Shoes/Clothing for European Gallivant
August 14, 2017 6:19 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to Europe with my sister for her 30th birthday (yay!) and I've never been before. We're flying into Rome and planning on going to Barcelona and possibly somewhere in Portugal as well. The trip is about two weeks long, and we leave in early September. I have no idea what to wear, and my shoe selection is particularly thin on the ground!

The trip is thus far pretty unplanned, but I know we'd like to be mobile – I'm in dire need of purchasing possibly multiple pairs of comfortable shoes. I was looking at chacos for something open-toed and walkable... I also know we'd like to dress up and be fashionable on some nights so I'm sure I'll need at least one other shoe option (close-toed) as well, and I'm a bit lost. I also have nothing in the way of a decent all-in-one travel jacket; recommendations there would be amazing! I've been pretty lazy with my wardrobe the past couple of years but have some simpler decent outfits and dresses I'm going to bring. I'm thin and petite (5'4") and my overall style is pretty casual but I wouldn't mind jazzing things up a little bit.
posted by caitcadieux to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It might be good to let people know in which country you're doing your shopping... not one in Europe, obviously, but there are plenty of other options.
posted by Too-Ticky at 6:24 AM on August 14, 2017

Ah, yes, that is an excellent point! I am in the U.S., in upstate NY specifically.
posted by caitcadieux at 6:30 AM on August 14, 2017

Thanks! I would recommend a pair of Keen sandals; they are ridiculously walkable and last for ages.
posted by Too-Ticky at 6:35 AM on August 14, 2017

I wear Chacos sandals Z/2 for everything. Dresses, jeans, leggings, shorts. Have turned up in Michelin-star restaurants in Europe wearing Chacos. If you want something slightly more dressy for certain nights, ballet flats or low-heeled ankle boots?
posted by moiraine at 7:09 AM on August 14, 2017

Have a wonderful trip! I found this video and the entire series to be interesting. The takeaway is wear super comfortable shoes with good treads.
posted by tipsyBumblebee at 7:47 AM on August 14, 2017

General tip: There are a kabillion "packing list for....." web pages out there, some even narrowing things down by month. I found those to be a Godsend when I was trying to figure out what to pack for trips myself, that would take comfort, local standards, and etiquette into account. Some are a little on the girly-fashionista side, but they're still pretty practical.

More specific advice - I found Rome's weather to be a lot like New York's, and looking at the accu-weather projections it looks like the temperature would be similar in early September too. So a nice cardigan or blazer may be enough, as opposed to a jacket. I didn't bring a jacket when I went to Rome in May, I instead had a couple cardigans and an assortment of long and short-sleeved shirts to go under them. (Layering is your friend!) That way you can then just bring a decent-looking pair of jeans and then a pair of khakis or dress pants that also go with the tops you're bringing, and you're set for any occasion. If you bring a few nice scarves (or pick some up!), then that expands your options even more, espcially if some of them can be used as wraps or shawls (i still have and use this gorgeous wrap I picked up in Florence).

Here's a whole list of recommendations for good walking shoes. But I got away with a decent-looking, colorful pair of canvas sneakers (red with blue laces, since my clothes were all red and blue). A lot of web sites say 'no sneakers" but they're referring more to big horkin' clunky running shoes. Simple canvas sneakers are fine. (I would pay close attention to whether you need arch support, though; that is my own particular bugaboo.) My red Keds and a pair of Clark's sandals and I was set.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:52 AM on August 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

Although why not leave a couple of items and buy them from Rome's excellent markets? Porta Portese is the big one, but only open on Sunday morning: Via Sannio, much smaller, is open every other day.

That way you can match your clothes to the weather and pick up a bargain souvenir at the same time.
posted by Segundus at 7:55 AM on August 14, 2017

If you want to blend in a bit err on the side of more formal as opposed to less - more often than not American tourists are easily identifiable by wearing shorts, tshirts and sneakers paired with either bumbags or backpacks.

As you are a petite woman you may want to consider doing some shopping in Italy and Spain - a lot of local brands will have cuts that are suited to your stature. In terms of packing I'd bring broken in footwear and a small number of interchangeable pieces as recommended by EmpressCallipygos. But if you're looking to buy clothing specifically for the trip consider if you'd like to pick up a few items locally instead.

