One of the first things I’ve noticed when I came to Vienna was how well the people dress here, specifically the women. Yes, there are some who walk around in sweatpants and gym shoes, but from what I have observed, the majority of Viennese women, or women living in Vienna, wear very nice attire.
I’m talking about high-quality fitted clothes and shoes, skinny jeans, nice winter coats and jackets during the cool months, hair neat, clean and make up done. They seem to take on an importance and consideration in how they appear in front of others.
I can see why. Vienna is well known for being one of the most beautiful cities in the world, famous for its art, music, gardens, buildings and palaces of Neo-Renaissance, Gothic, and New-Baroque architectural styles.
Thus perhaps the Viennese know that in order to fit into this good-looking city, they must look good too. I don’t necessarily mean good-looking in regards to facial appearances and/or body weight, I simply get the impression that to live in Vienna you have to look the part with how you dress as a way to fit in.
Now I come from a small town in Connecticut, USA. I have been used to going to Walmart in my gym clothes. I have seen students in college walk into class wearing pajama bottoms (well, me too if you count sweatpants as pajama bottoms). At my old house when I had to get the mail, I had no problem walking to the mailbox in my bathrobe (with clothes underneath) and greet my neighbor. When I visited Stephansplatz, Vienna on a cool August day I decided to walk around the area in my sweatshirt and sweatpants. Well once I started walking around there, I felt very uncomfortable. One reason was because I knew that I had yet to see a Viennese woman wear such clothes out in the street, and two, I personally perceived it as I was offending people by looking so ”lazy” or ”sloppy.”
According to Living in Vienna (1) wearing sweatpants or scruffy jeans to shops and restaurants may not be appreciated and you may receive better service if you are well dressed. I can attest to that because one day when I was out with my husband’s cousin I perceived that the waiter was ignoring me and I looked down at what I was wearing and I was wearing an old sweatshirt from the U.S. I was a little too comfortable in that sweatshirt that I forgot to change before we went out to eat. Anyways, my point is, it is a possibility to be treated differently based on how you look here, but that’s like any country or culture — it just depends on where you are and who you are with.
Of course I am not putting a big stamp on every Viennese resident or worker that says ”I discriminate or treat you differently because of how you dress,” not everyone is like this, but generally, dressing nice in Vienna is something to keep in mind when you do go out in the city.
Though let me tell you, before I moved here, I did not really care how I looked. I focused more on my studies and work. The small town I lived in was simple and I never had to deal with pressure to dress a certain way. Even the jobs I had I would simply dress smart-casual. After school or work I would see a lot of men and woman walking around in their gym clothes and sweats, getting groceries, getting money out of the bank. Perhaps because the United States is more work-driven, people work long hours during the week, have shorter vacations, focus is more towards work and making money than showing off the latest ESPRIT pullover (though I can’t say for Los Angeles/Hollywood where appearance is a huge deal).
Since living here I have to put in a moment or two to consider how I am going to look before I walk out the door. I must say though, that I’ve started to enjoy putting more effort in how I dress. I have taken on how the Viennese like to dress — wearing comfortable clothes that fits you well and compliments you and your body.
While body image is another topic to talk about, I do want to briefly mention that the Viennese seem not to make such a huge deal about their body and weight — what seems to matter is how they feel and look in the clothes they are wearing. It doesn’t matter what size or weight you are, what matters is how you express yourself in the clothes you are wearing, and that comes down to wearing clothes that fit you, your body and feel good to you too.
Now since seeing how much consideration and thought Viennese women put into their wear, I have been to. When I go clothes shopping I focus on colors and pieces that will feel pleasant on my skin and also highlight my features/individual expression. By wearing clothes that compliment/align with who I am I feel pretty good cause it’s like I’m expressing myself from/as the clothes I wear — if that makes sense.
What I have observed is that many of the women here, like young adults/university students is that the clothes they wear are simple, balanced and pronounced. Since I’m writing this blog post in the winter, I want to share how the women are typically dressing in the season: Usually wearing leggings with a dress/skirt or skinny jeans, sometimes with a scarf, nice top and dark colored boots. (This is not to say this is how all the women dress like, but through my observation, this is what many young women are dressing like in Vienna.)
So to my fellow Americans who will or wish to visit Vienna, I suggest to take an extra moment to consider what you will wear when walking in the city, and have fun 🙂
(1) Zahradnik, Anett. Living in Vienna. [11th ed. Vienna: American Women’s Association of Vienna, 2003. Print.
Additional Blog: Vienna Style