striped swimsuit

What To Wear for a European Summer (Whether You’re Traveling to Europe or Not)

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When it comes to dreaming about a European summer, there is just something special about the French Riviera aesthetic that screams chic, relaxed, and oh-so-classic. Looking at pictures from this dream travel location would make anyone want to jet off to the South of France to dress up in elegant summer outfits, though that isn’t always possible. Of course, hopping on a plane on a whim isn’t a realistic plan for most people. Not only do trips require extensive planning, other life factors like budgets, work, time off, and childcare also come into the mix when trying to set aside time and resources for something like this. Whether or not you are planning on taking a trip this summer, there’s no need to go on an European summer vacation to enjoy the coastal European fashion aesthetic; after all, having survived the colder months of the year is more than enough to call for some warm weather and good times!

If you are familiar with French style, you know that their fashion truly revolved around quality staples. Focusing on aspects like finding the right fit, opting for neutrals, and accessorizing with timeless pieces, the French have truly earned their reputation as some of the most well-dressed people around the globe. If you have ever been to Paris or have done any research on the city of lights, you may be familiar with some of the staple pieces that belong in every French women’s wardrobe. While some of these pieces do translate to more summery, beachy scenarios, there are tons of new warm-weather styles for you to discover and fall in love with.

Classic pieces like espadrilles and elegant swimsuits are appropriate – and ideal! – for a number of less extravagant occasions, from your backyard to your family’s favorite local beach. Not only is this aesthetic perfect for a number of gatherings this time of year, it is also easy to get into! Made up of classic summer pieces and timeless styles, it won’t take you long to start putting together European summer looks of your own. Interested? Then let’s get into it. Here’s what you need to put together a French-Riviera-inspired look for your very own chic summer.

1. Black, White, or Striped Swimsuit

Nothing says European wardrobe staples quite like elegant, neutral swimsuits. If you are looking to pack light and only choose two swimsuits to bring with you to the beach or pool, opt for classy one-pieces in black and white or a high-waisted two-piece.

U-Bar Bandeau One-Piece Swimsuit

Kim Belted Rib One-Piece Swimsuit

Island Goddess One-Piece Swimsuit

Island Goddess High Waist Bikini Bottoms

These styles and colors are the most versatile, and can easily match the rest of your summer wardrobe. Beyond being great staple swimwear pieces, these styles can also be great pieces for your day-to-day outfits, where you want to be wearing your bathing suit without sacrificing on the style front. Pairing beautifully with other staples like summer dresses and pieces made from lightweight fabrics, for example, these swimsuits are perfect for your everyday. 

Pair your one-piece with linen pants or shorts for a breezy, chic, and classy look. For your bikini, a high-waisted skirt can bring movement and balance to your summer outfit while still keeping you ready to head into the water at a moment’s notice.

The French Riviera style is all about class, so it’s best to save your neons and cut-outs swimsuits for another time. The idea behind this aesthetic is very much in line with the pillars of French style in general: simple and chic!

If you are a lover of French style and this particular aesthetic, a striped swimsuit might also be a style to consider if you want to add a little something extra to your swimwear selection. 

2. Linen Shirt

It’s not a European summer without a linen shirt. This particular style can be argued to be one of the main summer staple pieces across the Atlantic. From acting as a cover-up for a casual stroll on the beach to dressing up your lunch looks, this versatile piece is a must-have when it comes to planning your looks. 

100% European Linen Long Sleeve Shirt

If you’re not entirely familiar with a European summer wardrobe, you might question why bringing a long-sleeved shirt to the beach might be a good idea. Whether your vacation plans include walking down the cobblestone streets or enjoying a fresh scoop of gelato, a linen shirt can always find a way to get the job done – the styling options are truly endless! Roll up the sleeves and pair it with your swimsuit as a cover up, linen pants, and even with a pair of denim shorts as you enjoy the sunset after relaxing, long days.

Like I mentioned before, following a neutral color palette is more than just a good idea when it comes to achieving the French Riviera look. By opting for more muted and understated tones when shopping for your pieces, you will be giving yourself many more outfit combinations than you can probably think of right now! A crisp white or a light beige are two great options for a linen shirt you’ll be rocking all summer long.

