Image and Such: Shopping For Travel is a Don't

Early in planning this trip, before I'd even signed on - I'd dreamed of a specific image. Think "Jewel of the Nile" - I saw myself in exquisite playsuits, large emeralds, chic flats and huge designer sun hats. Of course, I had no budget for this travel only wardrobe. I just assumed that with my decision to go I'd need to amass a new look. My friend and I had a lot of discussion involving image and perception as an American in Paris. I personally never saw myself in Paris beyond a few days. There are so many weird and transient crime doers frequenting the city looking for sore thumbs. The friend and I don't look very cookie cutter - however our clothing, phones, bags may have read "dumb American". So the need to shop became a dire way to avoid that.

I wanted to be appropriately dressed to travel internationally. I had no concept of that per se. I just thought my domestic everyday comfort was incapable of translating. I needed to dress for security checks, hasty transfers between flights and constant climate changes. Americans look all the same and we only dress up or down for occasion and or weather. If its 80 degrees outside we simply aim for shorts and a t-shirt to go everywhere. We also dilute business and formal attire, anything to make it casual or mere evening. We can't stand to be professional or simply semi-formal. We just have to push boundaries by arriving without a tie or in cropped pants. As a world traveler, I wanted to be recognized. I wanted to be on "The Satorialist". I thought I could look as if I could afford the best and that I actually cared about being suitable and well-groomed. 

I believe a former roommates tale of traveling to Brazil set the tone. She was a British Jamaican and even with her refined looks she was regarded as a server or beggar even. She blamed her brown complexion but I imagined it was her style of dress. It could have also been her touristy demeanor that got her negative treatment. I planned to live one day in a country where the entire people are regarded as extremely rude. However, France has always been so pleasant to people of color. The French people I've encountered here - tourists or citizens have always been pleasant to me. I imagine the only thing I did or need to do is be dressed accordingly. In the states, that means age appropriate and tasteful regardless of todays fads. So when I left I wished to be prepared for Europe. I wanted to be ready for springtime/summer and appropriately for the things and places I long to see and do. Walking into a antique shop in flip flops and a t-shirt with a saying on it wasn't going to help. So the ideal solution would be to pair clothing to what my plans are and only bring a wardrobe that would be timeless. Thankfully I had some pretty good pieces to bring but insisted on shopping for the rest.

I needed good walking shoes, proper length shorts, light weight dresses and statement jewelry. Having downsized my own personal wardrobe to move I no longer had anything questionable. At first I thought I'd dress preppy - but then it occurred to me that tied neck sweaters and Dockers aren't exactly my style. I've always liked clean lines and classic pieces but also love color and strive to be unique. I quickly decided not to travel with items unique to America - no Nikes, only one or two pairs of jeans and nothing urban. I'd bring jewelry and accessories that had pops of color and culture. So I began by stacking a small collection of fun bangles, infinity scarves and hair ties for inspiration. All things I never actually brought. I could bring one decent purse, good running shoes, a pair of refined flats and a few pairs of higher quality flip-flops/sandals. I just had so much trouble finding logo free, non-wrinkling and lightweight clothing items i.e. good cotton tees, solid sun dresses and flat front shorts. I swore off athletic wear and shorts long ago. I hadn't worn shorts since 2009. So I was now facing a sort of makeover too.

I'm looking in stores I don't even shop in. I'm in Ann Taylor Loft making future shopping lists. I bought another color of Rainbow flip-flops. I also bought this gamut of underwear in colors and prints. I managed to return most of it knowing that a decent European woman wouldn't dare wear neon boy shorts. I advised my travel companion to do the same. I even wanted to get a watch after not wearing one of those since mines was stolen in 2001. I now needed to invest in better iPhone case and a leather passport cover. I imagined I was shopping for safari. That sounds incredibly stupid now. I really wanted this effortless elegance to camp in the bush and see animals?! I seriously could have wore a tube top with a hoodie all over Europe. At least none of that required hangers and never needed wrinkle release. The biggest thing I failed to start with was a suitcase. If you buy a suitcase and 
realize just how little space you have you won't shop. If it isn't vital to living theres a 99% chance you don't need it. In fact the only thing I brought with me that remained classic was my suitcase. I threw most everything else away to make room inside of it for things that actually mattered. Next time around I'll just bring an empty suitcase and get everything over there. 

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