This became even more true when, after growing up in Texas, I lived abroad in Slovenia for nine months after high school. Although there are many cultural differences I could discuss between the U.S. and Europe as a whole, one in particular has always stood out to me: fashion.
When I moved to Slovenia in 2018, the difference in the way women dressed compared to my American counterparts was surprising, but with different lifestyles and cultures inevitably come variations in style. What are some of these differences? Read on to find out.
Athleisure outside the Gym
Wearing athleisure outside the gym has become commonplace in the U.S., something fashion buyer and image consultant Montserrat Varela notes in her TikTok. In the clip, Varela, who used to live in California and now resides in Germany, highlights how women in the U.S. often wear athleisure to run errands. Varela noted she often spotted American women wearing workout sets to the grocery store, whether they planned on hitting the gym or not — typically leggings and a sports bra.
In Europe, the trend of wearing a sports bra without an outer layer isn’t typically seen. As Varela states, “It’s not very common to see people entering a coffee place or a grocery store with just their sports bra and nothing on top.” While she says leggings have become more of a trend in Europe, people will style them with other pieces to elevate the look, such as crew socks, a structured trench coat, or accessories.
Growing up in Texas, a baggy shirt paired with sports shorts was the quintessential high school look. I couldn’t walk down our massive hallways without seeing my peers wearing this outfit, and I occasionally rocked it myself. When I lived in Europe, however, I was hard-pressed to find anyone sporting something oversized.
If a European woman was wearing something larger, it was typically a winter or trench coat to go over an already-layered outfit. In this way, European women ensure a classy, elegant look even if something fits a bit larger.
In general, Americans dress for comfort, and sweats are a popular choice for many because of the coziness they provide. While sweat pants and a hoodie make for a great option when lounging at home, going out in sweatpants is becoming more and more common. In Europe, this trend has yet to catch on, and I have my doubts about if it ever will.
Generally, Europeans dress to impress. They value looks and style over the comfort and convenience prized by Americans. For many European women, sweats are not worn in public. This doesn’t mean sweats are completely off-limits; instead, they are reserved for lounging at home.
When living with my cousins in Slovenia, for example, I noticed they always left our apartment dressed nicely, but the moment they arrived home, the comfy clothes came on.
Compared to my experience living in the U.S., Americans are more likely to opt for comfortable outfits that still have an element of style to them, compared to Europeans who will sacrifice comfort to look polished and sleek.
Graphic Tees, Logos, and Sports Team Apparel
In the U.S., it’s common to wear graphic tees and baseball hats with our favorite sports team’s logo on them. Among celebrities, trends like logomania have gone in and out of style over the years.
European women, on the other hand, tend to dress in neutral colors with minimal patterns. They favor classic silhouettes and typically stay away from anything too bold, colorful, or trendy. They love basics and avoid anything that draws too much attention, including brand labels and logos.
In the U.S., it’s more common for women to follow trends and shop with them in mind. In Europe, this exists to an extent, but it’s not the typical way of shopping. French women, for example, are more likely to invest in timeless pieces, buying less but spending more than their American counterparts.
This kind of shopping is not only more sustainable, but it can also free women from the pressures of having to keep up with trends that change with every season.
Bright Colors and Patterns
European women, especially Parisian women, are also more likely to wear neutrals across the board, sticking to the three color rule, according to French nutrition coach Lucie Villeneuve, who also does YouTube videos about French fashion and lifestyle. By wearing outfits that share the same colors and tones, women can more effortlessly pull together an outfit that is cohesive, classy, and stylish.
This isn’t to say European women never wear colors or patterns, but when they do, they keep it minimal, using them as statement pieces rather than the entire outfit (unless you’re going monochrome). Villeneuve gives the example of pairing snake skin with all black or wearing a black dress with a fun element like fringe.
Along with a preference for classic and subtle hues, European women also favor dainty jewelry, fewer heels, and smaller purses compared to the attention-grabbing styles of American women.
Dress for the Season, Not the Weather
In the U.S., it’s far more common that our commutes and general transportation takes place in a car. This means that even on the coldest days, our time spent walking outside is limited, unless we live in a big city with well-developed public transit, like New York or Chicago.
Europeans depend on public transportation far more than Americans. Many major cities offer bus services, trains, and subways aplenty and are much more walkable than many American cities. This means a European’s commute involves more walking out in the cold. In these cases, a light jacket won’t be enough. Instead, European women must don scarfs, hats, and gloves in addition to a stylish coat.
During my time in Slovenia, the Texan in me would often wear a simple jacket and suffer the cold when I knew the afternoon would warm up. My two friends from Sweden, on the other hand, always came bundled in their winter gear, no matter how warm the afternoon was predicted to get.
Along with differences in getting from point A to point B, Europe is also much colder than the U.S. Comparing the latitudes of the U.S. and Europe as a whole, this map reveals how much farther north many European countries are, especially compared to the southern states here in America.
The combined factors of colder temperatures and more walking means it’s common for Europeans to dress for the season and not the weather, something I saw firsthand in Slovenia.
Although there are numerous differences in style between American and European women, both have their pros and cons. While I love the freedom to dress casually here in the U.S., I think we all could learn from the European philosophy of looking your best when you leave your home. If you fall in the Americana camp, this may serve as the encouragement you need to put that extra effort into your day’s look, even if all you do is run a few errands. You may be surprised at how it changes your perception of yourself and the day’s duties.
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