In case you haven’t heard, “European summer” is in full swing. TikTokers are embracing a supposed state of mind called “Europecore” and its offshoot, “Tomato Girl Summer”, in myriad ways. They’re filming their Mediterranean-inspired backyard dinner parties, posting montages of Eric Rohmer films set in the South of France and, most importantly, sharing what they’re packing to strut along the Amalfi Coast. These “what to pack for the European summer” videos tend to follow a formula: neutral-coloured linen, airy, puffy-sleeved blouses and, somewhat abstractly, the lesson that one must strive to blend in or, horrifyingly, stand out as a lowly tourist.
It may be part of a 21st century social media trope, but the warning to change your usual style when travelling abroad is an idea as old as time. Flip through any old-fashioned guidebook and you’re bound to find tips on how to avoid looking like a tourist. Of course, there’s something to be said for dressing conspicuously when you’re exploring an unfamiliar place and you’re not sure what you’ll encounter, but TikTok’s suggestions for dressing the part – complete your outfit with a scarf in Paris, or wear black in NYC – read as dated as those physical guidebooks.
The truth is, fashion standards around the world are much more nuanced than any neatly curated TikTok video can hope to show. Not only that, but these videos show that there’s quite a gap between what Americans think Europeans wear and what they actually wear. So maybe the best thing to do on your next trip to Venice is to just wear whatever you feel most comfortable in, because the act of travelling itself will take you out of your comfort zone (contrary to popular belief, athleisure is okay!).
Apart from the obvious exceptions – wearing (or not wearing) anything that breaks local laws or could be considered offensive, and respecting religious and cultural sites that have dress codes – you’re rarely hurting anyone, including yourself, by rocking a T-shirt and yoga pants while sipping Negroni Sbagliatos in the late August Milan sun.
So don’t sweat it. At the end of the day, those scrollable European summer mood boards that come to life are mostly just a fantasy anyway. Most Americans don’t actually travel to Europe this summer, and while there’s nothing wrong with channeling a certain vibe at home, there’s a danger in using “Europe” as shorthand for coastal Italy or France.
A European summer can look a lot different, so if you’re heading across the pond in the coming weeks, remember that each of the continent’s 50 countries may require something unique in terms of clothing. How about packing your windbreaker for the Scottish Highlands? Or your not-so-sexy water shoes for the lakes of Slovenia?
We tend to think that we need to buy a whole new wardrobe before we travel. And while it can be fun to show off a whole new you abroad, it’s even more fun to let yourself be inspired once you’re there. An alternative TikTok trend, loosely titled ‘What people are wearing in XYZ’, showcases real-life fashion in cities around the world.
It harnesses the unbridled joy of people-watching, arguably one of the best parts of travelling, while encouraging us to break free from media-driven assumptions and see street style for ourselves. So the next time you see a certain silhouette you admire on your travels, try to recreate it by stopping by a local second-hand shop. Just think how much fun it’ll be to say, “Oh, that old thing? I picked it up in a vintage shop in Amsterdam”.