In the next couple of months, Brooklyn and Berlin will start their yearly summer exchange program.
I’m joking, of course. But with the number of New Yorkers that fly over to Berlin to get a taste of hedonism in a city that parties even harder than we do, a city that is even more accepting of freaks and more fecund with creativity than Bushwick or the Lower East Side — it certainly seems as if there’s a cultural exchange program going on.
First I want to note that I put “women’s” in the headline for SEO purposes, but this list is for anyone on the gender spectrum. In fact, Berlin might be one of the easiest places to pack a wardrobe for in Europe. That’s because it’s such an egalitarian city, that there is zero pressure to look aesthetically pleasing to men! Imagine what that means… no heels, no makeup, no restrictive sexy separates. Berlin women wear comfortable, minimalist, easy, fashion.
In fact, when we spent a month in the city, it got to the point where my husband and I were essentially dressing exactly the same to go out to clubs.
(There’s a great sustainable fashion scene in Berlin, by the way. So save some room in your suitcase so you can go shopping when you get there.)
Oh yes, there is club culture in Berlin. Besides visiting historical memorials, hanging out in the park, and seeing the art, that’s what people do in Berlin for fun. If you want to head out to one of the famous clubs, don’t feel the need to slut yourself up. In fact, if you want to try to get into Berghain, dress as if you could not care less. Black jeans, a t-shirt, ratty sneakers, a fanny pack or small backpack, no makeup, no jewelry unless it’s piercings, and don’t do anything with your hair. If you want to get into Sisyphos, pack something colorful and fun (a rainbow jacket, biodegradable glitter, a fun graphic crop top) but still wear comfortable shoes! Also, Berliners are heavy smokers, especially in the club, so pack clothing that you can throw in the wash. No dry-clean-only items!
Overall, just remember that this is a helpful guide, not a prescription. You do you, honey. In Berlin, anything goes.
For the Plane (or Train)
T-shirt – I really like the drape of Alternative Apparel’s organic cotton and recycled polyester t-shirt, and it comes in 6 neutral colors, or there’s the wide selection at Outerknown.
Wool ankle socks – I like lightweight merino wool socks for long plane rides, because they wick away sweat and odor.
City backpack – There’s the Danish brand grünBAG (which I partnered with to come up with a great traveling backpack called the Alden), a hyper-organized and practical backpack, or one of these uber-Scandinavian backpacks.
Bum bag – Berliners love their bum bags. Men and women alike will sling them across their chest. I also like them for traveling because it’s handy to have my wallet and passport and phone strapped right to my chest, rather than in my backpack! Check out my roundup of hip bags.
(RELATED: Here are some amazing sustainable European brands I discovered at Berlin Fashion Week last summer.)
In Your Suitcase
Oversized Button-down shirt – If you want to go to a nice dinner or event.
Long Blazer – for layering over your t-shirt and jeans for a slightly more refined look. For a fresh, Berlin-Fashion-Week look, get your blazer in a stripe or plaid and pair it with matching pants and sneakers.
Destroyed, hole-y black jeans – Here’s my round-up of eco-friendly denim brands.
Straight fit blue jeans – Here’s my round-up of eco-friendly denim brands.
Leather jacket OR a fun track jacket – depending on your personal style! It gets a little chilly at night.
Birkenstock sandals – Come on, it’s Germany. You have to have these. I don’t recommend secondhand, actually, as they mold to your feet and someone else’s Birkenstocks will be uncomfortable. A friend tried it and gave up on that idea.
Underwear and bras – Here’s my guide to packing just enough eco undies and bras.
Fun sunglasses – Berliners really experiment with their sunglass style! Here’s my roundup of eco-friendly brands.
In Your Toiletry Bag
This might sound crazy, but you do not need to pack your makeup for Berlin, nor all your hair tools or any other beauty products. Embrace the freedom that comes with a mutual understanding that you have better things to do, and you’re worth more than the way you look.
Argan oil – I can’t live without argan oil for making my hair shiny and smooth, plus sealing in moisture on my face after a shower.
Coola Tinted SPF BB cream – This is my absolute favorite tinted SPF cream
Micellar water – I prefer Micellar water to face wash. I like Yes to Cucumbers, which you can find in the travel size in your local CVS or Walgreens.
Anti-aging protective night face lotion – Maybe you’ll put it on at 11 am after an all-nighter, but you’ll want to pamper your face after all that cigarette smoke and non-sleep.
Deodorant – here are my favorites
Shampoo & conditioner
Multipurpose soap – this one by Akamai is amazing for shaving as well as cleansing.