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For this edition of Local’s Approved Packing Lists, the team over at Get Your Travel On has put together this packing guide to help you decide what to pack for Seattle.
Jen, Tracy, Krista, Abby, and Kendra are a group of friends who have made a habit out of escaping together to their favorite cities whenever they can. They’re on a mission to inspire other BFFs to make memories by traveling, and they give readers the resources they need to plan memorable–and awesome–adventures.
They’ve got great advice because between them they’ve lived over 8 years in Seattle; the best travel tips are from locals! Use their clothing tips along with TFG’s Universal Packing Lists to create your own custom Seattle Packing List.
What to Wear in Seattle
When you’re planning what to wear in Seattle, keep in mind that it’s a casual city. Looking around, you’ll notice that outdoor brands like The North Face are popular with the practical and nature-lovin’ Seattle folk.
However, the Pacific Northwest is home to a ton of creative people who enjoy putting their own spin on the term “dressy.” With so many independent boutiques, there’s a special mix of texture, grit, and vintage class.
The weather also contributes to defining Seattle style. We love to layer, which gives us ample opportunity to play with patterns and colors. Many Seattleites intentionally incorporate bright colors into their ensembles to contrast the gray skies.
Don’t be that person who puts on shorts at the first sign of sun in March. It’s a trap! Summer won’t actually be here for several months yet…
Definitely pack your umbrella; it really does rain a lot here. However, you can take that a step further and replace your umbrella with a hooded jacket for rainy days. Most locals go this route anyways, as the rain often comes with wind, which can destroy even the best umbrella in seconds. This is especially true if you plan to spend a lot of time downtown, where tall buildings can create wind tunnels.
If the clothing you chose when you planned what to pack for Seattle doesn’t quite work out, you can easily update your wardrobe with a little shopping.
You can’t go wrong with H&M and Forever 21, both located downtown. Also, check out the Nordstrom Rack on Fifth and Pine and hit up the flagship Nordstrom across the street. It’s a Seattle institution!
If you find yourself in Belltown, perhaps while walking to the Space Needle, the Endless Knot on First and Bell is not too expensive and is worth checking out. Other noteworthy stores include Show Pony in the Fremont neighborhood, as well as Horseshoe and Velouria in Ballard, even if it means renting a car to get there.
What to Pack for Seattle in Spring
There is nothing predictable about the weather in Seattle in springtime except the old adage, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.” It can be 45°F and raining (“rain” here is usually more like “drizzle”, though we do get the occasional downpour) or 65°F and sunny, or anywhere in between…sometimes in the space of five minutes.
In spite of potentially damp weather, spring is a glorious time to visit Seattle. Our overwhelmingly numerous trees (seriously, you’ve never seen so many in a city) burst into blossom and the streets and hills are lined with the fresh, bright green of new leaves and pink of cherry blossoms.
If you happen to be here in spring, absolutely check out the University of Washington campus for spectacular cherry blossom viewing. Bring your allergy medicine if you’re a sneeze factory in spring. Everything here is growing.
What to Wear in Seattle in Spring:
Layers, layers layers. Layers. Did we mention you should pack layers? Along with the unpredictable weather, you may be transitioning from strolling in warm sunshine, to shopping an air-conditioned store, to drinking a delicious cocktail on a patio when the sun is going down (though, to our credit, nearly every bar in Seattle with a patio also has heat lamps! SCORE!)
Seattle ladies like to keep it casual. Start with jeans and cute flats and add a floral or geometric patterned flowy top. A cardigan is always a good idea, too. Besides being an essential layer, it can add a great pop of color to your outfit!
Skirts in springtime are a go, but bring a pair of tights just in case. Packing closed-toe shoes is a good idea since the occasional drizzle can get mud on your toes. Unpleasant.
We almost hate to say it, but if you are planning to go someplace like the theater, the opera, or the symphony, Seattleites don’t always dress up. You may find yourself between Socks And Sandals Guy and a lady in a cocktail dress. Save room in your bag by just packing a pair of fancy heels and maybe a nice jacket to go with your nice jeans.
Your best accessory for spring is a bright or patterned scarf. You can use it to keep your neck warm, add a pop of color, wrap around your head during an unexpected bout of precipitation, or even use it as a blanket, should you find yourself at one of Seattle’s many parks for an impromptu picnic or sun break.
What to Pack for Seattle in Summer
There is nothing more fantastic than when summer finally hits in Seattle. Sidewalk cafes and local parks burst with energy as sheltered skin eagerly drinks up the sunshine. The best part is that while other parts of the country are cooking in excessive heat with sometimes unbearable humidity, Seattle is entirely comfortable with temperatures that are perfectly warm with just the right amount of humidity.
However, be aware that you may experience different weather depending on when you visit. Locals always joke that summer really starts here on July 5th, as the weather for the annual fireworks and barbeque fest that is Independence Day can be hit or miss.
