4 Tips for Shopping While Abroad

18 Apr

By Kara Harms

I think I can accurately say that shopping is a hobby we all love. Nothing makes you feel happier than finding that PERFECT pair of shoes or skirt after spending maybe hours scouring the racks for what speaks to you the loudest. I personally sometimes feel like clothes are almost talking to me. They say things like “Kara, I am so pretty and cheap, buy me!”

Shopping while studying abroad or traveling is even worse. First off, you have to spend months living out of a suitcase, which doesn’t permit as much room for outfits as you want it to, so you are always jumping at an opportunity to get new things. Secondly, the clothes in other countries always seem better since they are Italian or French or English. I will always spend more money shopping abroad than I would if I were shopping in the Mall of America. It’s terrible.

So I wanted to compile some tips for you travel addicts or soon-to-be studying abroaders so you can survive shopping in your new country without getting wallet-raped. Since wallet rape hurts as much as those new heels do on cobblestone. Fact.


4 Tips for Shopping Abroad

1. Ask yourself if you can find anything like this in the United States. If the answer is yes, you probably shouldn’t buy it.  Simple as that. You can find literally anything you need in America, so the art of gathering things abroad should be more focused on finding the truly original one of kind pieces. That is what fashion is all about, standing out in all the best ways. If someone could get the same style of skirt you bought in Greece at the Rosedale Forever 21, you would be better off saving your money for something else that will actually give you bragging rights.

2. Ask yourself if you can actually fit the stuff you want to buy into your suitcase. Whether you are traveling for a week or 4 months, the space you have to smoosh things into is limited. Remember how you could barely fit everything in before you even got to the airport? And now you have spent 4 months shopping and have even more things to smoosh? Yes, please, explain how that is all getting home. Like mentioned before you can literally get everything in the United States, so make sure you are getting only the cool stuff, and preferably small stuff.

3. Double-check the exchange rate. If you are in Europe, it is easy to get carried away at first. Those cute boots, the ones that are on sale for 40 Euro down the street, at first seem like a great deal since when can you get leather boots for $40? Then you realizes 40 Euro equals $52.25 and suddenly you are over budget.

4. Always barter down. There are a lot of markets across the world, especially in South America and it is expected that you will barter with the sellers. Personally, I am a ruthless barterer. I know exactly how much something is suppose to cost and I won’t pay more for it just because the seller knows I am American and he thinks he can pull one over on me. The best thing to remember while bartering is odds are there will be many other sellers who have almost the same thing. You can walk away if your seller won’t lower their price and find someone who will-and I promise you they will probably chase you down anyways to make the sale. Remember, you should be saving your money for more travel, or beer. Beer is a good thing to save money for.

Got any more tips? Please comment below!


How To Disguise Yourself As A Real Italian in 9 Easy Steps.

4 Apr

By Kara Harms

You’ve seen the movies and magazines with sexy Italian women who casually wear sexy Italian men as accessories all while looking flawless and dang it, you just want to look like them.  And hate them. And steal their wardrobe. And maybe the sexy men. But, I mean, who doesn’t? The standards of fashion in this country put America to shame.  Wear sweatpants or no make-up outside of the house here? Yeah, you get shunned.  T-shirts? Forget about them. The People of Wal-Mart would have no place to call home in this country.

But the great question I face on a daily basis is how exactly does one “dress like an Italian”? The fashion here is considered so prestigious it has turned into a “look” we admire from across the globe, but how does one really dress to blend into the crowds here?

Well, let me tell you, It. Is. So. Hard. Especially when you are oh-so-very blonde like me, you can never really blend in. But I’m going to help you learn how soar when I have already crashed and burned, since maybe you aren’t blonde and aren’t a shinning white color from spending too much of your youth in the Northern Midwest. I got to be useful for something, right?

Step One: Don’t be blonde.  If you are blonde, just give up and go home right now YOU WILL NEVER BE ONE OF THEM. Sorry I had to break it to you like this. But the real kicker is if you aren’t blonde, you are totally within your rights to bleach your hair like crazy. Just go for it, the more unnatural looking the better. Apparently being fake blonde is more acceptable than the real deal and despite hating American girls for their blonde hair, the Italian woman totally just secretly want to look like us. PLOT TWIST!!!

