When I walked into my local Starbucks in my West Texas hometown and the barista asked me what country I was from, I stared dazed and confused. Uh, I'm from here. Yea, Yea, she says. But, what COUNTRY are you REALLY from? Still confused. Uh, I'm really from five minutes walking from here. She squinted a bit. It was clear she didn't believe me. You just don't look like you're from here. I smiled awkwardly. She went on making my latte.
Truth is, I no longer sound distinctly like a West Texan after teaching to varied nationalities. I'm no language aficionado; def no need for that to blend. I feel quite inept when it comes to learning language actually. Ain't my gift. But, after living in different cities, countries and cultures, you just develop an international way of being. You're no longer tunnel visioned into where you came from. You've had to adapt, do without, make due and get used to all kinds of shit beyond how you sound and dress.
The idea of having an international whoa-man look here is about blending. Blend. Blend. Blend. You want people to assume you know what you're doing, where you're going and could be local no matter where you are roaming. It can save you some seriously uncomfortable scenarios, save you loads when bargaining in markets, and avoid unwanted attention wether you're settling in a new state, gettin' used to a new country or just travelin' around. Again, Blend. Blend. Blend. The Key is to keep it simple, neutral, relaxed and a touch interesting.
The following lists includes everything you would need to blend and feel comfortable in just about any destination. With options and versatility, it makes packing easy and sets your mind at ease for all cultural situations.
Plain Cotton Tees | Flowy Chiffon Tanks | Loose Fitted Tops
These tops are all about layering and flexibility. They're breathable fabrics and can be layered for more modest situations. They're easy to pack and generally won't wrinkle so bad. They also aren't plastered with graphics or messages that draw attention or identify where you're from.
High Waisted Trousers | Tapered Harem Pants | Wide Leg Trousers
High waisted Trousers look tailored and are versatile as hell. Day to night to work and anything in between, they can be layered for modest cultures and you can wear a chiffon tank tucked in with a belt for a more jet set luxe look. Harem pants are comfortable, trendy in most parts these days and give a little originality. Again, they suit most cultures and situations. Wide leg trousers can be so beautiful, comfortable and versatile as well. Tuck in most tops for more shape and layer as needed. They pack easily and provide some relief in high heat.
Blazer | Kimono | Cardigan | Oversized Scarf
Blazers, particularly of the boyfriend variety, step up any look on this list. A little edgy, adding a little luxury and classy as it gets, they are a must. I prefer a black one but anything goes. You'll see them everywhere and it's easy to look local with these.
Kimonos provide layering for less bulk in your luggage. They are airy, feminine and fun. They also double as beach cover ups or lounging around in your hotel room. Cardigans can be buttoned up and tucked in as an extra top or carried as a layering option for cool weather or modest cultural situations. It's also good to remember that in many hot locales, it will be cold inside establishments. So, they're super useful and seen everywhere. Oversized scarfs can serve as warmth or to cover the shoulders. They are sold in most city markets and are a great souvenir. I've got more than I can count but all of them are very beautiful, different and remind of some of my favorite cities.
DRESSES | SKIRTS:
Long Maxi Dress | Maxi Skirt
A long maxi dress with sleeves and/or maxi skirt is my favorite item I own and my number one recommendation. It doesn't matter where you're going. You want one. Beach cover up, lounge wear for lazy days, sightseeing, day trips, long walks, nice dinners, picnics in the park etc. You can dress these babies up or down with shoes and accessories. Pair with tees, layer with outerwear, they work with EVERYTHING!
Leather Flats | Leather Sandals | Leather Booties | Leather Walking Shoes (mine are keds)
Leather is comfortable, endures over time, looks great and doesn't flash a brand in anyone's face. It's also found everywhere and works with any/all color combinations. I've got a brown and black pair of each type and they're all I've ever needed. I splurged a bit to make sure they are comfortable, durable and I love them more everyday. You may not need all of these for each trip, but having these in your closet arsenal means you're prepared for any getaway at any time.
Leather Bag | Sparse Jewelry | Head Scarf | Hair Comb
Accessories are where I let things get a bit interesting. They are easy to buy as souvenirs because they usually take up little room or precious weight in luggage. They are also so culturally varied, are found in most artisan markets and make a simple outfit much more fun. As far as bags go, I opt for totes or cross bodies. The larger tote is my carry on for travel days and a small cross body stuffs easily into this.. Black/Brown both look flawless. I usually match whatever neutral palette I've packed. Make this purchase when you find something you're in love with and are sure of the quality. It will last 20 years if you let it. Jewelry is my favorite thing to shop for at my destinations. I pack my staple gold studs, a simple chain necklace and wrist watch because I know I will find something I can't wait to wear wherever I go. If you're a single gal traveling alone, I highly recommend wearing a simple wedding band. It won't stave off everyone, but it can make things easier at times. Head scarfs are my best friend. They lengthen my hair wash days and look cool too. Again, they are easy to find and are usually fun souvenirs. Hair Combs add a bit of interest when you're dressing so minimally on trips and are gorgeous. My favorite one was snagged in NYC's chinatown. The woman selling them showed me how to use it to put my hair in a bun without an elastic and helped me practice til I got it right. It's saved me at times in terrible heat.
EXTRAS: In the non-wardrobe related department, blending in isn't just the clothes you wear. It's an attitude. It's an awareness. Don't wander around with your google maps boldly in front of you guiding your every step. If you need to get your bearings, pop into a cafe or stop for an espresso and some wifi. Get a feel for the area around you and possibly make an acquaintance that could steer in you the right if not better direction for whatever it is you're looking' for.
ALWAYS use uber or metered taxis for private transportation. You can be ripped off or end up in a shady sitch if you're not careful. As for public transportation, just glance around you now and then. While most people are well and good, shit happens. Being aware of your surroundings and noticing what's going on around you has never hurt anyone.
And people watch. Notice how the locals interact, if they greet each other on the streets, how they dress and their mannerisms. Again, cafes are the prime time opportunity for this. You'll probably notice trends and looks you'd never paid attention to everyone wearing. It can give you some inspiration for souvenir shopping and looks to bring home with you. Embrace the experience of being an observer. It's your best resource.
Linny | Founder & Editor