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Folk Dance Federation of California, South, Inc.

What Women
Should Wear Overseas

By Richard Duree, 1999

Richard Duree 2002


You're in a Prague hotel room. Today, you're going sightseeing in the Old Town, which means walking all day on cobblestone streets, gathering treasures as you go. You're going to meet a friend for dinner at a nice restaurant, then go to the Marionette Theatre in the evening. You will not be able to return to your room to change. What to do? If you've planned your wardrobe carefully, it's a piece of cake. Every seasoned traveler has faced this situation. Perhaps we can shortcut that painful process.


First of all, everything you take with you must go with everything else. Pick a flattering color scheme and be sure everything goes with it. Black is a good basic color, but it absorbs heat.

Second, be aware of local climatic and cultural conditions. In Greece in the summer, dress for a hot, humid climate; if its Prague in July, be prepared for midday showers. In a conservative Third World country, shorts are probably not the best idea.

Third, you've got to tote your wardrobe with you; minimize the number of garments and maximize their use; plan as though it were a backpack trip. If you're traveling from place to place, the locals will not have seen the clothes you've worn for the past week.


If you know your "color palette," use it as a guide.

1)  Long-sleeved silk blouses (2 or 3); light, colorful, cool; provide protection from the sun; take little space.

2)  Skirts: Mini skirts are common in many larger cities throughout Europe, but may be in poor taste in some countries. Take at least one nice skirt and one denim skirt (wrap-around skirts work well).

3)  T-shirts (2 or 3): Colorful ones with "American" themes are fun and interesting to foreigners; wear over a silk blouse for casual or cool days; remove them for a more dressy look; they make great gifts.

4)  T-shirt dresses (2 or 3); best idea ever. Get them in different colors (including one in black) and different lengths. They pack well, are wrinkle-free, look great, and are the most versatile garment you can take. Use them for night gowns, swim suit cover-ups, shopping, or going to the opera. Accessories are the secret: add a skirt over it, fit a dressy belt, decorate with a scarf and/or pin.

5)  Stretch jeans (2 pair): comfortable and durable; perfectly acceptable for women in many countries.

6)  Rain jacket, hat, and compact umbrella, the lightest and most compact you can find; keep them with you if you're where daytime showers are possible. A little research into the weather at the time you're going to be there will be well worth the effort.


Footwear is your most often used mode of transportation.

1)  Walking shoes: you're most important footwear; be sure they are comfortable, sturdy, and in good condition.

2)  Soft suede boots: dressy, practical, fashionable, and versatile; they look great and pack well.

3)  Dress pumps: if there's any chance you'll be in a "dressy" situation; just keep to a practical heel height, because you may be walking on rough ground.

4)  Shower/pool shoes: don't forget this oft-forgotten item.

5)  Insoles: "Spenco" insoles are the best; be sure your shoes will accept them comfortably and use them [available online – ed.].

6)  Moleskin or medical tape: these can save your trip; be aware of any "hot spots" on your feet – they indicate friction and a developing blister – treat immediately!

7)  Pantyhose: one pair per day; our sources recommend "No Nonsense" brand [available online – ed.]

8)  Heavy socks: for wear with boots and/or walking shoes.


These make everything you take more versatile and useful.

1)  Large scarfs (1 or 2): an extremely useful item, packs into nothing; covers you're hair in the wind, dresses up blouses and T-shirt dresses, ties as a belt, wear one over one shoulder and tuck ends into belt front and back, throw over your shoulders for warmth, etc., etc.

2)  Belts (1 or 2): at least one dressy one, possibly a gold chain belt, for T-shirt dress or other skirts and one for wear with jeans. They also make great gifts.

3)  Jewelry: use common sense in the quality of jewelry taken; keep it simple, conservative and tasteful; ostentation is an invitation for theft or worse; a simple pin or two, two pair of small earrings, an inconspicuous watch; HINT; small jewelry items make wonderful gifts – present the necklace or bracelet you're wearing for maximum effect.

4)  Voltage converter: if your taking electrical items, you'll need the different plug adapters even if you have the dual voltage (110/220) appliances.

5)  Towelettes/Handi Wipes: keep some with you always.

6)  Dark glasses: take at least two pair with flexible plastic frames and polarizing lenses; you'll need them; don't take expensive ones.

7)  Toilet paper; always carry a roll in your tote bag; you never know when TP won't be available.

8)  Zip-lock baggies: use heavy freezer bags in a couple of sizes; use them as "ditty bags" to keep small articles together and accessible.

9)  Large manilla envelopes (9" x 12"): to mail unneeded items home.


This is your "closet;" pick it carefully, the choices are infinite.

1)  Main suitcase: if you can get everything in it, the rolling "carry-on" bags are perfect: however, they are frequently not large enough for an extended stay.

2)  Tote bag: you're constant companion. Carry your daily necessities in it and take it everywhere with you. If you can pack everything in it in your "carry-on" main suitcase, pack the tote bag full and pack it inside the suitcase. If not, check the main bag and carry a change of underwear, cosmetics, medicines, tickets, passport, rain gear, snacks, toilet paper, and other necessities on board with you.

3)  Purse: a small one with zippers and a sturdy shoulder strap – no easily opened snaps or latches. A sturdy nylon wallet will keep you organized; carry it in the tote bag and leave the purse in your hotel.

4)  Money belt: a number of styles are available, including waist belts, shoulder holsters, ankle rigs, and more.

5)  Nylon duffel: if you're going to shop for souvenirs, pack a light weight nylon duffel bag in your suitcase and fill it up as you go. Be sure to take a luggage tag for it.

Plan well and have a great trip!

Used with permission of the author.
Printed in Dance Traditions, June 1999.