One of the ways to intensify your travel experience is to dress like a local i.e. not look like a tourist. Melanie from Inside My Fashion Self is an expert at it. She shares with us all the advantages she discovered during her fabulous travels and gives advice on doing it the right way.
Love clothes and fashion? Want to really immerse yourself in the culture of a place? Then do not hesitate, dress and shop like a local!
The Advantages of dressing like the locals…
Intensify the connections
Dressing like a local might also change your approach to travelling, in that you may engage with the culture and the people, the environment a lot more.
Because you look similar to everyone else, you are less likely to be targeted, or potentially harassed as a tourist. When I was in Paris once, wearing my sunglasses on my head clearly appeared to be a touristy thing – because I almost got scammed 3 times by pickpockets beckoning me over, pretending to have found ‘my gold ring on the ground’. I don’t own a gold ring. Do not ever touch the gold ring people.
Trigger your memories
You might also find that wearing your new garb brings back some nicer, more salient memories than that snow-globe sitting on your desk gathering dust.
You might find that people back home will constantly ask ‘Where did you get that dress / jacket / bag /shoes from?’, and you will have the utmost pleasure in saying something like ‘Oh, this Marc Jacobs bag was half price in Bloomingdale’s. You can’t buy it here so don’t even try copying me’.
Tips to successfully and meaningfully dress like a local
DO – Leave your preconceptions at the door, observe local customs, get an understanding for why locals dress the way they do, and notice any changes in yourself. When I was in Morocco (which is a Muslim country) covering my head with a scarf was something all women did, and it unexpectedly made me feel very dignified and lady-like. You would think that being in the Sahara Desert would make you want to strip off all layers of clothing like you would at Bondi Beach, Australia – BUT – covering up everything kept the scorching sun off my skin, stopped me getting sun and wind burn and kept the sand off my face. And now, I’m totally of the opinion that everyone should be rocking a turban. I’m singlehandedly going to bring the turban back.
DON’T – Make the mistake of thinking that dressing like a local means you must stick to a stereotype. Not all Hawaiian men wear Hawaiian shirts. Not all French people wear berets and not all Africans wear khaki. (Muu-muus are never ok in anyone’s language). Spend some time observing where the locals go, which stores or markets they seem to frequent and go with what you feel comfortable.
DO – Borrow traditional clothes if you don’t think that you want to buy – and especially so for specific occasions such as weddings. Because I never wear Indian clothes back home, I find that borrowing saris and other Indian outfits is more practical when I’m going to a wedding in Mauritius. I always try to stick to my style (bright and bold colours), borrow jewellery that goes with it but wear my own makeup and shoes. Add a bit of excitement, openness to experience and a huuuuge appetite, and I’ve got it made!
DON’T – Be scared to mix ‘local’ pieces with pieces you already own. A long, embroidered kurta top will work just as well with your favourite jeans as with the matching harem pants. Traditional or on-trend jewellery is also a versatile way to ‘local up’ your existing outfits.
DO – If you are this way inclined, do some research prior to leaving on the way the locals dress. Google images or asking people will help you to have a visualisation of what you’re after (and what will suit you), and will make it easier to narrow down items when you’re in the country.
If you’re wanting to shop – research the items you want and budget for it. This is very pertinent for well known shopping hubs like New York and London. I made up my mind I was buying myself a pair of Louboutins stilettos about 3 months before I left for London. Although it sucked, I worked on my birthday and got a decent bonus at work which covered the cost. This ensured that I sailed through Harrods and forked out 395 pounds without a hint of buyer’s remorse (though seeing it written here now just hurt a little).
DON’T – Other than in cultural, religious or practical cases like those described above, don’t start wearing things you wouldn’t usually wear in your own country – especially if you’re going to a place similar to your own. If you can’t walk in 12cm heels, you won’t magically develop that skill by doing this on cobblestone streets in Edinburgh for example. If you don’t usually wear midriff tops – don’t start now, you might feel awkward and self conscious which will take you away from the travelling experience. Stick to your own style and the things you like.
DO – make sure you leave some room in your suitcase to accommodate all your goodies on your way back if you think you might buy. Also make sure that you have at least one decent outfit to wear upon landing. If you’re travelling in a more developed country, don’t stress about forgetting things like toiletries – you can always buy things there if worst comes to worst. Checking (and sticking to) your baggage allowance before you leave is a must to stop the embarrassing re-packing and / or payment for excess baggage you might have to endure at check-in.
Happy shopping! And may this make you live the travelling experience to the fullest, no matter where you are in the world!
Melanie is the fabulous fashion guru & life analyst behind the blog Inside My Fashion Self. Check it out to get your dose of fun and optimism. Her appetite for life shines all over her stories about travel, fashion and the runway of her life!