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European Chic

When I was in Stockholm over fall break, I was struck by how chic everyone was. Shocking is it may sound, no one wore sweatpants- I repeat, no one- outside of travel to/from or actual engagement in aerobic activity. While every once and a while you just have one of those days where the prospect of putting on tight jeans in anticipation of an hours of work is horrifying, sweatpants shouldn’t be a wardrobe staple. As I walked around Stockholm, I noticed that everyone looked so put together. Fashion still should be allowed to exist in the realm of the hoody and Uggs. In awe of the great style (and simultaneously on the verge of tears when everything in the Scandinavian department store NK was out of my budget), I made it a point to boil down what exactly made everyone look so good.  

Black is essential. If you can’t handle all black, stick to simple dark colors. Color is not invisible on the streets of Stockholm, but there is an awful lot of black. Instead of opting for a mishmash of colors, Swedes (the fashionable ones, at least) choose wisely. I noticed a lot of colored accessories, or maybe a cardigan, but sticking to dark colors- black, gray, dark brown, navy- that go well together and look classy is key.

I adhere perhaps a bit too closely to this trend, but throw on a bunch of black clothing and you’ll always match, while also looking chic. The key is to vary textures to avoid boredom. If you want to attempt the all black outfit, pair black pants or jeans with a sweater or something embellished. Just because you are in a solid color doesn’t mean you have to look plain! My personal favorite articles are a pair of black jeggings with a dark grey lace pattern printed on, and a loosely knitted black sweater with sequins knitted in. These are two pieces that while easy to match with other dark colors, have character and balance out a plain other-half.

It might be worth it to break the bank on some investment pieces. College women have a tight budget, that’s no secret. It’s tempting to walk into Forever 21 or H&M (a Swedish company!) and beeline for the trendy display. They may be fun and colorful and sparkly but think- how often are you going to wear them? Stores like this have 2-week seasons, and the merchandise is made to move. I can’t count the number of impulse purchases I have made, swearing that one day these items would be just perfect. I can think of three things in my drawer right now that hold this unfortunate status- surprisingly enough, all are sparkly/quirky/out of the ordinary, and thus I am hard-pressed to incorporate them into my everyday dress.

If you’re willing to go up in price, there are a few essentials that are really worth shelling out for. A nice basic blazer is timeless. I have a black (of course) PAUW jacket that I could wear every day. I’ve had it for four years now and though it cost a pretty penny, its lifespan (that isn’t ending anytime soon!) has certainly evened out the cost. Coats or jackets in general are worth investing in. We live in Maine- your coat will get good use. Long jackets are also key, and more importantly, they are warm. You can get comparable result from a long jacket as a North Face puffy coat. Women in Stockholm were all about the classic coat. You can make a great impression with a nice coat even if you’re just wearing jeans and a t-shirt underneath; this works the other way too, however. Braving the Nordic or Brunswick winter will be more pleasant with a good coat.

Boots are big in Stockholm. Everyone should have a pair of nice leather boots. I saw a lot of girls with short booties with a thick stacked heel and a zipper down the side that I just can’t wait to get my hands on next time I’m there. Boots go with everything. You can wear them with jeans, skirts or leggings if you’re having that kind of day. In fact, it’s hard to decipher leggings from black pants with a good pair of boots, so this is a forgiving way to be comfortable!

You can find more practical pieces in inexpensive stores, too. Opt for basics, and if you want to get something a little funky, at least make sure you can match it to something you have and that you’ll be able to wear it in a few different outfits. Shoes are trickier, and in my opinion, generally worth what you pay. I’ve gotten a few impulse pairs that fall apart. The quality of shoes is important because of their proximity to the ground and the wear and tear they face. If you will be wearing them through the snow or rain or the omnipresent slush of the winter, make sure they are up for it.

A way to find pieces of great quality without paying retail price is to explore consignment stores and eBay. There are a few consignment stores in Brunswick that advertise designer clothes that I have yet to explore but certainly will. I have procured many a designer item from my local store in Rhode Island, Second Time Around, which also has a location in Portland. There are two upscale consignment shops right around the corner from me in Stockholm, so as I wallow in my sorrow about not being able to shop at NK, I can find nice pieces at significantly lower prices.

Working with a few good pieces can get you a long way, regardless of where you find them. I’m far from being as chic as those I admired, but find that the basic trends let me feel a little more stylish in everyday life—and what’s not to like about that?

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