3. White Wide-Leg Jeans

When coming up with your Europe packing list or planning your outfits in general, it’s important to be well prepared. From chilly summer nights by the beach to chic lunch dates at the most gorgeous restaurant in town, having a trusty pair of white jeans on hand can be a real life saver.

The Emmett Wide Leg: Patch Pocket Edition

Even though the weather isn’t likely to be an issue, white jeans work beautifully with the European summer look aesthetic. Effortlessly comfortable and chic, this particular wide-leg style can be easily dressed up or down for various occasions throughout your days. In particular, cropped wide-leg styles fall right in line with the French Riviera feel, pairing beautifully with a linen top, espadrilles, or slide sandals. 

If you’re getting ready to do lots of walking, this style can also be paired with comfortable shoes such as white sneakers – who ever said that walking tours and great style don’t go together? 

4. Sandals

Plastic, water-proof flip flops might be a must-have when it comes to any type of summer vacation, but they’re definitely not the only kinds of summer shoes you should be packing. For occasions outside of the beach and pool, ditch your plastic flip-flops and go for a classy style instead. Minimalist leather sandals are an ideal choice for a great European summer look.

Small and compact, these sandals won’t take much of your suitcase space, but contribute an enormous amount of variety to your vacation wardrobe. For days when you feel like heading out for some fresh flowers at the street market or grabbing some brunch at a charming local spot, reach for these stylish sandals for a fool-proof choice. Whether you are going exploring around town or want to look a little more put together for a casual hotel dinner, this style is a true life saver for any summery getaway. 

When it comes to the French Riviera style, opt for a pair of slides that contribute a luxurious look, making it easy to dress up even simpler looks with ease.

5. Denim Shorts

Every summer wardrobe needs a solid pair of denim shorts. This, simple, quintessential style is another piece that can easily be paired with a large majority of tops – from elegant options to your casual white tank tops and swimsuits.

Pick out your favorite denim shade and silhouette, always remembering to prioritize comfort and aim for a cohesive wardrobe overall! A good way to make sure you are happy with the color palette of your closet is to lay them all out and make note of the general palette. If your pieces lean much more towards light blue, for example, it can be helpful to you to opt for a similar tone when picking out your denim shorts. Little touches like these may seem silly at times, but they can go a long way in making it easy for you to mix and match when you reach your final destination – it’s all about proper planning!

The Curvy High-Rise Sailor Short

Jane Fray Hem High Waist Denim Shorts

For a super easy way to dress up your shorts, pair them with some espadrilles and a linen shirt. 

6. Linen Dress

Besides the many white pieces you need for a European summer, other classic shades like light blue are a must-have. Light, neutral colors are particularly great choices for a beachy destination, bringing some variety to your closet while still keeping in line with the aesthetic of your trip and closet. 

100% European Linen Sleeveless Swing Dress

100% European Linen Button Front Dress

In general, comfortable clothing is an absolute must for any summer day. For a breezy dress you won’t want to take off, pick a breathable fabric such as linen or cotton as your material of choice, effortlessly blending comfort and style. Available in two slightly different styles, this patterned linen options go perfectly with brown sandals and a straw bag for a go-to European summer look. 

​For excursions or for visiting different beaches, for example, dresses like these work beautifully over you bathing suit for a practical and elegant daytime look. 

7. Wedge Espadrilles

We’ve touched on comfortable sneakers, flip-flops, and sandals, so what other shoe could complement our (personally established) summer trip ‘dress codes’? 

Flats and a pair of sneakers are both great additions to this list, but the French Riviera style also calls for a little something more. Wedge espadrilles are the perfect alternative for high heels when it comes to finding a dressier shoe for the beach. These glamorous wedge heels are perfect for any kind of summer soirée, giving your outfit an elevated yet still beachy and relaxed vibe.

If you’re not a fan of taller shoes or just prefer to stay at ground level during your vacation, espadrilles are also available in other equally chic and beautiful varieties. Whichever you decide to go with, pair your shoes with skirt and a linen top before heading out into town for dinner!