Step Two: Wear heals, and not the wimpy one-inch kinds, I mean the tall, thin stilettos that you only have to glance at to know they are designed for breaking ankles. The more likely your shoes might break your ankles, the more Italian they are. And you can’t just get by with wearing these babies on nice, safe, flat and even sidewalks, you have to walk on cobble stone too, otherwise you’re weak. The Italian women can smell out weakness. Don’t be weak! Your ankles are that important anyways, I promise.



Step Three: Wear fur. Doesn’t matter if it is a vest, scarf, hat or an oversized jacket that makes you look vaguely similar to an upright grizzly bear, wear that damn fur and you’re golden.

Step Four: Wear your parka until mid April. Yes, yes, I know, you are reading this and probably thinking, “Wait, I thought it was warm in Italy???” and I can tell you that indeed, it is warm in Italy. The past week has been highs of 60’s-I actually sweat on the walk to school but the Italians still refuse to abandon their beloved parkas. Don’t think you can get away without wearing a coat since “You’re from the North”. They don’t care if you are from Minnesota and can handle the cold since most of them have no idea what Minnesota even is.  Guys, these are the people who stick their dogs into vests to protect them from the “raging winter” of Rome. They will give you no mercy, assume you are a whore and send death glares in your direction until it makes you just give up and wear the darn coat out in the morning.

Step Five: Don’t exercise in public since they will call you a whore instead of just thinking it. This means the whole world of picking out cute neon sports bras and adorable gym clothes that make you look a little less disgusting while running doesn’t exist here.


Step Six: Own a Louis Vuitton bag. Hey, I never said it had to be real; a fake one will do just fine. Just as long as you’re carrying around some flashy LV you will be welcomed with open arms into what I think must be a secret underground Louis Vuitton organization that 40% of the Roman woman belong too. Guys, they really love their Louis Vuitton.

Step Seven: Shorts are too sexual for people here. You can’t be tempting the husbands and sons with your bare legs and hey, the Pope is watching you know! Don’t be a whore and leave the shorts at home.

Step Eight: Always always always bring your umbrella when you leave the house. It doesn’t matter if there isn’t a cloud in the sky, everyone else thinks it might rain so you better bring your umbrella to blend in. And it actally might rain since, SPOILER, it actually rains here a lot. Thats something nobody every tells you.

Step Nine: Toss out the ‘ole iPhone and get a cheap 40 Euro flip phone that makes you want to cry a little inside everything you have to use it. iPhones here are at least $600-700  (no wonder they think Americans are so rich) and pulling one out in public to snapchat a friend back automatically labels you as American.  Why would you want to shatter the illusion of being Italian after all the hard work you just put in? Also, it will probably get stolen since hey, it’s worth like $700 dollars and some guy’s kids need to be feed or something.

And there you have it, 9 easy steps to disguising yourself as a real life Italian woman. Use this knowledge wisely girls, and I better be seeing some fur and high heels on campus next semester. Lol JK, nobody wants to ride the 16 in high heels. But fur is a total go.

Street Style- PFW

10 Mar

I officially love taking street fashion photos. And there is no better place to take them than at Paris Fashion Week. -Melanie


Paris Street Fashion- Isabel Marant

2 Mar

Paris Fashion Week is kind of a big deal. Unfortunately, unless you have an invitation or great luck, you probably won’t get into the shows. But that doesn’t stop people from trying. Yesterday I hung out at the Isabel Marant show and took some street fashion shots. Here are my favorites.










How I ended up backstage at Paris Fashion Week

27 Feb

My friend Kate and I decided we were going to see if we could wait in line and get standing room for the Nicolas Andreas Taralis show at 1:00 in the eighth arrondissement, near the Champs-Élysées. We just assumed that the earlier you got there, the better. We were wrong. We showed up, and no one was there except people who worked for the show. As we were awkwardly standing there deciding what our next move should be, a lady came up to us and asked if we were working. I told her that we weren’t working, but we were waiting to see if there would be standing room so we could see the show. To my surprise, she said “Yeah, come back at 1:00 and find me, and I can get you a seat.” WHAT.

