Fashion forward: Traveling in style to the United Kingdom

Exploring cities like Dublin proved that an urban uniform was a great asset for traveling around. Photo Courtesy of Ashlyn Kittrell.
Exploring cities like Dublin proved that an urban uniform was a great asset for traveling around. Photo Courtesy of Ashlyn Kittrell.

I’ve already discussed my aversion to “cute” workout clothes in a previous column, but now it is time for me to tackle another facet of the casual wardrobe: travel clothes. This is in conjunction with my first experience traveling abroad to England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland with the Celtic Connections program for Maryville College.

We were told early on in the planning process for the J-Term trip that we only needed to bring about half as many clothes as we thought we should (and twice as much money). While I was able to pare my suitcase down quite a bit, I couldn’t quite follow the suggested list of “3-5 shirts” and “2 pairs of pants.” I’ll admit that my suitcase was on the heavier side in comparison to a lot of other girls on the trip, but I don’t regret my decision to bring a bit more than the bare minimum.

Comfort can be key on international trips; however, I’ve found a variety of comfortable clothing that is not just leggings and a sweatshirt. Considering that the particular trip I took was during the month of January, the clothing was heavier than for a summer vacation. However, this also afforded more opportunities to mix and match the items I brought. For instance, on days out in the various cities, I usually wore flat boots, a sweater with a long sleeved tee shirt underneath for warmth, a scarf, and a coat or another top layer. This outfit kept me warm, but also proved to be an appropriate uniform for taking on the town without looking like a tourist.

The days we spent exploring the countryside proved to be a bit more challenging to dress for, but I still managed to put together outfits that kept me feeling like myself. While climbing around on the rocks of Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, fashion wasn’t the first thing on my mind. But an easy outfit involving some of my favorite items back home such as tall boots and my olive green (waterproof!) utility jacket was good for exploring the coastline as well as looking a bit pulled together.

I think the biggest challenge in packing for a trip where so many activities are planned is the difference between urban and rural wardrobe choices. However, some basics to be sure to include are an all purpose jacket (don’t think puffer jackets, utility jackets fit both terrains), jeans, flat boots, comfortable sweaters and a nice scarf. These items are easily mixed in with items like skirts and tights for city adventures, but still keep you warm for hiking and walking otherwise.

I know an argument can be made that appearance isn’t the most important factor when it comes to eye opening experiences. However, I chose the other side of the debate. I knew I’d be in hundreds of pictures. I knew I wanted to meet new people, including people my own age. I didn’t want to do that with a wardrobe of leggings as pants.

The choice seemed appropriate as soon as our first stop in London where nearly everyone we saw was stylishly dressed. The styles varied across all categories, from classically English looks to more of a younger, hip vibe. But even in the clothes I brought, I felt a bit out of place.

However, as the trip went on, the cities ended up influencing my style in the best possible way. I went in not knowing whether what I brought was remotely stylish by international standards, but left feeling a sense of rejuvenation in my personal sense of style (a few items that I picked up along the way certainly helped).
As with everything to do with personal style, it’s always a choice. I chose to bring some stylish staples along with my warmer items and it’s a choice that I don’t regret. I wouldn’t say that I overpacked, but I did have to buy another carry on bag for the clothing I ended up purchasing along the way.

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