Dear Daddy Likey,
I'm in a bit of a time crunch. You see, I'm going to France as an exchange student, for a year. I was originally going to leave in December, but circumstances have changed and I now have the opportunity to go... in a month. Besides all the paperwork (AHHHH!!!!) I have to do to apply for a visa, I was planning on updating my wardrobe for the trip. Since French people are all French... and awesome and fashionista-y, I feel like I will be completely uncomfortable and gross in my normal boxy t-shirt and jeans ensemble. I'm a rising Junior, and I'll be living in Southern France (you have permission to swoon.), and I am short on funds (it's a rather expensive trip). I would appreciate any tips, suggestions, or advice you have for me about what to wear, what to pack, and all that other fun stuff.
Foreign Exchange Faux Pas
First things first: SWOOOOOOOONNNNN!!
Ahem, now that that's out of the way, here's my number 1 top advice: Traveling, even to idyllic, fashionable France, is not a good reason to drastically alter your style. Whenever I'm packing for a trip, I dig around in the back of my closet for my coolest, wildest clothes that I never wear in my normal life, convinced that "Traveling Winona" is cool enough to wear them. Upon arriving at my destination, I am horrified to realize that "Traveling Winona," doesn't actually exist, and "Regular Winona" is now stuck in an unfamiliar locale with a suitcase full of leopard print maxi dresses and 7-inch heels.
Traveling to idyllic, fashionable France is, however, a good reason to slightly alter your style, especially if you've been feeling insecure about your jeans and t-shirts. My advice: Mix up your wardrobe enough that you feel stylish and comfortable in this new place, but not so much that you feel like you accidentally grabbed the wrong suitcase from baggage claim.
Here, take a look at this photo:
image via Garance DoreWhat are the first words that come to mind when you see this girl? Chic? Stylish? European? Fabulous hair? WHY THE HELL CAN'T I LOOK LIKE THAT WHEN I RIDE A BIKE??
Sorry. Still need to work on my cute-girl-on-a-bike jealousy issues.
The point is, this girl is basically just wearing a t-shirt and jeans. Sure, she has supermodel good looks going for her, but anyone could throw on an outfit similar to this and look comfortable and put together.
Here are a few tips to easily (and cheaply) tweak your t-shirt and jeans uniform to up your style quotient:
Choose the right t-shirt
There's a big difference between a boxy white t-shirt emblazoned with the date and location of your last family reunion, and a great-fitting t-shirt in a super flattering color. GAP has a bunch of colorful tees with pretty details on sale right now for, like, $2 each. Load up on a few of those in your favorite colors, and pair them with some cuffed jeans and big sunglasses.
Don't underestimate the power of cute shoes
If you've never been into wearing high heels, you might not want to start practicing amidst this month of frantic packing and bribing the state department to overnight your visa. Instead, try some chic ballet flats, some lower height heels, or more manageable wedges. Aim for the comfortable, stylish footwear middle ground between sneakers and platform stilettos.
Zinc "Eunice," $27.90, 6PM.com
Add a scarf
I wrote about this concept more in depth here, but seriously--want to know the only difference between a frumpy tourist and a chic Parisian? A scarf.
To summarize: You don't have to abandon your old style, just reinterpret it according to your new surroundings. And eat a lot of croissants. And read this, if you want to feel a little less intimidated.
Any lovely readers have other suggestions for our harried exchange student-to-be?