The Fashionista’s Ultimate Packing & Essential Pieces Guide

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As my dream of a study abroad experience rapidly becomes a reality (T-minus 4 days– Eek!) I am consumed by the thought of, “How the heck am I going to cram my life’s necessities for four months in merely two pieces of luggage?” Yes, my wanderlust is nearly uncontrollable at this point as my European liaison is all-encompassing my mind.  But the question remains with only a little over a week to go, “What should I pack? Is it even feasible to pack everything I need and still have money for Florence’s Prada outlet?” After many days of seemingly endless hours packing and planning, I believe the answer is “yes.”

I thought this answer would be coming at me in neon blinking lights, needless to say,  I quickly realized that was not the case.  I Google-searched to a nauseating extent only to find disgustingly-practical soccer moms telling me to bring white tennis shoes and deal with the weird stares – um, no.  So to save my fellow fashionista’s from the same frustration and inner turmoil of “which of my um-teen striped shirts can I take?” “What do you mean I can only pack 6 pairs of shoes?” – (read: panicked), I have prepared the ultimate guide for packing and traveling in a tres chic matter.

Now, whether you are saying Ciao Firenze for a whole semester, such as yours truly, or just taking a jet-set vaca, the fundamentals of this guidance will hold true for any fashionable get away.

First off, let’s talk baggage, and not the kind that comes from a crappy ex-boyfriend.

I scored a set of DVF luggage at T.J. Maxx for a mere fraction of the $700 price tag. I truly believe discount stores are the best places to score suitcases at a reasonable price. As for online stores, Luggage Direct has a huge variety of styles at fantastic discount prices, and in my opinion, this one is perfect. For you lucky bitches who can afford Louis, good for you. But for the rest of us college kids/broke people/shopaholics, a Marshall’s find will have to do. These are some affordable options: polka dots // leopard // lightweight and hard case.

Here are some things to look for:

1. Make sure the (4) wheels spin in all directions. I can not express how important this is! Just trust home-girl when I say this can be the difference between ease and a full out struggle-fest at the airport.

2. Do make sure the luggage is lightweight. You can not waist your oh-so precious 50 allocated lb’s on unnecessary heavy suitcases. Trust me, you will want those extra couple pounds in your favor when it’s the difference between whether your favorite shoes are glamorously strolling the Colosseum or sitting lonely on your shelf at home.

3. Choose your preference: hard case vs. fabric suitcases. For me, I like the latter option due to the give-and-take factor. I always feel like I can shove more stuff in it – high maintenance for the win! But for someone who wants to make sure their belongings are all in one piece after the relentless thrashing your luggage experiences, you may decide to go with a hard case. Trust me here, Johnny who has been working a 10-hour shift hauling suitcases isn’t concerned with handling your suitcase gingerly when he slams it to the ground WWE style.

4. Compartments, pockets and other favorable features- make sure your luggage has them! I found this to be extremely helpful for organizational reasons. My suitcase’s pockets are removable, which earns it extra brownie points. I can take out the built-in cosmetic bag to travel on a weekend trip once I get there.

5. Measure before you swipe your Amex. Airline’s are being quite, um, persnickety these days about your suitcase’s dimensions, this is exponentially more so in Europe. Do yourself a favor and  find the nearest sales person to dig out a measuring tape just to make sure.  The standard is typically  that you can not exceed 62 inches (157 cm) when you total length + width + height and must weigh 50 pounds (23 kg) or less for checked luggage. For carry-ons, Baggage may not exceed 45 linear inches (or 114 cm) in combined length, width and height, including any handles and wheels and must fit easily in the Carry-on Baggage Check (approximately 22″ x 14″ x 9″ or 56 x 35 x  23 cm).

6. Roll your clothes! I discovered that this is by far the best way to pack after many test-runs of trial and a lot off error. This creates minimal wrinkling (unlike folding or lying clothes flat) and you can make the most of your limited space. Also, cram flats and sandals in between the rolls along with underwear and socks (do this part last).

