One of New York’s most well-known claims to fame is its status as a global fashion capital and, between its well-dressed residents and the bi-annual New York Fashion Week, it’s not hard to see why. However, in this bustling city, style and practicality come together to create a dress code that is as unique as it is chic. So, if you’re visiting the Big Apple and want to not only participate in the city’s dynamic fashion scene, but also be comfortable while you’re on the go and seeing the sights, here are the must-haves for your packing list.
What to Wear in New York: Fashion Trends & Practicality Tips
1. Black Leather Jacket or Coat
In NYC, leather is timeless! A black leather jacket like this Reformation one, can be a great layering piece for navigating the city’s constantly changing climate. It’s thick enough to keep you warm on a cloudy, breezy day, yet light enough to allow you to comfortably meander through neighborhoods without getting too hot on more sunny ones.
For colder weather, a cashmere + leather sleeve coat like this All Saints one can easily be worn up or down.
- Down: with jeans and white sneakers for an effortlessly cool look during a day of museum hopping.
- Up: Then, in the evening, it can be paired with sleek black pants or skirt for an evening of bar hopping.
2. Stylish, Yet Comfortable Walking Sneakers
Sneakers are in. Everyone wears them everywhere, even to the club. But especially in NYC, where it is absolutely crucial to be able to walk to enjoy as much of the city as possible with ease. However, if you want to channel both the stylish and pragmatic nature of the city with your sneakers, opt for a cute yet comfortable pair.
Many New Yorkers tend to go the traditional white sneaker route because, no matter how worn-in they may get, they will always be a versatile closet staple and will likely never go out of style. The most popular brands include Veja, Reebok Classics, Ultra Boost Adidas, Everlane Trainers, and Nike Airforce Ones.
3. Cute Backpack
If you’re looking for the perfect utilitarian yet style-conscious carry-all for an on-the-go trip to NYC, then be sure to pack a cute and practical backpack like this one. It is ideal for keeping all of your essentials safe and secure while out and about in the city. For something less sporty and more femme, this cute backpack can be used for both outdoors and nicer indoor spaces. Or this one, is both sleek and practical. This one is classy, feminine, and practical for travel and commuting.
Further, when you choose a backpack of your preferred size, shape, and color, it can also enhance any casual city-going outfit that you wear to see the sites, and keep you looking both effortlessly cool and practical.
4. Compact Umbrella
As previously mentioned, New York’s weather patterns are constantly changing. So, to avoid getting caught in sudden rain storms, pack a lightweight, compact umbrella. We like these clear or vibrantly colored iridescent ones to lean into the city’s experimental roots. For both rain and sun protection, we love anti-UV umbrellas like this stylish white and black one. With these options, you’ll be prepared for our climate with a little extra style.
5. Crossbody & Shoulder Bags
Aside from the canvas tote bag, another useful bag for your New York packing list may be a crossbody or fanny bag. In any big, fast-paced city, keeping your belongings as close to you as possible is important; New York is no exception. When New Yorkers are off the clock, many choose the uber-minimal route of using just their pockets or a small crossbody bag.
So many local New Yorkers carry sleek black leather bags like this Oak & Fort for increased versatility and durability, but some choose more vibrant options like this beaded citrus one. Regardless of color, shape, or material, a crossbody bag is a great and fashionable option for keeping all of your belongings secure during your stay in NYC.
If you’re vegan, these cactus leather bags are all the rage right now! They are gorgeous.
6. Trench Coat (Spring/Fall)
A timeless fashion basic, the trench coat is also a staple of New York dressing in the fall and spring. If you are in NYC during one of these seasons, pack a trench to stay comfortable and look fashionable. Many New Yorkers favor a classic beige gabardine style, such as this trench by Everlane but for a more modern twist, consider this fabric-like gorgeous trench by Mackage. For the spring, check out this colorful trench coat by Olivia Ruben. All of these allow for layering during shoulder seasons.
7. Chunky Hoop Earrings (Gold or Silver)
As natural statement-makers, New Yorkers are prone to wearing eye-catching jewelry. Perhaps the biggest jewelry fashion trend sweeping NYC at the moment is chunky hoop earrings. So, if you want to elevate your outfits in NYC, throw on a pair of oversized hoops in gold or silver like these. Hoops will quickly take any casual day outfit, such as a tank, blue jeans, and sneakers, and transform it into one fit for NYC’s dynamic nightlife scene.
