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Ask Avery: Study abroad essentials

blog by Avery Hartmans  • 

Hi Avery!
I am going to be studying abroad for the fall semester in Rome! I only have limited suitcase space but I have to pack for summer, fall, and winter weather. What are some essentials pieces I can bring that are functional and fashionable so I can try to blend in with the trendy Italian women. Thanks so much!

It was difficult to overcome my jealousy and help you out, since Italy just so happens to be my dream destination. But this is a tricky situation, so I’ll act like a grown up and lend you a hand.

As you already know, Rome will be roughly 2,000 degrees when you arrive in August. All the sensible Romans will have vacated to a more comfortable climate, so you won’t have to worry about being intimidated by Italian fashionistas right away. But you will have to worry about modesty: Rome happens to be home to the Vatican, so in certain areas of the city, hemlines must be nun-approved and shoulders have to be covered.

With that in mind, your number one fashion rule should be layering, layering and more layering. This is important not only for the cooler months, but the hotter months as well. You can always toss a light cardigan in your bag to cover up inside the basilicas (before you get up in my grill, I know it’s basiliche in proper Italian), but you can’t be expected to walk around in the 90 degree heat in a prim and proper get-up.

To make your shopping and packing experience a little less stressful, I’ve assembled a few essentials for every climate Italy throws at you. And don’t be so intimidated by Italian women — they might be fabulous, but American chicks have a style that’s all their own.

Stretchy pencil skirt

Keep it simple, keep it solid. This skirt could be worn a lot of different ways with a lot of different things at a lot of different lengths. Wear it at knee-length for your more demure outings, then hike it up when you get hot and bothered.

ASOS, $19.88

Chic maxi skirt

A silk skirt in a super-stylish print will have all the Italian girls drooling with envy, and the Italian guys drooling with…well, you know. Pair it with a solid silk tank and wedges for the summer to keep cool, or layer with tights, a cardigan and ankle booties for the winter. If you play your cards right, it could even double as a dress.

ASOS, $69.59

Chambray shirt

This is the perfect layering piece. Wear it open over a mini dress, tied up with high-waisted shorts or under a v-neck sweater and blazer in the cooler months. It goes with literally anything, too — including more denim.

J.Crew, $78

Versatile sweater

A light sweater in a neutral tone is essential for summer and winter alike. Pair it with shorts and wedges for a cooler night out or layer over a tee, jeans and boots after the first frost. It may not seem like sweater weather now, but trust me: you’ll be glad you packed it.

Zara, $49.99

Knock ‘em dead dress

You better believe that Italians party hard, so obviously you’ll need your party dress. It may seem silly to pack something so impractical, but you’ll need it at some point. Plus, Europe is generally way fancier than America, so you may want to plan on packing more than one.

Free People, $198


This is another item you should probably pack more than one of. A blazer immediately adds structure and in Italy, it’s all about looking pulled together and steam-lined. If you’re going to pack two, choose a longer, looser fit in a neutral shade as well as a brightly-colored blazer in a fitted, cropped style.

Forever 21, $22.80

Bright cropped pants

A pair of well-fitting, cropped pants in a fun color will take you a long way in Italy. They can be dressed up or dressed down and are a great alternative to jeans. Which, judging by the street style photos I’ve seen, very few women in Italy even own.

J.Crew, $69.99

Silk t-shirt

This is probably already apparent, but I love silk tops, especially t-shirts. They’re the perfect mix of casual and chic and when I’m wearing one with jeans, I don’t feel like such a bum. Basically, they’re like regular t-shirts, only better.

Ann Taylor, $49.99

High-waisted tailored shorts

Shorts are an obvious summer staple, but they’re about to become one of your favorite winter staples as well. Worn with tights and boots, a sweater and a blazer, you’ll be cozy and stylish all at once. You already know the drill for a summer look, so I won’t explain. I’m trying to wean you people.

ASOS, $58

Patterned pencil dress

For goodness’ sakes, you’ll be in Italy, home of the best print designers in the world. Missoni, Moschino, Versace — all are creators of some truly jaw-dropping patterns and prints, so you’ll fit right in a bold, form-fitting dress. Even if loud, bright clothes aren’t your thing, step outside your comfort zone. After all, you only go to Italy to study abroad once. If that wasn’t such a mouthful, I’d make an acronym out of it.

H&M, $34.95

(Header photo from Flickr / ...love Maegen)

TAGGED: essentials, europe, european style, italy, necessities, study abroad

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