Now, let’s talk fashion. The fun, the functional and the frivolous.

My big obstacle with all of this is that I refuse to wear the same outfit twice. This may seem absurdly ridiculous to some, but for me I see it as a style challenge. Let’s be clear here, I wear the same clothes over and over, but never styled in the same way.  I believe I can do it overseas too. To see what I’m wearing every day, check out this page.

Obviously, you will not have the same exact pieces I do, so to make this work for you, here are some general rules to follow:

1. Stick with a lot of neutrals. I’m not saying you have to look like a human manilla envelope your entire trip, that would be a yawn-fest. But by packing a variety of neutrals as the starting point of your outfits, it will open up seemingly infinite options.

2. Only bring things you wear back home. If you don’t wear it when you are in your comfort zone, what will make you think you will wear it when you are out of your element? This goes for new items, give them a test run before you pack it. This is especially important with shoes (break them in BEFORE you go).

3. Speaking of shoes, I put Foot Petal shoe cushions into almost every pair I packed. It can make the difference of happy feet and literally bleeding for fashion. I love the kits of them, they are a much better deal, plus, my soles swear by them.

4. Know the weather. Sites like this (for Italy) have very accurate monthly averages that will help you get an idea of what the climate is like. Don’t get stuck with a majority of bikini’s and shorts when it will only be margarita sipping on a beach weather for a month.


5. Layer! I can’t stress that idea enough. If at the beginning of your stay it is 100 and sunny and at the end it is 45 and rainy (like my situation) don’t pack shorts and bulky sweaters. No bueno. Instead, go with skirts and dresses that you can add or subtract tights from the equation. For tops, bring collared blouses, crew neck sweaters and jackets, it’s an easy way to look chic, be comfortable and have a plethora of options.

The Clothes: The ridiculously in-depth list that analy organized individuals (like me) love.

To see the daily outfit log of what I’m wearing with the pieces I packed below, check out the page, “Italy: Outfit Log” on my menu.



white T-shirt // black & white graphic tee // striped T-shirt // gray T-shirt // sleeveless studded collar blouse

IMG_0029cream peplum top // yellow sleeveless blouse // cobalt with black lining blouse tank // polka dot sleeveless blouse // black sleeveless blouse

cream blouse with black piping // striped blouse // polka dot blouse // floral blouse {all chiffon

IMG_0037chambray shirt // polka dot shirt // teal crew neck sweater // gray crew neck sweater // tres chic knit sweater



trench coat // boyfriend blazer // black leather jacket (asymmetrical zipper) // cognac leather jacket // army vest

white blazer // striped blazer // jean jacket // army jacket

{Jeans & Pants}

IMG_9999dark skinny jeans (can be worn as a crop or full length) // high waisted ultra dark skinny jeans // leather skinny pants // aztec print silk trouser // army green skinny jean

{Shorts & Skirts}

IMG_9984leather fringe skirt // black A-line skirt // striped A-line skirt // colorblocked A-line skirt // floral peplum skirt // printed shorts (only one pair because they are frowned upon in Italy)


IMG_9994lace dress // tribal midi dress // polka dot shift dress // floral shift dress // black T-shirt // dressy black lace dress // black maxi dress


IMG_0020tall black boots // black ankle boots // black heels with ankle strap // cognac and black wedges with ankle strap // gold detail black sandals // black flats // cognac flats with ankle strap // nude flats // wine colored flats

*Take notice that all my heels have ankle straps, because it makes them exponentially easier to walk in. Europe = walking all the time. Get it? Oh, plus, pack wedges. Cobblestone + stilettos = broken foot and/or heel. Also, practical isn’t exactly a word that I would use to describe myself, but take a gander at the picture above. They are almost all practical shoes (except for the black heels, that’s for going out). You will be walking, A lot. More than you can possibly comprehend. Wear comfortable shoes for goodness sake.*

