9 Fashion Staples To Channel The “European Summer” Aesthetic

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Whether vacationing in seaside hotspots like Saint Tropez, Santorini, and Positano, or tourist attractions like Lisbon, Barcelona, and Amsterdam, European destinations call for an aspirational wardrobe. This might explain why the “European summer” aesthetic” has been gaining traction on TikTok in the form of elegantly laid-back looks and whimsically printed outfits. 

While, on the surface, these summer outfits often include simple wardrobe staples — oversized button-down shirts, tailored shorts, and walking sandals — they are not without a playful side (you’re on vacation after all). This translates into silky scarves, kitschy handbags, vintage-inspired swimsuits, and printed matching sets. On the brand side, this manifests in vibrant, maximalist prints like Lisa Says Gah’s “Italian Summer” collection and minimalist-cool edits like Abercrombie & Fitch’s “Scandi-core” drop.

So whether you’re actually packing your bags for Europe this summer (or are looking to implement the easy-breezy yet put-together aesthetic into your staycation outfits), we’ve compiled a list of nine fashion staples to help you achieve the on-trend summer look.

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European Summer Essential: Matching Sets

Matching sets are perfect to pack for a vacation thanks to the way they can be mixed and matched for a variety of outfits. From shirts or vests paired with matching shorts, skirts, or pants, there is a combo that works for every scenario from casual sightseeing and the beach to elevated al fresco dinners. For hotter climates, opt for a breathable cotton, linen, or crochet set.

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European Summer Essential: Leather Sandals

When walking along cobblestone streets and up rocky cliffs, you’ll be grateful that you packed a pair of sturdy summer sandals instead of stiletto heels or flip-flops. Find a pair of leather flats with a thick sole that’s comfy enough for long explorations and adventures, and stylish enough to wear at night. Alternatively, you can opt for a pair of Fisherman sandals that are also currently trending in fashion.

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European Summer Essential: Linen Shorts & Trousers

Summer is the season for lightweight and breathable linen. While we can’t recommend carting up linen dresses enough for a one-and-done outfit, it’s never a bad idea to pack a pair of linen shorts and linen pants… because is there anything worse than sweat-soaked denim or polyester? Whether you opt for a solid or striped option, these linen staples can easily be dressed up or down. Throw on the shorts with a tank top and sneakers for sightseeing, and slip into the pants, a form-fitting tee, and wedges for a chic-yet-comfy eveningwear look. Just don’t forget to bring a portable steamer.

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European Summer Essential: Printed Headscarves

Silky scarves are the perfect accessory to add color to and accessorize your outfits, whether you tie them into your hair, around your neck, or through your bag handle. If you find one large enough, it can even serve as a makeshift scarf top or sarong. Pick playful styles with fruit, flower, leaf, and cocktail prints that scream “summer” and channel Brigitte Bardot in La Dolce Vita or Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday.

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European Summer Essential: Drop-waist Dresses

Drop-waist dresses are back in style, as evidenced by the number of street style stars and fashion influencers wearing the retro-esque silhouette this season. While there are plenty of traditional midi and maxi styles currently available on the market, we love the newer takes on the trend that range from bubble evening frocks to daring mini dresses.

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European Summer Essential: Oversized Button-Down Shirts

Everyone needs a basic button-down shirt in their closet regardless of the season. But in the summer, it can serve as the perfect layering piece; instead of a jean jacket or shawl, throw a button-down shirt over your dresses, tank tops, or bikinis as a chic coverup. Whether you opt for a crisp white, striped, or linen button-down shirt, pick an oversized style to allow airflow and keep you cool.

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European Summer Essential: Vintage-Inspired Swimsuits

While you can of course continue to swim around in itsy-bitsy triangle bikinis, you could also romanticize your vacation even more in nostalgic swimwear. Channel an Old Hollywood starlet on holiday or Sabrina Carpenter in her “Espresso” music video and look for vintage-inspired swimsuits to live in this summer. Think: a bustier or halter neckline, boy short bottoms, gingham prints, or classic black-and-white color palettes à la Barbie.

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European Summer Essential: Kitschy Tote & Top-handle Bags

Another area where you can have fun with is handbags! Sure, a versatile crossbody bag or belt bag is practical for travel, but you should also consider packing a statement bag to elevate your outfits. For day trips and beach outings, look for a straw tote bag with fun details like colorful stripes, beach lingo, or customizable monograms. For dinners and dancing, consider a cheerful top-handle bag with festive beading and prints, or one that’s appropriately shaped like a seashell.

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European Summer Essential: Maxi Skirts

Since you’ve got shorts, pants, and dresses covered (see above), all that’s left to round out your European summer wardrobe is a flowy maxi skirt. This staple can easily go from day to night, and from the beach to drinks. To stand out from the crowd, opt for delicate eyelet details, bubble or tiered silhouettes, or floral prints that offer festive Mediterranean vibes.

Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?

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