What to Wear in Europe

There’s still a few weeks left of summer, so if you are traveling to Europe and wondering what to wear I have a suggestion for you.

Deb At The Louvre

Make your life easy and just pack dresses!

When I was in France a few years ago with my husband and three children traveling around Provence, and then up to Paris for a few days, I found dresses were the perfect travel wear.

It was far too hot to wear pants, and shorts would have felt wrong, so I opted for dresses. They hardly any space in my suitcase, made me feel feminine and were cool and comfy.

At Versailles

For a twelve day trip, I packed eight dresses:  7 casual, one slightly dressier. You could probably get away with 5 or 6, but I like to have a few extras to choose from depending on my mood that day.

In Provence
In Provence wearing Trina Turk

During the day I wore these cute sundresses with flat gold or black sandals and a carried a large black tote to carry souvenirs I was buying along the way!  At night I added jewelry, scarves, and small heels for a dressier look.

At Jardin du Luxembourg
At Jardin du Luxembourg

Now, we were on a family sightseeing trip. We were driving through the lavender fields and visiting the-the quaint French countryside towns in Provence.

In Paris, we were doing the typical tourist things – The Louvre, The Eiffel Tower, Versailles, Le Concierge, the Seine River Cruise, etc.

Deb in Eli Tahari
Deb in Eli Tahari

It was not a romantic couple’s vacation where we were slipping off to fancy Parisian restaurants and night clubs, although my kids happened to take this cozy shot of my husband one special night. If we had taken a couple’s vacation, I would have packed differently and brought some dressier date night things.

But for this kind of day tripping, my summer dress wardrobe worked beautifully.  What a relief to open my suitcase, slip on my dress of the day and walk out the door.

When you are travelling you have so many things to keep track of that dressing has to be a no-brainer.

Join the Conversation

19 thoughts on “What to Wear in Europe

  1. Hi Deborah…I really enjoy reading your website. I am 74, and about 5’3″. I am going on a Mediterranean cruise, this Sept. Will be doing a lot of walking and not really sure what to wear. The weather will still be quite warm. I don’t have good legs so short dresses or skirts will not work for me. Any advice? Thanks

    1. Hi Norma, What about a pair of cropped casual pants that hit just above the ankle and nice top for day when siteseeing? On the ship, a cute, casual maxi or a flowy casual jumpsuit? There are also a lot of midi dresses out there. How do you feel about those?

  2. Thank you Deb! I just found this website! I am a little confounded by the majority of these comments that disagree with you about dresses — when aren’t dresses a better option while visiting public places? Perhaps this is the result of an overly casual society but I am rather offended that someone would criticize YOUR dress. You look AMAZING! And all of your dresses were such a feminine touch of class. Having lived in France, I agree with Brigette who points out that most Americans dress atrociously while in the country and stand out blocks away. Please show your shoes or provide suggestions — this is always the most difficult part.

  3. Last summer I spent 3 weeks in Italy in July and took only dresses, skirts, and flat sandals, a couple of everyday pair and one dressier pair, also flat. (I knew how much walking I would be doing!) Dresses and skirts are just cooler and more comfortable for me, as well as don’t scream “tourist”. Some places in Italy will not allow you in if you are in shorts or sleeveless attire (or in the case of St. Peter’s Basilica, wearing anything that shows your knees), so make sure to carry a lightweight sweater with you for those occasions. Make sure to check the guidelines before you go so you are prepared and pack adequately.

    1. That’s a good point Maggie. I always carry a wrap or light scarf of some type for going into churches or heavily air conditioned buildings, and I use it a lot. Travel dressing is all about layering. Cheers Deborah

      1. Dresses are the best for travel when the weather is warm. Paris can get quite cool in late August through mid September.
        A wonderful thing about touring in a dress is that it makes it easier to use the bathroom. No one wants her pants hitting the
        floor. You might take leggings and/or tights if the temp drops or it rains.
        Deborah, I agree with you entirely. However, most of the dresses you show are sleeveless. Some of us older gals
        like a 3/4 or half sleeve cause our arms are not so nice. We don’t want to wear a sweater. Please show more dresses with sleeves.

  4. THANK YOU for dressing fabulously while in France! When I went to Paris it was so easy to spot Americans because they were the most poorly dressed. I saw way too much bad demin, oversized t-shirts and filthy sneakers.

    Comfortable shoes are definitely a must, especially with the cobblestone streets that you find all over Europe.

  5. Nora: I hear you about shoes and walking – I have found that there are a couple of brands that are supportive yet attractive (aka don’t look orthopedic!) – try Mephisto, Dansko and Ecco – they are not inexpensive – but they last. Dansko has an outlet in Jennersville, PA where the shoes are 50% off and I’ve seen Ecco’s at TJ Maxx – I’ve seen all (and other brands) at Nordstrom Rack!