In general, you can count on warm temperatures and beautiful sunny days if you visit in late July, August, or early September. June and early July will also inevitably have some gorgeous days, but good luck predicting when they will be.
What to Wear in Seattle in Summer:
You’ll fit right in, sauntering through the farmers market in a flowy sundress or skirt and flat strappy sandals. Bring a few pairs of short shorts to show off your legs and pair them with some loose layered tank tops for contrast. You may need a light cardigan in the evening.
Seattle is very walkable and best enjoyed on foot, so bring either sneakers or comfortable flat oxfords that look good with ankle socks and bare legs. Take along one pair of jeans just in case.
For accessories, don’t forget your favorite pair of sassy sunglasses. These are the days when they come out of hibernation and should be worn triumphantly.
Another versatile item that doesn’t take up much room is a light silk scarf that can be worn in your hair, act as a belt, or be worn around your neck, depending on the rest of your ensemble.
If you visit in the early part of the season, add a jacket with a hood and maybe another cardigan. You can usually get away with layering and still stay warm and dry if bad weather hits.
What to Pack for Seattle in Autumn
We all adore fall in Seattle. Velvety, vibrant, crunchy, yummy fall! The most cozy and romantic of all of the seasons, consider yourself lucky to visit in the autumn. It is a delight.
September feels like an extension to the glorious Seattle summer, with temperatures often reaching the high 70’s and even blessing us with the occasional (miraculous) day in the low 80’s.
October is when things slowly start to transition back to “typical” rainy Seattle weather, leaving us somewhere around 60°F, for the most part.
Only there is no time to be disappointed about the coming winter; we’re all too busy ogling at the richest red leaves we’ve ever seen. Well, at least since last year. The brilliant, turning leaves are almost surprising against the old familiar friend that is the gray Seattle sky.
October especially tends to be THE perfect cinematic companion to this city. Expect deliciously moody mornings as light raindrops accompany you on your walk to the coffee shop.
What to Wear in Seattle in Autumn:
If you’re visiting in September, consult the “summer” tips above, then add a sweater and light coat.
If you choose to visit us in October, here’s the plan: Think button-down, long-sleeve plaid shirts with skinny jeans. Bring your new fall boots–preferably leather riding boots with a rounded toe and little-to-no heel. Wear them with your skinnies or colorful, opaque tights.
Throw in a vest for layering over long shirts, a playful wool coat, and scarves for layering. You’re going for a mix of edgy and feminine.
What to Pack for Seattle in Winter
Winter is also known as the months where the numerous coffee shops and the occasional sunbreak give us locals the strength to make it to spring. Be prepared for wet, dark days and the occasional snow (though it’s rare). The best way to dress in the winter months is to add more layers!
November, December, and January are when Seattle sees the majority of its rain. There’s also this “not really rain, more of a mist” precipitation you will encounter. An umbrella is never a bad idea, but you’ll be happier with a waterproof jacket with a hood that can easily fit over layered clothes.
The rain-mist monster will find a way to terrorize even the most weatherproof hair and makeup, so carry some essential touch-up products in your bag (a comb, pressed powder, and lip gloss).
Side note: Red lipstick can help a pale Seattle complexion. Ya know, the Snow White look.
What to Wear in Seattle in Winter:
Start with black wool tights under a casual shift dress with a belt, add a cardigan, and pair with flat-heeled, calf-covering boots. This creates a warm, layered, comfortable outfit, perfect for conquering Seattle’s hilly neighborhoods.
Stripy shirts or other geometric patterned tops with dark denim will add that rocker edge you’ll want to channel as you’re crossing the street in a sudden downpour.
Bring two pairs of shoes, both waterproof. One pair of flat-ish biker-esque boots for everyday wear and one pair of heeled ankle boots to kick it up a notch at a fancy meal or for cocktails. To save room in your suitcase, wear your bulkier boots on the plane and pack the other pair.
Accessories like a lightweight patterned scarf and touchscreen gloves leave you looking sharp while keeping exposed skin areas to a minimum when you’re out walking the city.
Bring a good-sized crossbody bag that’s easy to carry. When you venture into shops and restaurants, you’ll want to peel those accessory layers away and having a sizeable bag allows them all to fit inside, lowering the likelihood of them being accidentally left behind.
A few last travel tips:
Now a favor we ask of you, the visitor: Please help to cheer up our constant gray sky backdrop with pops of brightly-colored items: blouses, sweaters, even a neon belt will make us smile and help us momentarily forget how many overcast days we have left before summer!
For more Local’s Approved travel tips, check out Travel Fashion Girl’s destination packing lists.
Thank you Jen, Tracy, Krista, Abby, and Kendra for your awesome advice on what to pack for Seattle! Don’t forget to check out their blog and Seattle Travel Guide for everything you need to know about their hometown.
What are your tips on what to wear in Seattle? Share in the comments!
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