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What I Wear When I Travel to Europe: Stretch & Jersey Clothing [Updated]

by Tina Boomerina (Christina Gregoire)

Whether you’re planning a trip to Paris, a river cruise through Europe, or a vacation to San Francisco, you'll need to decide whether you want to look like a tourist or you want to look fabulous. A tourist wears a jogging suit and tennis shoes. A world traveler wears a stretchy, wrinkle-free jersey dress or a comfortable pants (or leggings or jeans) outfit… with regular shoes.

read about what to wear when traveling europe

Folk Print Maxi Dress for Travel

Well, that’s my opinion and that’s what works for me.

I like jersey travel dresses and crinkly gypsy skirts and loose, slouchy tunics worn over stretchy leggings… so it’s easy for me to pack because I have all the basic pieces and I know they are flattering on me. The tricky part is deciding which accessories to bring so that I can adapt my basics for changing weather conditions, varied locations, and different activities.

Basic Travel Wardrobe for Non-Tourists:

If you’re going to Disneyland, I don’t care what you wear… just add mouse ears so we know you’re in on the joke. However, if you’re going anywhere else, especially to Europe, please don’t wear an ugly, baggy jogging suit from a discount store and white Nikes.

Do your fellow American chicks proud.

I don’t care what your best friend is packing. I don’t care if your husband wants to wear a baseball cap and jogging shoes… although you should warn him that his clothing will make him a target for pickpockets… I’m talking to you.

If you don’t want to look like a freaking tourist, you need to step it up a notch. Hey, most Americans are in dire need of a bit more style. I would never say I'm a fashion icon, but I've been to Europe quite a bit and my basic, go-to travel pieces include the items on the following list. You should consider packing at least one chic thing (or more) from each category:

1. A Pair of Comfortable Shoes:

Good shoes are the most important thing you can pack for Europe! You need two pairs of good, well broken-in shoes or boots. Get a pair of shoes and wear them around the house every day before your trip. Check out Nordstrom.com or shop online for comfortable travel shoes at Zappos.com (or any website that gives reviews and has a good return policy).

Order several styles and send back what you don’t like. I prefer shoes with small platforms so I can wear heels without falling over... that’s because heels make me look taller and younger and hipper. Good cushioning is essential whether you wear heels or flats.

If you've followed these steps (and really tried to find chic walking shoes), but your feet are so fat that even Propet sandals are uncomfortable, I guess you could wear white-marshmallow Nikes... if nothing else worked. However, you will not fit in when you get smart and wander away from the tourist bus... like you SHOULD.

I'd rather see you in old-school Vans or printed high-top Converse or multi-colored designer trainers or bright orange slip-on sneakers or anything like that. Almost ANYTHING is better than the classic, suburban sneakers from the local outlet mall... unless you're running a race or power walking.

Shoes are a BIG deal in European cities because most people don't have a car. It's a little bit the same in other walking towns, such as San Francisco, NYC, and Vancouver... but it's not quite as important as in Europe. Well, do your best. If you can't come up with anything else, wear black Nikes.

2. A Long-Sleeved Jersey Dress:

I like midi lengths, but you can wear whatever hemline suits your figure… even miniskirts. My “absolute favorite” dress with sleeves is from TravelSmith, but they don’t make it anymore, so look around. Just make sure the fabric is matte, not shiny.

read about jersey travel dresses

jersey dress: photo fifty plus prshots.com


3. A Sleeveless, Lightweight Knit Dress:

I have several mid-calf summer-weight dresses. Try Eileen Fisher or TravelSmith, but check out all kinds of stores to find the best styles for your body type. I would love to tell you to wear cute, crisply ironed cotton dresses in warmer destinations like the South of France or Spain or Italy… so that you will get the respect you deserve… but I’d rather have you out exploring vineyards and palaces and villages than wasting your time ironing... or picking up laundry. There's too much to see in Europe to waste your time doing things that will slow you down.

gypsy maxi skirt

Long Gypsy Skirts - Versatile & Show No Spills

4. A Lightweight Tee and Long Full Skirt:

My style is boho, so I always travel with several long, gypsy skirts. Some are broomstick style, some are printed silk (with elastic waistbands) from Johnny Was, and others are medium-weight jersey knits. Lightweight tops can be worn alone or layered with something else for warmth.

