In a Nutshell
Euro Chic is all about looking put together. It is high mainenance with respect to grooming, clothes care (read ironing shirts and blouses, dry cleaners for wool skirts, blazers and pants) and shoes (keeping them polished). All items are real, never fake. The look reads conservative.
Euro Chic requires clothing that fits well. Outfits are put together and the societally “correct look” is worn for every occasion.
It is better to be slightly over- than underdressed.
It’s a look to feel fabulous all of the time without spending a fortune.
Photos: G. Kramm
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