Wednesday, May 11, 2011

{reader request} Lizzie goes to Rome...

If I could pick one time in my life I most wish I could relive, it would be the five months I spent abroad in college, in the town of Aix-en-Provence. In that bubble of existence, I lived in a dream. Each weekend held a new adventure; a new town, a new country, a train, a bus, a flight, a ferry, or maybe just a new street in Aix. I met the most wonderful people and experienced an amount of growth, joy, adventure and wonder that I didn't feel again until I arrived in New York.

I will stop my gushing at this point, because I don't think I could possibly convey here how strongly I advocate studying abroad, and how much the experience meant to me. If someone gave me a soapbox, I could tour the country promoting it and be totally content. However I don't have a soapbox, I have blog. And as fate would have it, that has allowed me a wonderful platform to pass on some advice and wisdom (instead of just wildly enthusiastic raving about things like renting a bicycle in Sevilla. (Do it!))

Longer ago than I want to admit (I'm sorry it took so long, Lizzie!) a darling reader sent me an email, asking for some advice on how to pack for her upcoming Fall semester in Rome, Italy. Needless to say, I was struck with nostalgia and thrilled to be able to impart a little of the sartorial direction that I wish someone had given me prior to my months in France. I'll start with a visual:

Lizzie goes to Rome

Lizzie goes to Rome 

Alright. This is what I would call, "The Study Abroad Starter Set." Classic pieces in colors that really like each other and are extremely easy to layer. I think if you take off from the USA with most of these items, you will be prepared for most any city, any adventure, any weather.

Now Lizzie, I can tell you two things right off the bat:
1. You will shop. You will shop, and shop, and shop. You will return to college a chicer, more worldly version of yourself, and of this you can be sure. So, don't be afraid to under-pack a little. Everything and anything you could possibly want to add to your wardrobe will be available to you.
2. In Europe, you simply cannot have enough black. When I arrived in Aix-en-Provence in the dead of a Mediterranean winter, every, single woman was clad in black from head-to-toe. Building from black basics will allow you to jump right in with the locals, and the pieces will likely last you long after your Roman holiday.

Shoes: Indeed, packing for such a long time can be overwhelming and daunting. The seasons will change, you'll visit places with polar opposite attitudes towards dressing, and your feet will be killing you for the first few weeks. This is why footwear is the most important element of your essentials. Finding what brands and styles fit you best is quite personal, so I wont get specific, but don't shy away from splurging on a great pair of boots (black or brown) and a pair of neutral (or black) flats. Also, in hindsight I wish I had brought a great pair of wedges for dressing up, because a heel will get destroyed in the cobblestones and probably drive you crazy. Something in black with a peep-toe will transition nicely from the bare legs to the tights months easily.

Tops & Jackets: If I were to do it all over again, I would have only brought a few choice tops, and filled in the gaps once arriving in Europe. You will be inundated with amazing fashion everywhere you turn, so budgeting both your wallet and your return suitcase for new purchases is key. Your own taste preferences will obviously rule, but I think a breezy silk button down -- that can be worn with literally everything from jeans to shorts to tucked in with a skirt or even over your swim suit -- is essential. Same goes for a nautical striped shirt. Here's the other ultimate element of a successful abroad kit: layering. Choosing pieces that can be worn together in any number of ways will keep your look fresh even if your host family only lets you launder your belongings once a month. To achieve this, I would make sure you have a great navy or black blazer, an olive green military-style jacket, and a trench coat. Do not forget the trench. If it gets extra chilly, just buy a warm jacket from H&M. Don't waste your packing space on something that bulky, trust me. Use it, then toss it before you head home.

Pants, etc: Black skinny jeans. Dark denim skinny jeans. Black leggings. A couple pairs of shorts. Two or three of your most favorite skirts. You will be tucking your pants, tights and leggings into boots a lot, I can assure you. If you're not a skinny jeans gal, at least look into straight leg. True that flares are trendy right now, but leave that as a game time decision once the fall rolls around. It's sort of an old myth that women don't wear shorts in Europe, and in certain cases it can give you away as a visitor. However, they're practical and comfortable, so I say keep 'em classy and not too short.

Miscellany: A pashmina will be your best friend in Europe. Scarf, shawl, pillow, blanket - it is all these things. Again black is always great, but you can always use it as a color pop. Bring two pairs of classic sunglasses, one metal rimmed, one plastic. The Longchamp shopper tote functions as both a book-bag and a weekender when necessary. Don't carry a backpack to school, Lizzie. Just don't. A small cross body bag is practical (and Mom will think it's safe) and on-trend right now; find one that easily fits your passport, camera, maybe a guide book and a small wallet. A watch will be your best friend abroad, do not trust those crazy European cell phones. A cool hat will also serve you well in Europe, they love hats. Additionally, they're brilliant for when you've been out at a discotheque til 6 a.m. and are running late with no time to shower before your 9 a.m. Roman History class. Finally, a simple little black swimsuit. Hopefully you will find yourself on a yacht off the Amalfi Coast, and black, again, is always classic and perfect.

Alright, I hope this helps, Lizzie. If anyone else out there wants to chime in with some helpful tips from experiences abroad, please do! Anyone out there been to Rome? Anyone study abroad recently and have some glorious tid-bit on the advances of to-go coffee in places that don't have Starbucks? Inquiring minds want to know...

1 comment:

  1. I spent my junior year abroad in Rome, and it was an amazing experience! I miss it! I totally agree with your fashion advice! Old Bridge is the best gelato place in Rome! It is right outside the Vatican, and your reader should visit it!