{Bags & Hats}


red bag // cognac tote // black messenger bag // blue Kate Spade bag //

fedora // wine-colored fedora

*Note: pick-pocketing is a HUGE problem in Europe, pick your bags accordingly. All of mine have a cross body option, zippers and two have locks over the zippers. As far as hats go, pack them. Avoid squinting all day, hide a crappy hair day (quite likely with the heat in Florence plus brownie points for being tres chic.*

IMG_0043gray cami // white cami // lime green bikini top // floral bikini bottom // fringe bikini top // aztec bikini bottom

*Note: make sure your bikini’s work double duty by mixing and matching. Even though I only packed two bikinis, I actually have four combinations worthy of Croatian beaches.*

{Scarves & Belts}

IMG_9979emerald  and navy striped scarf // fuschia ombre infinity scarf // (beige and brown) leopard infinity scarf // (black and white) leopard infinity scarf

minimalistic black belt // black and blue belt .. nude bow belt // leopard belt // cognac belt (adjustable)

*Note: scarves are a great way to cover up at religious sites (i.e. The Vatican) and totally transform the basic T-shirt. Also, belts are a great way to add versatility in shape and style (example: a shift dress into a hour glass show-stopper).*

{Sunglasses & Watches}

IMG_0054black sunnies // tortoise sunnies

silver watch // tortoise watch // gold watch


*Note: when it comes to jewelry, go to town (literally). It adds such versatility and dimension without taking up much of your valuable luggage space. My plan of attack (or rather accessorizing) – pack it inside of a structured purse inside your carry on. This way, that space doesn’t go to waste, the weight doesn’t matter (those statement necklaces can get heavy) and it is protected.*

IMG_0061chandelier earrings // statement earrings (bottom detaches, turns into a stud) // silver studs // gold studs // statement studs

IMG_0316metal feather bib // layering single necklaces (1,2,3) that turn into a statement piece // gold tassel necklaceIMG_0321mixed metal multi-chain necklace // gold and black fringe necklace // crystal bib necklacef


four-way pendant necklace // five way mixed-metal necklace // dainty pendant necklaceIMG_0328

arrow necklace // layering beaded necklace // laborite pendant // delicate gold necklace // chevron pendant
IMG_0333mixed metal bracelet // silver renegade bracelet // simple silver cuff // statement bracelet // gold renegade bracelet // black and gold woven bracelet // gold link bracelet // delicate gold open cuff
IMG_0344chunky Michael Kors ring // deco stack // anchor ring // arrow ring // mixed metal stack of bands
IMG_0346artsy ring // gold spherical ring // eden ring // mixed-metal flower stack // chevron knuckle rings

Next, let’s talk the pretty things — or rather the things that help make you pretty.

First of all, I don’t know why, but European outlets are flat iron, hair dryer and curling iron murderers. Listen to me when I say your expensive Chi straightener will blow up *poof*, smoke will be everywhere, your hair will be half straightened and half afro, you will look like a hot mess. But there are options around this catastrophe…

1. Make your hair healthy and go au natural and in my case, rock a white-girl fro’. Um no, not for me.

2. Buy a curling iron, straightener and/or blow dryer when you arrive. Your hair will look like a disheveled disaster until you can find a store, it will be super spendy and you will end up throwing them away, because they will only work in Europe. Not an ideal situation.

3. Do what I did and buy affordable, travel-sized (or not) irons online that are dual-voltage. Genius right? I bought mine from Folica, an online beauty boutique that always runs some kind of a sale. The jackpot was really hit when I learned that they have a wide variety of dual-voltage hair appliances (meaning no *poof* smoke in the US or abroad). I ended up buying a series of travel-sized tools: This curling iron, this blow dryer and this flat iron.

