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
- Euro Chic Builds on Neutrals
- What is the most important item in a European outfit?
- Putting It Together
- Makeup and Hair
- Euro Chic Style in a Nutshell
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Euro Chic style is very conservative.
Many European office dress codes require coverage of the upper arm, closed shoes and pantyhose.
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.
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.
The myth “Europeans never wear jeans” is a myth. They wear jeans, but in a different way than Americans do. European jeans are not too tight, not too loose, in a rather dark than light wash and without holes or rips. European-style jean often have a plain weave (called Italian weave). Consequently, the fabric looks quite different from your Levis or Wrangler. The rise falls between medium and high rise.
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.
Shorts are acceptable, but not at work (even in a casual work place).
Shorts are never ripped or cut-offs, and never super short.
Who doesn’t know the photo of Brigit Bardot in her cropped pants, ballet flats, and striped top. Cropped pants like capris are more popular than shorts for the weekend and vacation. More on styling capris.
Stylist tip: Fake the look of capri by rolling up a pair of skinny jeans with one fold about 4 inches.
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.
There is a distinct difference between West and East European outerwear due to the different weather conditions. West Europe has moderate maritime climate meaning windy, humid winters with temperatures around the freezing point. Therefore, water repellent outerwear like loden coats, trench coats, pea-coats, leather coats or blazer-cut leather jackets serve as outerwear in the cold season. There are historic reasons for this everyday luxe leather. Wearing fur is a No-No.
In East Europe, winters are cold and precipitation is mostly snow. Therefore, fur coats and shearlings with wool blanket scarves are 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. More on East European Style.
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, while wool scarves with silk fringes are popular in East Europe. More on curating a scarf collection
All accessories are never gaudy, big, fake or tacky. They complement the outfits, are understated pieces.
Most outfits are just in neutral colors: Brown, white, and blue. One trick to keep such outfits interesting is to choose pieces/elements of interest, or a 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 in styling non-boring looks with neutrals.
The shoes! In the overpopulated Europe, look at people’s face in malls, etc. is considered rude. Therefore, you look at the shoes first to assess a person. Because your shoes give the first impression, 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 …”
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. Plus, there was always an extra pair of pantyhose in my work tote! Just in case.
Stylist note: Runners are never in style.
A little black dress is always appropriate. – Coco Chanel
Interestingly, in the US, people are more open to wearing color in their professional lives. Obviously, in the US, colors are less important when the attire is looking put together. Even in a conservative office, nearly every color goes, but those that start with neon. Another difference is that 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 year round. A sheath also gives a straight-up-and-down body some curves. You can even style a sheath as a skirt.
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.
Long hair (worn down) is for girls and young women under 25. The hair should never blow into the face. If long, it is put up in tight buns, braids, a pony tail, up-dos 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.
Euro Chic is all about looking put together. It is high maintenance with respect to grooming, clothes care (read ironing shirts and blouses, dry cleaners for wool skirts, blazers, and pants) and shoes (polishing). All items are real, never fake. The look reads conservative. Euro Chic clothing fits well. Outfits are the societally “correct look” for every occasion.
- It is better to be slightly over- than underdressed.
- It’s a look to feel fabulous all time without spending a fortune.
West and East European Style differs mainly by the outerwear. More on West European Style.
Photos: G. Kramm
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