So Kate and I got coffee and came back at 12:45, only to see a huge crowd of people lining up. I didn’t know what to do, so I just planned on getting in the line and hoping that the lady would remember us and let us in. My brilliant friend Kate made the executive decision to wait on the other side until 1:00 and then try to find the lady, like she had instructed us to do. Within three minutes of standing there, another girl, who had seen us earlier, walked out, turned to us and said, “Are you guys working for anyone? Because we need some more dressers backstage. Are you interested?” I’m pretty sure I said yes before Kate even realized what was going on. And just like that, we were brought backstage, assigned a model, and given directions.

I was a dresser backstage at the Nicolas Andreas Taralis show at Paris Fashion Week. PARIS FASHION WEEK. This isn’t just something that everyone gets to do, and I completely understand that. I just happened to have the right amount of luck and confidence, not to mention impeccable timing.

Below are some pictures I took. To see every look from the show, visit STYLE.

3Lining up for the finale.


Some of the male models striking a pose.


Obsessed with the hair at this show.

She is stunning.

2Me with my model, Jamily.

Leggings Gone Wild!!!

27 Feb

By Kara Harms

As we all experienced while making our wardrobe transitions from high school to college to real adult world, teens have very different styles from grown ups. I personally went through a strange emo/punk/scene period where I dyed my hair blue and thought wearing an entire pencil of eyeliner on my face looked attractive.

Teens do strange things. It is what defines us from the evil close-minded grown ups of the outside world.  It is what sets ourselves apart…and what fuels those stories we tell each other 5 years down the road. You know, the ones that you always end with “I don’t know what I was thinking”.

In Roma, the teens are no different. While you find the Italian woman dressed in dark colors, always running around in heels like champs and probably adorn in fur (and possibly a designer bag) the teens are completely different.  They like color. They like flat shoes. They like to POP.

While on a class tour today in a museum, we ran into a huge group of kids from a local high school. And every single girl looked like this:

Crazy colored leggings and tennis or high-tops.

I’m still not sure how I feel about this trend. While I’m intrigued by some of the tights-I saw a pair of sick milky way printed ones-I think they may be a little to much In Your Face while paired with the tennis shoes. A little too much funk going on here… or maybe it is because I’m in the “college” phase of my life and slowly entering the “real world adult” part and these edgy teenaged styles are way past my time? Who am I too judge.

Them. Actually I’m here to judge them.

As you all maybe have noticed, American women gravitate towards tall brown boots. In fact I think all of the girls in our class today had on either dark skinny jeans or leggings with brown boots. With my very adult looking outfit, I felt so mature and wise walking among these shinny rainbow legged kids.

And then I suddenly felt like I missed the memo of trendiness. Is this the style that is going to be hitting the Midwest in 2 years? Should I be grabbin’ up all the now cheap artsy leggings and be stocking up for when the wave hits?  Do these kids actually know something I don’t? I just don’t know.  I kind of hope not…just imagine these leggings against the blaring white Minnesota snow. We all may go blind.

You be the judge: Yay or Nay on this new Roman teenage trend? Is it just a “teen thing” or do you think it is going to be an upcoming mega style?

Doggy Couture

18 Feb


In Minnesota when the thermostat reaches over 40, we all jump for joy over the sudden wealth of warmth bestowed on us. Anything but 20 below walks to class could make us happy in the Midwest.

Here in Italy, they all bundle up in parkas, heavy-duty scarves and mittens and hats. They look like they are ready to walk out their front door and into a Minnesotan blizzard. In reality, most days hover around 45-50 degrees here in Roma, which means either I am a freak of nature for thinking that is pleasant weather, or these Romans need to grow a backbone.

Since they so strongly believe that 45 degrees is “freezing”, they like to make sure their dogs are happy and comfortable in these cold winter days by bundling their tiny pups up in sweaters and vests. It is honestly the cutest thing I have ever seen.  When growing up in rural Wisconsin, our family always had dogs and those suckers had to run around outside knee deep in snow without any sweaters or vests. Not even booties!

The Roman dogs have it good, you guys.