How I'm Making One Suitcase Of Clothing Work For An Entire Year In Italy

I'm studying abroad in a country where it’s hot and muggy one day and freezing and rainy the next. Here's what I brought with me to look cute all year.
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Madeleine Felder
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I'm studying abroad in a country where it’s hot and muggy one day and freezing and rainy the next. Here's what I brought with me to look cute all year.

Italians are really cute. I just want to put that out there. They are generally better-looking than Americans, and they also have great style. Now that I’m in Italy it is my goal to be just as good looking as them. I don’t know if I’ll succeed, but maybe I’ll come close.

When I got to Italy, I wanted to go home. The airline lost my luggage for a week. This was kind of a problem considering I listened to my school handbook and only brought one suitcase. So there I was in the Florence airport with my computer bag and a backpack, wondering where the heck my luggage was. I had a week’s worth of clothes in my backpack, but all my toiletries were in my suitcase. I didn’t even have a toothbrush. It was a great time. Eventually, I got my suitcase and could stop worrying about running out of underwear. 

When I went to school in New York, I brought one or two suitcases with me and had anything else shipped. I didn’t want to pay ten thousand dollars shipping my stuff, though, so everything had to go in the one suitcase. Unfortunately, my suitcase isn’t the TARDIS and bigger on the inside, so what you see is what you get.

All I brought to Italy. Impressed? Me too.

All I brought to Italy. Impressed? Me too.

Even with my dad’s packing expertise, there were a fair amount of clothes that got left behind. I’m here for the year, so a lot of my clothes need to work for multiple seasons. Because I’m from San Francisco, I’m an expert at layering and turning my summer dresses into fall ones. Italy weather is weird, though. It’s hot and muggy one day, and the next it’s freezing and rainy. Apparently, October is the time for lightning storms?

Today was supposed to be thunderstorms so I’m layered up for NYC fall.

Today was supposed to be thunderstorms so I’m layered up for NYC fall.

I love this orange dress. It’s from Old Navy, like most of my clothes because I’m a college student and I’m poor. I wore this dress to my Spring Formal, I wore it this summer at the beach, and I’m wearing now in fall. I wore it with neutrals like navy, brown, and black. And when it’s spring I can wear it with a light sweater and sandals.

Yes, that is the Duomo in the background and yes this is the view I wake up to every morning.

Yes, that is the Duomo in the background and yes this is the view I wake up to every morning.

I LOVE this skirt. I wear it constantly, and it was the best purchase I made this summer. When I left the apartment this morning, my signora told me I looked “molto bella,” so I was very pleased. 

I really like my boots, but sadly I think I will have to save them for when I’m home because heels and cobblestones don’t mix. Oops. 

Also, I wore this shirt specifically because of the little pizza man on it. Italy!

I feel like I look really intelligent in this picture.

I feel like I look really intelligent in this picture.

This is another look I can wear all year. The sweater is super-warm, and I really like the button up top underneath it. 

I wore it with Converse because I only brought five pairs of shoes with me, and I have a limited selection. I would have brought more, but airports have a weight limit. And hey, I can walk all over Florence in these shoes -- and I will because a lot of streets are a no-car zones.

The pants are really bright -- I think they might glow in the dark.

The pants are really bright -- I think they might glow in the dark.

The green pants are very bright, but luckily more than half of my wardrobe is black and green and definitely go together. And the blue sweater is one of my favorites. 

Confession time: I brought more sweaters with me than any other type of clothing. Still, I’ve worn all my sweaters -- some outfits want a pullover sweater, some want an open sweater, so I need all of them, clearly.

Still warm in October. Suck it, New York.

Still warm in October. Suck it, New York.

The weather was really weird when I wore this. It was raining, but still really warm. It was kind of gross. I just said screw it and put on a cute dress. 

I like this dress because it’s not only cute, it’s also slightly more fashionable than most things in my closet -- it's Jason Wu for Target, and I try to wear it as much as I can. It’s a summery dress, but its dark color means I can wear it whenever (or that’s what I tell myself). It’s something I will re-wear throughout the winter with tights and boots, and in spring, exactly like this.

My Italian class visited Fort Belvedere, which is where Kim Kardashian got married recently. Instead of wearing my couture wedding dress, I wore my Ramones T-shirt. Oops? 

Me at Fort Belvedere. Eat your heart out, Kim Kardashian.

Me at Fort Belvedere. Eat your heart out, Kim Kardashian.

I wear this shirt all the time. It’s pretty cute, it looks good with a lot of clothes, and it's a band shirt that’s actually cut well. Besides sweaters, I also brought a lot of T-shirts because, while I will re-wear a lot of my clothes without washing them, I always wash my T-shirts before wearing them again.

Certain clothes I’ll send home when my family comes to visit and I’ll probably ask them to bring me some new clothes as well. Still, most of my closest is wearable all year, which is how I look cute all the time, if I do say so myself.

Have you ever studied abroad for an entire year? How much clothing did you bring? 

Photo credits: Nisa Thompson and Lauren Breck