As for makeup, I find that a little lipstick goes a long way. Even in the extreme heat of Florence’s summer, I will be able to wear MAC’s matte lipstick without worry of it bleeding. Wearing a rubyfeminine fuschia or deep berry allows you to keep the rest of your makeup low key and still feel polished (and pretty). Mascara is a personal must for me, but pack a waterproof one. It has the tendency to last longer without smudging in melting heat or swimming on the beaches of Spain.

Now, the nails. I’m one of those people who always has to have their nails perfectly painted or the world will come to a screeching halt. So, being forced against my will to choose only a couple polishes was extremely difficult. Like everything else, I just ended up taking my go-to’s: Essie’s Brooch The Subject (a nude), Essie’s Big Spender (pink) and Essie’s Really Red.

Finally, let’s talk about the little extras that make your life easier when traveling.

1. An Umbrella is a complete necessity, no matter where you are going. So why not make it a cute one? Mine is a floral pattern but I love this one too.

2. A money pouch is just a smart idea. I know I might sound like your overly-cautious study abroad advisor/mother but it’s not worth risking getting your hard earned Euro’s stolen by some con artist. I purchased a silk one (no rash for this girl) that discreetly goes under your clothes. I prefer to wear mine cross body style.

3. It’s inevitable, you must carry around your passport. But who says you can’t do it in style? Not I. That’s why I bought a Kate Spade passport holder. Here are some options: affordable // polka dot Kate Spade // luxe leopard print

4. A converter is a must, unless you plan on going amish for the extent of your trip. So I would advise you to pack an extension cord and/or power trip along with it, if you  don’t want to only have one outlet available to you at any given time.

5. When it’s crunch time, a $20 investment in a luggage scale can save you $100’s in baggage fees (I pride myself on packing exactly 49.5 lbs). Not to mention, when all of a sudden you are faced to use the metric system and a lot of mental math, this device will save you. Honestly, I just don’t trust my Einstein-like math skills that much (not). Get a scale has the capability for both the metric and standard systems.

6. Ziploc bags, pack them. For one reason or another, these are a mind-blowing revelation in other parts of the world, meaning they are MIA everywhere but the U.S. They take up virtually no space or weight and will save you from a shampoo-explosion ruining your favorite shirt, not talking from experience or anything… (air pressure + liquid = sticky, wasteful and frustrating as hell mess).

7. A couple hundred dollars of the local currency before you get to the airport. There is many reasons for this, but mainly because it is one less thing you have to do on a super-daunting list. Let me assure you, you will be jet lagged, sleep-deprived, hungry (crappy airline food), overwhelmed (why is everyone speaking so fast in a language I don’t understand?), and slightly panicked. Need I say more? Also, the exchange fees are sky-high (no pun intended) in airports. Order them from your local bank a minimum of three days before you leave.

8. Bandaid’s, pack those too. Not for when you get a wimpy paper cut, This is for those shoes that you thought were wickedly comfortable back in the U.S. when you walked approximately .2 miles a day (walking to and from your car). All of a sudden, when you walk 10 miles a day in those same shoes, they cut in at random places, and placing a band aid will prevent you from literally bleeding for fashion.

Other Helpful Hints

1. My inner computer geek or 90s kid, whichever you believe was packing that day packed: My laptop (le duh), my Iphone (imessaging over wifi is free), my Italian phone, my Ipod, my Ipad, my DSLR camera (how do you think I take all the snazzy pictures for this blog), sound-proof ear bugs and an obnoxious amount of memory cards.

2. People told me not to pack shampoo, conditioner, hair products, etc. and to simply buy them when I got there. Well the flaw in that is A) I’m religious to certain American brands and B) Italian stuff is crazy expensive! If your weight limit will allow, pack as much of the hygienic/beauty products that you can. It is a consumable product, so that will allow free space and weight for souvenirs on the return trip.

See the 4 month long outfit log with the pieces I packed here.

As always, thank you so much for reading.

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xo, Brenna