8. Silk Slip Dress (Year-round)
Hear me out; this is a year-round dress. In the winter, you can wear a silk slip dress with an open or closed sweater. During the shoulder seasons, you can layer the silk slip dress. And in the summer you can wear a silk slip dress as is. The possibilities are endless with this simple, elegant, and sexy dress. I love the Quince silk slip dresses; they’re high quality and at amazing prices. You can get them in knee or thigh/mini lengths. For an even cheaper option? Target has great ones for just $20! And for the fanciest version, check out Cami NYC’s raven dress (but I think Qiunce rivals them at a fraction of the price).
8. Trendy Sunglasses
Of course, sunglasses are necessary for any destination. However, us New Yorkers tend to have a bit more fun with our sunglasses. Although the most worn color in the city’s wardrobe is black, many choose to sport the trendier sunglasses from the most recent runways or social media fashion movements.
We love the cat eye sunglasses fashion trend in NYC like these YSL. Sleek and stylish. But also, here are a few more options pictured above:
- Crap Sunglases thickly framed sunglasses
- Tom Ford’s classic round frames but with a sunset tint.
- Le Spec’s 90s frames. These are currently a best seller.
10. Leather Boots
Even though flat ankle booties are out (see: cheugy), boots remains an essential New York shoe. For more comfortable, casual options many city-goers tend to prefer leather chunky Chelsea boots or Dr. Martens 1460s.
On the other hand, for nicer events or grabbing drinks on the weekend, square-heeled leather boots are also the way to go. Dress them up for a nice dinner or a show with black jeans, a blouse, and a blazer, or dress them down for brunch or a museum visit with blue jeans, a white button-down, and a leather jacket. We’re also loving them in white. White leather is making a beautiful come back in boots and purses!
11. Chunky Sandals
Chunky sandals are cute and stylish! They also go perfectly with the bourgeoning fashion trend of straight/wide leg pants. They’re also comfortable for strolling around the Big Apple in the summertime. Needless to say, they will also you far more support than a flat sandal while taking any dainty summer dress or pants to the next level.
For the ultimate sandal statement, go for a platform style like these Timberland sandals, or for a slightly more subdued look, opt for the classic lug sole gladiator sandals from Dr. Martens. From day to night, these sandals will keep your feeling comfortable, and your outfit looking New York-cool.
12. Rain Boots
Did you know that it rains more in NYC than in Seattle? So you cannot let the rain stop you from getting out and about comfortably. Consider a chic pair of boots like these gorgeous Everlane chelsea rainboots which are compact, comfortable, and go with everything.
If, on the other hand, you want to opt for a trendier and more contemporary appearance, consider these black chunky Chelsea boots or these sleek heeled boots by Chloe.
13. Puffer Coat
If you’re venturing to New York in the winter, then having a warm and reliable puffer coat is absolutely essential for braving the cold streets. Luckily, the puffer is another timeless NYC fashion’s piece, so there are near-endless fashionable varieties of these coats, without making you look like a marshmallow.
Perhaps the most on-trend style of puffer in the city right now is the cropped iteration, such as this one, which can be seen on many New Yorkers in a variety of bright colors. Some opt for longer styles, such as this gorgeous knee-length version, in an elegant winter white.
14. Straight Leg, Barrel, or Baggy Pants
Most New Yorkers have ditched their skinny jeans and replaced them with either classic straight-leg, cargo, or other baggy pants. Not only are they super comfortable as you make your way around the city, but they can then be easily dressed up in the evening with platform sandals or shoes. Most often, New Yorkers opt for beige or classic black, in addition to ultra-versatile brown and khaki colors. In the summer, linen pants like these are perfect for visiting beaches in NYC or taking day trips to Long Island beachtowns!
Athleisure has become an important part of nearly everyone’s wardrobe over the past few years, butespecially for us New Yorkers who are constantly on the move. We love biking, work out classes, and running here! And even for our day trips from NYC to nearby hiking trails.
These Nike socks are also all the rage right now. They provide an incredibly comfortable cushioning, so I never want to take them off! I also love this Lululemon cropped sweater which accentuates your waist. These bras at the Girl Friend Collective provide lots of support while being smooth and gorgeous.
The most popular brands for cute athleisure include Lululemon, Alo Yoga, and Girlfriend Collective; perfect for a training session at one of the city’s famed Barry’s Bootcamp, Soul Cycle, Pilates Reformers, or Rumble Boxing, and then grabbing brunch with friends after.
15. Black Pants or Jeans
There’s no doubt that classic black pants are a staple garment for New York City nightlife. Most New Yorkers heading out for drinks or dinner on the weekends tend to do so in a pair of black pants or jeans like these.