8. Breton Top

Having become a symbol of French style, Breton stripes are one of the very few hugely popular patterns that have become true fashion staples in Europe and beyond. 

That being said, it can be argued that no European wardrobe is really complete without stripes! This versatile and timeless top can be worn with your linen pants or denim shorts and will look chic with very little effort. Just like a good pair of blue jeans, this top will have your back as a truly classic and fool-proof option throughout your week. 

Classic Mariner Boatneck T-shirt 

Relaxed Linen T-shirt in Stripe

Dress it up or down with either your classic sandals or stylish espadrilles! If you get one thing this summer, let it be an easy striped shirt.

9. Tortoiseshell Sunglasses

A pair of sunglasses is a great accessory for any summer getaway or day spent under the sun. Tortoiseshell sunglasses take your outfits a step further, getting you ready to step foot on a St. Tropez yacht.

Gradient Square Sunglasses

Traditional Classic Square Sunglasses

Rectangular Sunglasses

Cat Eye Sunglasses

Beyond keeping your eyes protected and comfortable, this summer accessory gives your outfits an undeniable style boost. From elevating your bating suits to your skirts and linen pieces, these sunglasses will stick with you all summer long. 

10. Basket Bag

What better time to break out a gorgeous basket bag? This fun and stylish accessory has its time and place – and this is definitely it!

Wicker Basket Bag

Giving your European summer outfit a French Riviera twist, this bag offers both function and fashion-forward charm to all of your fabulous looks. Take it to the beach and perch it next to you as you read your book or magazine for a perfect, Jane Birkin-inspired summer moment. 

11. Pendant Necklace

Especially if you are taking a trip, packing and planning specific jewelry can be an added layer of unnecessary stress. By sticking to one timeless and versatile accessory you love, you will be making your life a lot easier – both before, during, and after your travels. 

Celeste Sunburst Pendant Necklace

For your European summer look specifically, a piece of jewelry that will go with all your outfits is an absolute must. I recommend a delicate pendant necklace for the perfect pick. Minimal and chic, this design is not too busy to take away from your looks while still adding an extra touch of femininity and detail to your ensemble. 

12. Straw Hat

Straw hats are some of the most popular beach accessory, and for good reason! Their practical and stylish features make easy straw hats the majority of a daytime French Riviera look. This simple accessory can give a swimsuit and a simple tank an instant sophisticated touch, getting you ready for an impromptu beach photoshoot or a relaxing afternoon by the pool.

Available in various different sizes, materials, and colors, this accessory is very easily adaptable to your personal style preferences! All it takes is a quick search for you to find your straw hat match.  

Whether you are headed to France, Tulum, or just stepping outside, embrace natural sun-kissed skin and natural beachy hair for a summer you’ll never forget.

Getting Started on Your European Summer Outfits! 

Trying out a whole new aesthetic and thinking of pulling off the French Riviera look might have seemed like too much to take on, especially if you have never visited the region or aren’t super familiar with the European summer style. Now, after reading this post, I hope implementing these gorgeous pieces and this aesthetic to your own closet – no matter where you’re headed – is just as easy as it seems. If you have your Europe ticket on hand, you might want to consider checking out some smart ways to save up on suitcase space with a minimalistic and chic tropical vacation capsule wardrobe​!  

When you find yourself getting overwhelmed, go back to basics. Think of classic styles, neutral colors, and flattering silhouettes that make you feel comfortable and amazing in your own skin. From there, you can find plenty of outfit inspiration for your summer trip and beyond; after all, none of these clothing pieces actually require being in the South of France to help you achieve the look. 

Everybody starts somewhere! If you are looking for some more style inspiration and quick, free fashion guides, join me and sign-up for my newsletter. Good luck and remember to enjoy your summer! 

European summer french style
What to wear for a European summer

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Founder and editor of My Chic Obsession, Carolyn is your trusted fashion maven. Carolyn's drive to help others achieve a classic and timeless wardrobe fuels her posts, making mychicobsession.com a go-to resource for style seekers worldwide. Beyond the wardrobe, she resides in the heartland of the Midwest, dreaming up new ideas and raising her two lively boys - her biggest fashion critics.