It was my first trip in Europe, can you blame me? To be honest, I was totally clueless on what to wear in Rome, and I definitely messed up when I packed for the trip.
I felt really out of place, uncomfortable, and regretful of my packing choices the entire trip. My clothing choices were my biggest mistake in Rome (and I made a LOT of mistakes).
In general, I’m a dress and flats kind of girl. I like low maintenance but feminine clothing and tend to wear soft pastels or my favorite color: bright teal. And I tend to gravitate towards anything with lace or a pretty pattern.
Dresses are my go-to travel item as well, because you can pack fewer clothing items AND not need to worry about matching tops/bottoms. But thank GOD I threw in a pair of skinny jeans into my bag for Rome at the last minute. They were my most-worn item (for the once in my life).
My top mistakes in what to wear in Rome packing:
Too much skin showing
(Too) light in color
Not enough layers
The following “What to Wear in Rome” suggestions are specifically for Spring, but also applicable in every season (other than super-hot summer)!
What to Wear in Rome (NOT!)
Rome Fashion Mistake #1 – Too Much Skin
With my dresses (and lonesome pair of skinny jeans), I didn’t pack any tights, because of the sunny and warm forecast on Weather.com (…and I HATE pantyhose. Even the name sounds old and uncomfortable and icky).
My naked legs stood out like sore thumbs – everyone else was covered. I didn’t see another pair of bare knees the entire time I was in Rome. Seriously.
I wasn’t cold for the most part, but in order to feel more comfortable in my surroundings, and less clueless to Rome fashion, I bought some tights at a street-side vendor to wear under my dresses and cover my legs.
How to wear dresses in Rome? Pack tights/pantyhose/leggings if you plan on wearing dresses and skirts. Or go the easy route and just pack pants – for me, skinny jeans are the way to go (lately I’m getting all my clothes on ThredUp: half the cost and WAY better for the planet!).
Rome Fashion Mistake #2 – Too light in color
I definitely missed the memo on clothing color in Rome. I felt like EVERYONE was wearing black, brown, or something near to it. It’s like NYC!
Is there some mantra about not wearing white before Easter?
While this wasn’t a major problem – I still wish I would have chosen my clothes a bit on the darker side. Instead of my cream trench coat I would’ve brought my black one. I would have traded my white dress in for black or blue, and my gold and floral scarves for darker ones.
I felt a lot better when I was at least balancing out my light tops with darker jeans, or with brown boots and a spring blazer (as above).
What color to wear in Rome? Keep in mind Rome fashion preference for darker and muted colors, if you want to blend in. It isn’t the right place for a neon pink romper (though that sounds awesome in theory).
Rome Fashion Mistake #3 – Not enough layers
I brought a light trench coat. And silk scarves. Those were the extent of my layers.
In Rome, the daytime weather can get quite warm, while at night it cools down significantly.
On my first day, I had to change my day clothes into warmer evening clothes so I wouldn’t freeze, which meant going all the way back to my Airbnb (which I want to avoid as much as possible, especially this particular disaster Airbnb).
On the following days, I wizened up, and carried my heaviest scarf and my trench coat in my day bag (even though the day started warm), so that I could avoid the wasted trip home just to make an outfit change.
In order to make a comfortable transition, you NEED layers.
What season of clothes to wear in Rome? Unless you want to pack a wide variety of clothes and make more outfit changes than Britney, I recommend packing layers. Bring a pair of tights/leggings as mentioned above, in addition to at least one pair of skinny jeans or thicker leggings, and a sweater, especially if you’re wearing dresses in the day. Sometimes at night my ears got quite cold as well, so I’d advise bringing some kind of hat as well.
Rome Fashion Mistake #4 – Wrong shoes
This will make me sound clueless – and I’ll be the first to admit I am — but I always bring Havaianas to anywhere that isn’t freezing. Maybe this comes from growing up in Michigan, where as soon as the snow melted, you would bust out your warm weather clothes, and sandals were fair game.
I wore Havaianas from the airport to my Airbnb, and I learned my lesson.
I felt like a clueless nut.
While in Rome, I even bought a brand new pair of boots – an unplanned but worthwhile purchase. And only 15Euro (the shops near Campo di Fiori offer an awesome selection at a variety of prices)!
I seriously think the best shoes to wear in Rome are boots. Choose a stylish pair that are also comfortable for walking. Because they can dress up or down, protect your toes from the cobblestones, and don’t show too much skin, boots are the best shoes to wear in Rome in spring, and in fall and winter.
What shoes to wear in Rome? Either bring your own boots, or arrive with the plan to make the purchase soon after.
(I have no photos of me in Havaianas in Rome – the humiliation was enough in person)
What to Wear in Rome in Spring – An Example:
Packing List for What to Wear in Rome in Spring (or Winter, or Fall)
4 Day List (Double or Divide as Needed)
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1 or 2 flowy sweaters, easy to roll up and stash in your bag if it gets hot (pictured comes in a bunch of colors)
*I’m not advising that you change your own personal style. However, when I travel somewhere, I like to adapt a bit to the local fashion flavor – not only does it challenge me to be creative, but I feel like less of a tourist and more of a local. I already stand out most places I go, with pale eyes and white-blonde hair.. I like to do all that I can to blend in a bit more*
More on Rome here
Have you ever regretted your packing choices? Do you have any advice on what to wear in Rome?