It doesn’t matter what style they are or if they’re distressed or not, black pants/jeans take any ensemble, and turn it into one fit for the downtown bar, restaurant, or theater scene. Wear with black boots or platform sandals for a more comfortable, yet still stylish look. Or pair them with black heels for a sleek and formal approach.
16. Loose Button-Up Blouse
In the summer, New York’s favorite garment is the loose button-up shirt. Especially if it’s linen. Other than being a classically chic staple in anyone’s wardrobe, the button-up can easily be thrown over a dress or jean-and-tank ensemble when entering chilly air-conditioned museums, galleries, and subway cars. So, when packing for your next NYC summer adventure, toss your favorite big, blousy button-up in your suitcase for any chilly indoor spaces you might encounter while there. For a budget option, I own this linen white dupe from Amazon! I also love this linen blouse from Aritzia in rustic tan.
17. Canvas Tote Bag
Last, but not least is one of the most important accessories for us New Yorkers: the canvas tote bag. Simple, practical, and often inexpensive, this seemingly mundane bag can be seen on the arms of those in all five boroughs. That’s because the canvas tote is for all of your own personal items that you might need for a day out and about, it will also act as a perfect, eco-friendly vessel for all of NYC purchases and practical goods.
Remember, we don’t have cars here, so you must carry everything you need throughout the day. That means your water bottle, umbrella, makeup, etc., go into your canvas tote without the heavy weight a bulky leather purse would add to your shoulders. Best of all? You can fold it into a tiny square in your luggage or purse.
Needless to say, New York is a city full of individualistic, creative personalities who often express their identities through their clothing. So, when packing for your trip, remember to, most of all, have fun and bring what makes you feel like you. Naturally, there are a few staple pieces that most every New Yorker likely owns and uses on a regular basis. Ultimately, in order to get the most out of your stay and fully embrace the independent, free-thinking New York spirit, be sure to wear what makes you feel your very best. Below, you can find a packing list featuring some signature New York pieces to kick start your packing list.
2023 NYC FASHION TRENDS RECAP
- White and black colors matched together, especially in leather
- White leather boots and purses
- Leather jackets (not the motorcycle type)
- Chunky everything. Chunky boots, hoops, sandals, pants, etc.
- Wide-legged or straight legged pants/jeans. This includes cargos.
- Long jean skirts, but we’re still in denial about this one.
- Crossbody soft-fabric fannys
- Cat-eyed sunglasses
- White sneakers (especially Airforce Ones)
- Nike ankle-knee length socks
- Silver everything. Silver purses, silver jewerly, silver umbrellas. Including that iridescent silver, too. Gold is still in, but silver is making a comeback for those who can rock it (ahem, minority of cool-toned people).
- Canvas pants, shirts, and dreses in the summer
- Silk dresses
- Wearing whatever you love! Especially if it is authentically and uniquely you!
TIMELESS NYC FASHION RECAP
- Leather boots
- Black pants
- Canvas tote bags
- Trench coats
- Cute backpacks
NYC Packing List for Every Season
Black Leather Coat:
- Reformation Veda Crosby 90s Longline Leather Blazer
- ALL SAINTS Sidney Leather Sleeve Cashmere Mix Coat
Cute, Comfortable Sneakers:
- Nike Air Force 1’07
- Veja Sneakers
- Rebook Classics
- Adidas Ultraboost 1.0 Shoes
- EVERLANE The ReLeather Court Sneaker
Canvas Tote Bag:
- Le Specs Outta Love Small Tortoiseshell Sunglasses
- Saint Laurent SL 276 MICA
- Crap Eyewear The Anti Matter Rectangle Sunglasses
- TOM FORD FT0870
- Nike Everyday Plus Cushioned Training Ankle Socks
- Scuba Full-Zip Cropped Hoodie
- Atlas Paloma Raceback Bra
- EVERLANE The Rain Boot
- Jeffrey Campbell Women’s Rain-Storm Platform Chelsea Boots
- Chloe Women’s Betty Block Heel Platform Rain Boots
Chunky Hoop Earrings:
Straight Leg Pants:
Button-Up Shirt for Layering:
- Rails Ellis Gauze Button Down
- SNDYS Leo Shirt
- Zoye Chen Women’s Bikini Swimsuit Cover Up Button Down
- Babaton Connection Linen Blouse
- Dagne Dover Dakota Neoprene Backpack
- Herschel Supply Co. Orion Retreat Mini Backpack
- Stoney Clover Lane Flap Backpack