Studying Abroad: Starting your own adventure

How to curate a wardrobe that’s functional and reflects your personality

What to pack:

Trying to decide what to pack during your time abroad can present a unique challenge of its own. You must be able to pack enough clothes to carry on your own and make it on the plane while having the clothes reflect the versatility to stand up to different weather and climate when travelling abroad. Deciding to pack functional pieces but injecting your own personality into your style is something a lot of us find important with our everyday looks. If anything, the clothes you wear during your time in Florence are what you will be capturing your pictures in and ultimately reflect on your memories of this unique experience.

Shoes: Make sure they’re comfortable. The average European is known for ‘dressing up’ more than the average American; this being said comfort is key in terms of footwear. Walking around ancient cities whose streets have existed before the nation of the United States, can present a problem if you normally opt for heels. The cobblestones can easily cause you to loose balance if you choose a skinny stiletto or wedged platform because of the uneven surface.

Sneakers are key for cool- street wear ready style sandals and booties are other options to consider depending on the season you choose to study abroad in.

Versatility :

During my time in Florence, I experienced more rain than anyone could prepare me for. Remember that living abroad often means that your primary method of transportation is walking, so pack accordingly. You will most likely have to brave the elements and walk further distances than you are used to, especially if you are used to driving in a car from point A to point B.

The elements can create a problem, but layering is the ultimate solution. Packing cardigans, knitwear, and pieces that can transition from season to season is your best option as the weather can change drastically from weekend to weekend. One of the most worn items while abroad was an investment piece, a decent raincoat trench that could transition from the cooler to warm weather with a wool insert that can de-attach and a hood that can be removed as well.

Other outerwear options should include: Florentine motto leather jackets are quite popular, so if you want to look like a local bringing one of these can be a great option that will transition you from a daytime edgy look to aperativo appropriate apparel.

Fabrics matter, Things to look on your label:

Antimicrobial towels are one of the best items I packed while abroad, They were lightweight and easy to pack they also dried faster than traditional cotton towels, and they are more sanitary because of the fabric properties.

Rayon– this fabric type wrinkles a little, but not as much as linen would, it is comfortable and drapes well. It will shrink or shorten easier than other materials though so do not put it through the dryer.

Cotton- although it is lightweight and breathable, Italy generally does not have many dryers and cotton is a fiber that takes a while to dry, this may be important when trying to pack last minute for a weekend trip.

Cashmere- a comfortable and warm option that doesn’t take up much space in your luggage, many of the vintage stores carry cashmere significantly discounted, the pieces (if well taken care of) can last a long time. They are less bulky than some of their heavy wool counterparts.

Polyester– this man-made material that is a byproduct of petroleum, it is generally cheaply produced but it is anti wrinkle, this can actually be a good option if you do not want your clothes to wrinkle. Remember not to iron this fabric because it will melt.

Spandex or Lycra – This material is generally used in swimsuit, sports and athletic garments. It can be a good and comfortable option for long bus rides or layovers in the airport. Lycra is a brand name of spandex, and is of the highest quality. Spandex is the weakest material out of all man made and natural properties, so a good test of quality when buying a spandex piece is if you stretch it a little in stores if it will come back to its original form.

Stylist Secrets:

Anti-wrinkle spray: Packing this will save you if you have a presentation or interview you need to dress up for.

Tide to-go pens: I have used these for many years and it has even gotten blueberry smoothie out of a white skirt

Febreeze fabric to go spray: This spray is particularly helpful when you are packing for spring break or other medium length trips. It takes the smell out of clothes if you have dirty laundry in your luggage next to clean ones.

How to make it all fit?

Packing Cubes: These bags can be useful in organizing your clothes and compressing them, they are particularly useful for undergarments; keeping them concealed as security checks your carry-on luggage.

Compression bags: vacuum-sealed or roll- able. These bags are lifesavers; this is the most important thing that I brought and it saved me from checking another piece of luggage. The roll- able kind are vacuum free and re-usable so it is helpful for shorter trips around Europe as well.

I hope that you can find some of these tips useful, whether you’re about to study abroad for a semester or just planning a weekend trip – buon viaggio!


Katie Mahoney attends Marist College and currently pursuing a degree in fashion merchandising with a concentration in promotion. She is a native of the Boston area but has spent the past summer and this coming, interning in NYC. Her passion for all things fashion had sprung from a young age, admiring her grandmother’s eclectic yet classically chic sense of style. In her free time, she enjoys traveling the world, having been to fourteen countries and counting; she finds it as an inspiration to see different cultural perspectives. She believes “Learning should not end in the classroom, you can learn so much from the people around you. Being abroad has broadened and challenged my view of the world. I have learned the most about myself from the places furthest from home.” She will continue her study abroad experience this fall, at a fashion institution in Paris. Upon graduation, Katie wishes to pursue a career in Public Relations for an in-house luxury retailer.