Can Your Clothes Make The Journey?

Penny Sadler's picture

Travel has been and continues to be a lifelong passion of mine. Over the fifteen years that I've worked as a makeup artist and hair stylist in film and television production, I’ve had many opportunities to develop a travel style that works no matter where I am in the world. However, it was my first trip to Italy in 1999 that gave me eye-opening insight into what it means to look stylish in a foreign country.

I arrived in Parma after two airplanes, a bus, a train, and a taxi. Located on a quiet side street, my hotel offered no clues to what was really going on in this charming, northern Italian city.  Famished and anxious to explore my new surroundings, I dropped off my luggage and went in search of supper. I headed towards the piazza and discovered another world. I can only describe my experience as culture shock. It seemed everyone in Parma was outside - families, couples, children, and grandmothers, walking arm-in-arm or relaxing at outdoor cafes, looking as though they’d just stepped off the pages of Italian Vogue. And there I was - wearing the same clothes I’d been traveling in for over fourteen hours, feeling very conspicuous and inappropriately attired. As I’d spent most of my life making sure that I was dressed for any occasion, this was not a comfortable feeling.

The Roman Forum, Italy

That first day in Italy was like a rebirth for me. I made a commitment to myself then and there to take the time needed to look as stylish as possible wherever I roamed.

I'm not suggesting that everyone should dress exactly as the locals. Nor am I suggesting that travelers should pack only their Sunday best.  What I am suggesting is dressing appropriately for the event, time, and location can have a profound effect on your experience. Imagine how confident you will feel if you’ve put some energy into your appearance.  It will put a smile on your face and make you feel as though you can handle anything that comes your way.  It’s simply a way of showing respect for the culture and people…and it says you are a conscious traveler, not unlike taking the time to learn a few key phrases in the native language of the country where you are traveling. Your pronunciation may not be perfect but it indicates a desire to truly know the land and people you’ve chosen to visit. In turn, the local people are much more likely to open up to you and the odds of having a memorable meal and conversation while making new friends overseas increases.

Penny Sadler at St. Peter's

Penny Sadler at St. Peter's

Granted there will be times when you must wake up early to catch the tour bus and beat the crowds and, no you're not going to worry about your hair and makeup. But you do have to get dressed and how much more effort does it take to put on something that doesn't scream TOURIST?  Wear something comfortable for a seven-hour day of touring the ruins, but at the same time expresses your personal style.

With these thoughts in mind, here are a few Travel Style ideas:

Leave the white running shoes and ball caps at home. Buy yourself some comfortable walking or hiking shoes and a hat that doesn’t have a logo on it. Add a nice sweater or jacket to throw over your tee shirt at the end of the day, and perhaps even a colorful scarf. You may still look like a tourist, but at least you’ll look like a tourist with style.

My personal travel experiences are always enhanced when I feel as though I blend in with the local scenery. I feel confident that with a little extra attention to your appearance, you, too will have a more enriched and rewarding trip. 

Penny Sadler, Italy


Penny Sadler is the Style/Travel Editor for Wandering Educators. For more information on traveling in style, please see


Feature photo: The Roman Forum 

All photos courtesy and copyright Penny Sadler