What to Wear in Europe

There are 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 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 too hot to wear pants, and shorts would have felt wrong, so I opted for dresses. They hardly had any space in my suitcase, made me feel feminine, and were relaxed and comfy.

At Versailles

I packed eight dresses for a twelve-day trip:  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 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 nightclubs, 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 traveling, you have so many things to keep track of that dressing has to be a no-brainer.

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19 thoughts on “What to Wear in Europe

  1. Hi Deborah…I 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 am not 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 a nice top for the day when sightseeing? 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 three weeks in Italy in July and took only dresses, skirts, and flat sandals, a couple of everyday pairs and one dressier pair, also flat. (I knew how much walking I would be doing!) Dresses and skirts are cooler and more comfortable for me, as they 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. 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 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 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 lovely. 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 in 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. However, I thought this black and white dress was too short. It would be more appealing and look better if it was knee length. It almost seems 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 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 most challenging part for me… finding cute and comfy shoes for WALKING :)

  8. I like your advice on what to wear in Europe, and the dress idea is perfect for France. As a UK 40-something woman, my question for you is, how can you look good at DisneyWorld? I just returned from a fabulous family holiday there – I thought I had cracked it this year, but it looked like a dog’s dinner in baggy white trousers and plain colored T-shirts. I am fascinated by these elegant, groomed women who look together and don’t seem to be dragging a whole family’s possessions in a backpack! I hope to return next year and want to improve.

    1. Hi Julie
      It’s typically boiling and crowded there, plus you need to be able to get on and off rides easily, so I’d suggest wearing walking shorts (to just slightly 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- the 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 like pockets or ties hanging off – it just makes your bottom half look heavier than it is, and in crowds, this stuff can get caught on things. You will probably have been taking lots of pictures, so be conscious to wear solid colors instead of prints because the background at Disneyland will be busy enough. Make sure the color 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 bring some great sunglasses to finish your look. I hope these tips make you look like Cinderella, instead of Donald Duck, at DisneyWorld!

  9. Lovely dresses, I love them all, and a great idea to pack them in the suitcase for sightseeing! It would have also been beneficial to see which shoes(I guess super comfy sandals here) you paired with, not only to speak about them; I mean better to see good examples here(for example, your ones)…I have trouble finding something which is 12h. walking comfortable and still matches not only one but some other dresses. Thank you a lot. I’m a fan of your blog! :-)

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

  11. I just returned from spending two and a half weeks in Copenhagen and am returning for another ten days on September 13. I saw very few tourists wearing dresses here, and they were wise not to do so. Copenhagen is a walking and biking city. Also extremely casual. The most famous “chic” attire seemed to be attractive Capri-style pants or leggings with lightweight blouses. I saw very few shorts here. But everyone, and I mean everyone, was in comfortable shoes. However, there was no shortage of attractive ones. I was on a business trip, but since I’m in the arts, I could 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 countryside.

    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 relaxed and comfy, especially since it was so hot in France while I was there..30-36 degrees C, every day!`

  12. I’ve been switching to dresses for work, as I found that on the days I 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 two comfortable skirts & ended up wearing them, with the capris & shorts spending more time in the suitcase.

    Nora – it takes some searching, but supportive, comfortable shoes out there look fine with dresses. Try travel smith or footwear catalogs; 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 traveling in dresses. However, I have “foot problems” and need a supportive shoe if I walk a lot. 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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