I feel that shorter skirts are not as versatile. A full-cut maxi or mid-calf skirt is more comfortable – and easier to walk in – than almost any other skirt. If you've found something else that works as well, bring that.

jersey pantsuit: photo laredoute prshots.com

jersey pantsuit: photo laredoute prshots.com

5. A Travel-Pant Outfit:

Everyone likes something different. Take at least one of these:

  • Leggings: I wear hip-length knit tunics over leggings or jeggings.
  • Pantsuits: If you love tailored clothing, make sure your travel wear has stretch and/or get the best quality you can afford. (Pantsuits can so easily drift into TackyLand.) Consider getting an unconstructed jacket or a long, drapey cardigan as an alternative to your regular jacket.
  • Jeans: If you always wear jeans, you can wear jeans in Europe (even in Paris) as long as they are designer jeans and you know you look great in them. Dark washes are universally flattering. Cropped jeans are designed for gals with extremely long legs. No shorts unless you are young or you’re at the beach… especially in Paris. (Consider wearing short, flippy skirts instead.)
travel pantsuit: laredoute prshots.com

travel pantsuit: laredoute prshots.com

6. A Lightweight or Featherweight Cardigan:

I like hip-length, tie-wrap cardigans that can be worn open (sometimes tied in back) or worn closed. This type of cardigan looks good with skirts, dresses, or pants. You can buy any cheap cardigan as long as it's not heavy (in weight).

7. A Lightweight Travel Raincoat:

Unless your trip is during winter, a light travel raincoat / mac that folds into its own pouch will keep you warm when worn over a cardigan. If you need to stuff everything for your trip into a small carry-on bag, you might not need everything I’ve mentioned.

Fashion Accessories Will Make Your Style:

Now that you have your basics, you need to accessorize them for different occasions. In theory, you could wear the same simple jersey dress every day and make it look different by changing accessories. Here's what I like to pack:

Tina Boomerina: photo jersey travel dress

Tina Boomerina: Jersey Travel Dress from Old Navy

8. A Hat:

My current fave hat for cooler days is a light wool jeweltone fedora with a round brim to which I add a large silk flower. My favorite summer hat is a floppy teal straw hat. I tie a printed scarf around it to match it to my outfit.

9. Two Changes of Travel Jewelry:

I bring lots of different inexpensive earrings and necklaces to dress my outfits up or down. You don’t have to worry about losing costume jewelry.

10. A Long Scarf:

Actually you should bring several long (or big) scarves. Scarves are lightweight and can be scrunched into small spaces. At a minimum, bring one big square to use as a wrap and one long one to tie around your neck Parisian style. Buy more on your trip.

That’s it. As long as you’ve got most of the things I’ve mentioned, your medications, your glasses (or prescription sunglasses), your passport, and a couple of credit cards, you’re good to go.

And, don’t worry. There are lots of clothing stores where you’re going, so you can buy more travel clothes if you bring the wrong items. Some people say you should go to Europe with a half-empty suitcase and a full wallet... but it would be wrong of me to instigate trouble. And, I don't want you to spend all your money on your trip to Europe, because I know you'll want to save up to come back as soon as you're home.

More Articles for Traveling Baby Boomer Women:

Women Over 40, 50 & 60: Parisian Style Details

Cheap and Free Things to Do in Paris: My Favorite Activities

Cheap Hostels in Europe for Baby Boomers

Paris Street Style for Women Over 40, 50, 60

Photo Credits: Prshots.com.

  • Main Photo: LaRedoute.com.
  • Folk Print Maxi Dress for Travel: Danii Print Dress - Monsoon UK (on sale summer 2015, various sizes, ships to US, might show UK sizing).
  • Long Gypsy Skirts - Versatile & Show No Spills: Monsoon.
  • All other clothes are from 2014 when I wrote this article. I will update photos as soon as possible, but I'm having tech problems with the site and I HAVE to fix these issues or I'll be "out of business". I'm typing on the fly, so there might be typos... hey... deal with it.

What do you think of this article? What do you wear when you go to Europe? Leave a comment at the bottom of the page or give us a Google Plus. Main

Tina Boomerina (AKA Christina Gregoire) is a Baby Boomer born at the end of 1952. Her mission is to make the internet a kinder and gentler place for Baby Boomer women around the world. Tina's specialty is fashion for women over 50.

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  1. kay kerns

    AWESOME! This is getting pinned right onto my Seasonless/Snowbird board (which is also my everyday wardrobe board and my travel clothes board). Tina no need to answer this comment unless you want to...I know you are super busy! *hugs*
    p.s. I TRY not to wear my white athletic shoes to Seattle because I feel like such a tourist in them....even though for walking around they are the comfiest. I need cuter athletic shoes or cushier sandals or something