And yes, anywhere in southern Europe will be warm and pleasant in early September. I'd not feel the need to bring a jacket or coat. If you're the sort of person to feel cold easily e.g. in the shade bring a light scarf. If you have one bring a nice blazer for the dressier occasions. Adding a bit of structure to a more informal outfit goes a long way.
posted by koahiatamadl at 8:10 AM on August 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oh! Another tip - make sure one pair of shoes you plan on using is slip-on, and then make those be the shoes you wear to the airport. Makes the whole TSA check process a LOT smoother.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:15 AM on August 14, 2017

For comfortable walking sandals that are more dressy than Chacos you might look at Naot sandals.
posted by adiabatic at 8:40 AM on August 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

These aren’t amazing quality, but they are the most comfortable sandals I’ve ever had for walking, even more so than Chacos and Keens.
posted by metasarah at 8:52 AM on August 14, 2017

I recently did a similar trip: Spain (Andalusia to Madrid), Italy (Rome), and Portugal (Lisbon, Sintra). My friends and I are pretty fashion-forward, but pack pretty light.

For walking, this pair of Reef sneakers was amazing. They're light, and have good sole support. I also had a pair of Reef flip flops (love them!)

For hiking, I had a pair of New Balance trail running shoes. I was in Switzerland for a few days, so it was pretty extensive hiking, but not difficult trails.

For going out, we stuck with cute mini- and summer dresses, and I paired those with these Naturalizers (super cute, but yes, my grandma's brand!). Accessories are lighter and easier to carry than heels, so a couple pairs of dangly earrings, bracelets and a necklace go a long way.

You may run into some precipitation, so packing a light travel raincoat might be a good idea. If you want waterproof walking shoes, my friend has these Blondo waterproof shoes that she said were comfortable once broken in.

This North Face jacket is the only one I travel with when I travel outside of winter. It's been extremely versatile, and if you pack a few long-sleeved tees or a cardigan that matches your dresses for layering, you're pretty solid on the weather front. Also, I usually pack black athletic leggings/ yoga pants for walking around in. If it isn't ridiculously hot outside, they're more comfortable than jeans and wick moisture. You could also wear cute shorts that won't make you look like a tourist!

Have fun!
posted by Everydayville at 3:50 PM on August 14, 2017

Keep a close eye on weather forecasts as Spain & Portugal have had extremely hot weather so far this summer.
posted by kariebookish at 4:31 PM on August 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I broke in some Birkenstocks for walking around a bunch of Portugal this summer, and my feet have never enjoyed a vacation more. Their strap patterns have proliferated, so there may be some that double as comfy and a bit dressy/fashionable depending on your proclivities.

For all weather jacket, I'd recommend a few lighter layers you can mix and match. Breathable long sleeves, scarf or two, light sweater, and a plane sweater/light loose jacket and maybe an umbrella or rain layer can be arranged to match the weather.
posted by slanket wizard at 7:08 PM on August 14, 2017

Keep a close eye on weather forecasts as Spain & Portugal have had extremely hot weather so far this summer.

It seems the worst has passed (right now max temps of 35-38 Celsius at the most and temperatures start cooling the second half of August) but I'd expect max temps of around 25-30º in September. Weather service for Spain here.

Some warning: Barcelona tends to be hot and muggy in summer. I'm from a dry heat region and sometimes have a bad time when I'm in Barcelona because of the humidity.
posted by sukeban at 3:19 AM on August 15, 2017

You all are amazing, thank you so much! Will continue to keep an eye on this thread, the responses so far have been extremely helpful.
posted by caitcadieux at 4:53 AM on August 15, 2017

You've had some helpful shoe advice already, I would just chime in to say that a versatile dress is a great idea for a trip like this. I did a summer trip in Vienna, Prague and Paris and basically lived in my Beta Brand 30 day dress ( . It has pockets, so you don't always need a bag, you can wear it with nicer shoes to dress up but can also wear it with leggings and chuck taylors to look a bit funky.

If you have money to spend on it, I've got my eye on the Chrysalis Cardi (, which is a multi-way product that can be a cardigan or dress or top or tunic. Could be a lot of fun.

If you're trying to pack light, have a search for "onebag" or "onebagger" online to see some packing lists. Some people are crazy minimal, but you can get some helpful tips. Ex Officio underwear is quick to dry so you can wash in a sink and only bring a few pair. Merino wool (darn tough socks, icebreaker or ibex tops, skirts and trousers) can be worn multiple times without smelling bad because they have a natural antibacterial feature. You could figure out a whole trip in a backpack, especially at this time of year.

Have fun!
posted by lettezilla at 11:57 AM on August 15, 2017

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