  6. I like the idea of traveling with dresses too. They are really cool and look good out on the street and while dining. Just pair them with a pair of sandals and I have had lots of luck this summer finding comfortable soled sandals. I did however think this black and white dress was too short. It would be more apprealing and look better if it was knee length. It almost looks as if it is too small. You said 40 something should not wear short shorts and I don’t believe that 40 somethings look good in dresses this short. (good legs or not)

  7. These dresses are really cute, and I agree that they take up little space and feel “right.” But I want to know more about your shoes. SHOW THEM!! That was the hardest part for me… finding cute and comfy shoes for WALKING :)

  8. Really like your advice on what to wear in Europe and for France particularly the dress idea is perfect. My question for you – as a UK 40 something woman – is, how can you look good at DisneyWorld? Just back from a fabulous family holiday there – really thought I had cracked it this year, but ended up looking like a dog’s dinner in baggy white trousers and plain coloured T-shirts. Am fascinated by these elegant, groomed women who look really together and don’t seem to be dragging a whole family’s possessions in a backpack! Hope to return again next year and really want to improve.

    1. Hi Julie
      It’s typically very hot and crowded there, plus you need to be able to easily get on and off rides, so I’d suggest wearing walking shorts (to just slighty above the knee) or cropped pants with an attractive v or scoop neck fitted t-shirt, flat sandals and a carry a zippered tote (to keep souvenirs in that you may be picking up along the way).
      If you’re self conscious about your legs, you could wear capris (like the tapered Jackie-o- type that land about three inches above the ankle), but not with socks and big clunky running shoes! -just a comfortable light, flat sandal. We think the key is to keep it simple. Forget any fussy, tops (and nothing loose and baggy like a tent). Also, we’re not big on shorts, pants etc. with too much stuff on them like pockets or ties hanging off – just makes your bottom half look heavier than it is, and in crowds this stuff can get caught on things. You are probably going to have be taking lots of pictures, so be conscious to wear solid colors instead of prints because the background at Disneyland is going to be busy enough. Make sure the color up top by your face is your most flattering color. For example some gals look great in yellow, peach, red or orange. For others it might be blue, green, pink- whatever makes your face “POP”. Keep your hair simple and away from your face for the pictures, some cute small casual earrings always look good in photos, and make sure to bring some great sunglasses to finish off your look. Hope these tips make you feel look and feel like Cinderella, instead of Donald Duck, at DisneyWorld !

  9. Nice dresses, love them all, and what a great ideea to pack them in the suitcase for sightseeing! It would have been also very very helpful, to see which shoes(I guess supr comfy sandals here)have you paired with, not only to speak about them, I mean better to see good examples here(for ex. your own ones)…I have troubles to find something which are 12h.walking comfortable and still matches not only one, but some other dresses, too..thankx a lot. I’m fan of your blog! :-)

  10. I am 5′ 7″ and over 40 with really good legs, but I would not wear any dress that short. As soon as you sit down it will ride up a few inches higher, and I do not want my hem to be at mid-thigh!
    I also vote for skirts because you can change the top and change the look, allowing you to pack lighter and create so many more outfits.

  11. I just got back from spending two and a half weeks in Copenhagen and am going back for another ten days on September 13. I saw very few tourists wearing dresses here and they were smart not to do so. Copenhagen is a walking and biking city. Also extremely casual. The most popular “chic” attire seemed to be attractive capri-style pants or leggings with light weight blouses. I saw very few shorts here. But everyone, and I mean everyone, was in comfortable shoes. However, there was no dearth of attractive ones. I myself was on a business trip, but since I’m in the arts I was able to wear jeans, shorts, or whatever I needed to wear to suit the weather. Also, I found a raincoat imperative. I would think most countries require that. But more important than anything are THE SHOES!!! No one is looking at your feet. They are looking at the beautiful country.

    1. Hi Joan,
      Yes, I see how dresses wouldn’t have worked work if I had been biking, but I did walk EVERYWHERE, and my sundresses were very cool and comfy, especially since it was so hot in France while I was there..30-36 degrees C, everyday!`

  12. I’ve been switching to dresses for work, as I found that on the days I just didn’t want to think about what to wear that was what I was reaching for. And skirts are becoming my second option. What a great idea to do the same for travel! We recently took a week-long vacation & I took 2 comfortable skirts & ended up wearing them, with the capris & shorts spending more time in the suitcase.

    Nora – it takes some searching but there are supportive comfortable shoes out there that look fine with dresses. Try travelsmith or footwear catalogs; and, some of the European shoe brands & athletic brands are coming out with more streamlined versions of their more hardcore supportive shoes.

  13. I love the idea of travelling with dresses. However, I have “foot problems”and need a supportive shoe if I’m going to do a lot of walking. I travel a lot and this has been a big bugaboo for me. I’m sure there are other readers over 40 with this concern. Any suggestions?

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