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What to Wear When You Study Abroad, by Country


So many people study abroad every year, but not everyone truly takes in the culture of the place they go.  All too often, Americans are branded when they choose not to take in the local preference for what to wear.  Well, along with a little humility and a let’s-try-new-things spirit, we have just the guide to what to wear in some of the most-traveled-to study abroad locations, as suggested by those who have been there.  The key is to learn from the locals.  Generally, doing as locals do will keep you from becoming targeted as a tourist.

1. Western Europe

Since much of Western Europe has been the determiner of style for centuries (ahem, Renaissance, Rome, etc.), we don’t have to tell you that to travel here, you need to on your A-game, but you might be surprised at what that looks like compared to America.  Here are some keys to keep in mind.


Western Europe



Keep it Simple

Although you want to always look your most stylish while in a fashionable country, you shouldn’t break your bank doing so. The use of neutrals allows one you to wear the same pants, top or dress on several different kinds of occasions. Bring lots of basics.  Emme Raus, a writing student at SCAD, summed up the style in southern France in five items: “[t]rench coats, muted colors (black earth tones) smart blazers, thick combat boots, loafers. All very simple and slimming.”

Stylish, yet comfortable

As Coco Chanel once said, “Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury.”  To travel in style, embrace the proper attire that fits the attitude. In this area of Europe, the mode du jour is generally to throw on some comfy flats or boots (typically, designer ones you buy locally at a good price-follow the locals), skinny jeans or tights for sleek legs, and a long sweater and/or fitted jackets with a sweet scarf and some other cute outerwear.  Anything tailored or fitted is a plus.  “Everybody wears scarves, even guys, because lots of people drive mopeds and it gets very windy and cold when you are riding; when you are walking, you can put the scarf away.  And people like to be very trendy with their coats because [if] it’s not that cold, they can buy more affordable coats: an elegant one, a sporty one, a casual one, a night club one, a cute one for a date,” Gema Alcodori, a SCAD Advertising alumna from Spain, says of her country.


Laura Miller, a UK-local from Chestershire, says layers are the biggest thing to keep in mind:  "It is good to wear layers of clothing; cardigans and sweaters are good. Accessories like scarves and hats are important.  London and some of the bigger cities are quite stylish. Leggings and tunic tops are very popular. The thing with wearing layers of clothing is important for peeling off if too warm and piling on clothes when too cold. In the more rural towns clothing are laid back but I was told if going to town, try to dress smartly so as not to draw attention to yourself.  The UK is a multi-cultural country so there are many crossover clothing styles." 

Whatever you do, don’t…

Apparently, many Americans are easily spotted when they do a couple of things:  

a. Wear sweats when out and about or wear all American-made, like North Face clothing.

b.  Don flip flops (please don’t) — instead, get some gladiator sandals if the weather is warmer.

c.  Bring lots of heels (lots of cobblestone walking will make you hate your life), or even more than five pairs of shoes. 

d. Don’t overload yourself with more than one checked bag.  


2. Scandinavia

Just remember that it gets quite cold here; so, you will want to keep these three main things in mind:  practical, solid and loose. Illustrator and Norwegian-American Courtney Hetland describes the local style in terms for the forward fashionista.  




Practicality is paramount

In this region of the globe, it’s important to remember that it gets very cold and often rainy in various places as well. According to Hetland, Scandinavians are “very practical in their clothing choices; gray is hugely important along with black. A thick gray scarf is another big fashion and practical trend."


Keep it casual when it comes style: “[T]eens to early 20s many of the girls tend to wear some type of urban shoes or sneakers such as Nike or New Balance," Hetland says.  "[And] every girl aged 12-32 has at least one pair of high-waist black skinny jeans which may or may not have holes in the knees. Also, lounge/ athletic type wear is trendy such as jogger sweat pants.”

Staples: simple style

“Sweater dresses are always a staple, great if in gray charcoal or some other muted tone," Hetland says. "One other wardrobe staple would be the long cardigan with pockets, nearly every girl has one."

Solid outer/footwear:  

Always ensure you have durable footwear for both the cold, wet climate and the intense amount of walking you will be doing.  Boots are great — and of course fresh socks.  “A proper rain coat is a necessity for most Norwegians, as well as light wool to go underneath," Hetland says. "Right now, what is trending is bomber jackets, classic black leather jackets and button downs with the top button of the collar buttoned.”


3. South Africa: Cape Town

The Mother City of Africa is a beach city in the southern hemisphere that can have varying temperatures with degrees ranging from the 40s to the 60s Fahrenheit. The key is to be stylish and comfortable

South Africa


The name of the game is layers 

No matter the temp, you can always shed your layers throughout the day. So, bring a sweater, a jacket and some easily layered button ups, like Chambray tops—these are super important to have as basics. Scarves are great as well.  

Fitted & comfortable is important

When it comes to shoes and pants especially, you want good stability. You’ll want to invest in some good walking boots and some casual street shoes. 


Along with the already mentioned basics, Gloria Rapalalani, SCAD fashion marketing student from South Africa says you will def want flip-flops and skater skirts as well.

Sun Protectors

Since the sun in Africa is HOT no matter the season, you will want some sunglasses and hair ties to keep your hair up when you are having adventure time. This is another great reason to wear layers.


4. China: Hong Kong

For Jeanie Lo, writing major at Savannah College of Art and Design and Hong Kong native, there are two main fashion styles among Hong Kong locals:  the ABC style (American Born Chinese) and the Japanese casual style.  

American-born Chinese style

Hong Kong



“This is basically the California girl: Abercrombie and Fitch or Hollister. [The] top 5 pieces [would be] a red, black checker button up, shirt with shoulder cut outs—it’s so popular in Hong Kong for the past few years, floral dress for summer, ripped jeans (denim blue or black or white will do); and for winter a checker scarf, it seems the green, blue, red ones are popular.”

Japanese casual style


Hong Kong: Japanese Casual


The key here is to be fashion-forward, yet super comfy. The epitome of this style is long, open sweaters, baggie pants, light-weight shoes and a neutral tone overall. 

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