Cultural Experience | Portugal

How to Turn a Small Study Abroad Closet into a Versatile Wardrobe

Tips on How to Make the Most of Your Wardrobe, with Style & Confidence

I’ve been studying abroad in Lisbon, Portugal since the end of January, and one thing I’ve struggled with was my study abroad wardrobe. It felt so small compared to the endless choices I was used to at home. After spending a week in Barcelona and living out of a small duffle bag, I came back to Lisbon and found that my closet felt bigger than ever.

The key for any study abroad closet is versatility. The weather is constantly changing, and you only have space to bring so much from home.

  1. Button down shirts: These are great for looking put together but still casual. The sleeves can be rolled up when it’s warm, or layered with a sweater or long sleeve shirt for cooler days. I’ve been especially loving my denim button down from H&M, which also works as a light jacket.
  2. Leather (real or fake) Jacket: Seriously a study-abroad life saver. It is water (and sangria) repellent, easy to wipe down when it gets dirty, and gives off a cool European vibe.
  3. Scarves: This is the way to take your versatile pieces to the next level. Lightweight and easy to pack, scarves can switch up the sweater you’ve already worn 100 times, or keep you warm on a surprisingly cool day.
  4. Dresses: I’m a big dress-wearer back home, and here it’s no different. Dresses are great for experimenting with putting different shirts under or over for multiple looks.
  5. Skinny jeans: It’s pretty obvious that dark wash, skinny jeans are a college girl essential. Especially when studying abroad, these can take you from classroom to club. Equally as cute with boots and sandals, t-shirts and sweaters, they are a must have.
  6. Work Out Clothes: I only brought 3 t-shirts, a pair of running capris and a pair of shorts, and one pair of yoga pants, and that is just enough to enjoy beautiful morning runs but not take up too much closet space.
  7. Wear Everywhere Sweater: This is the sweater that can be layered, dressed up, traveled in, and slept in. Find one with a bit of texture and a looser fit.

And finally, some tips for making your limited closet work:

DO bring some hangers. I was lucky my mom sent me with a bunch of dry cleaner hangers. They didn’t take up much room in my luggage but make a huge difference in my closet here. I didn’t have to waste money buying any and I can toss them before I leave.

DO plan to throw clothes away at the end of the semester. It’s inevitable, since you are wearing and washing the same clothes over and over again. After a few months I’ve already had jeans rip and boots fall apart. This leaves more room for new clothes and souvenirs on your way home.

DO stay true to who you are…but experiment with some new looks. Sometimes it feels like the Portuguese students are unattainably cool, and I definitely don’t always fit in with my preppy, feminine style. You don’t need to conform, but it is fun to buy a few things that you might never wear at home! Plus, with a limited wardrobe, it is an opportunity to find new ways to wear old clothes, like wearing tights with shorts.

DO wear it with confidence! As much as I’m a believer in “look good, feel good” mentality, a semester abroad is filled with so many things to get excited and think about. So what if you’ve worn your same jeans 982347 times or you’re wearing the same sweater for three days in a row? Wear it with confidence and enjoy whatever your amazing day abroad brings you!


Mary McClure

Loras College | 1 story

Mary is a Social Work major at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, and is currently studying abroad in Lisbon, Portugal for the spring semester. She loves writing in cursive, painting her friends’ nails, getting lost in a good book, and drinking endless cups of black coffee.

3 responses to “How to Turn a Small Study Abroad Closet into a Versatile Wardrobe”

  1. […] How to Turn a Small Study Abroad Closet into a Versatile Wardrobe […]

  2. […] How to Turn a Small Study Abroad Closet into a Versatile Wardrobe […]

  3. Breanna Young says:

    Thank you for the article Mary! I’m considering studying abroad next year and have been searching for countless blogs and articles about how to and what to pack clothes wise. You were very insightful! 🙂

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