American Girl Abroad: Function vs. Fashion in Iceland!!

Share on LinkedIn0Share on Facebook16Pin on Pinterest2Print this pageShare on Google+0Share on StumbleUpon1Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Yummly0Share on Reddit0

When you are traveling to a place where there are more sheep than people and more potentially active volcanoes underground than imagined sharks on your beach vacation, you may begin to wonder why it matters what you wear.  But those of us who love fashion know that we can cover the bases of function while still loving how we rock our style.  And nowhere is this debate over function vs. fashion more clear than in the wild and wonderful world of Iceland.


Fashion vs. Function in Iceland!

It may seem true at first glance in an outdoors mecca like Iceland that outdoorsy functional clothes are all you’ll ever need.   But the elegant Hotel Budir, perched on the edge of the sea in the middle of a very exquisite “nowhere” on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, shows another more fashionable side going on in Iceland as well, as everyone dressed quite stylishly for the delicious dinners every night at the hotel without the need for a memo.


On my second morning at this fine hotel, I encountered a female traveler who kind of butted into a conversation going on amongst several other guests in the lobby, which brought this form vs. function thing to the front of my mind. This particular traveler stood proud and ready to embrace the day’s cold torrential downpour, clad from head to toe in her thousand dollar butt ugly rain gear. When she heard someone dare to mention the word “rain”, she gleefully lectured to all who would listen, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad GEAR!” Um, yes, I wanted to pull out my Project Motherhood business card and make a Fashion Police arrest on grounds of false superiority!  Because, indeed, my cute little raincoat over top of a nice looking 100% poly hoodie, well fitting wool knit leggings, and sweet yet functional hiking boots worn with thin wool socks were just as effective as all that horrid stuff of hers.iceland3

Fashion Vs. Function in Iceland

No matter one’s view on this debate of function vs. fashion, yoga wear and outdoors wear are both steadily seeping onto the fashion stage; it’s just a matter of how you pull it off.  From my personal observations, both fashion and function can and do exist quite nicely in Iceland. It’s obviously important to keep BOTH in mind when packing if you want to fully enjoy any trip you take. (See my American Girl Abroad post about packing for International Travel).

To that end, the lovely walking length trench coat I  had with me every single day of the trip is actually a very functional wind and rain buster from REI with a high tech waterproof yet breathable fabric and equipped with a highly protective hood, storm sleeves, and zipped pockets. And I felt very very cute in it. I also relied on my Ralph Lauren wool fisherman knit sweater with front zipper and peplum for warmth, layering, and yes, style! Here I am in one of the magical wooded regions of Iceland where elves or “hidden people” are thought to roam, wearing both of these amazingly pleasing items plus flowered leggings (aka yoga wear). I added a hand-knit blue infinity scarf, courtesy of my talented daughter, to finish the whole look and add a boost of color and cuddly


Debby enjoying the Freebird boutique!

Then, at the Blue Lagoon, a geo thermal hot spot for trendies and naturalists alike, I spotted a visitor in one of the traditional Icelandic sweaters, but with the latest fashion iteration…very pretty capped sleeves. Honestly, the readily available wool (all those sheep, remember?) is so perfect for the cooler, damper climate of Iceland that I can see why the functional yet fashionable sweater is embraced by the girl on the left, instead of the single purpose outdoor gear of her friend on the right. Both look totally appropriate, but I lean to the one rocking her functional yet fashionable Icelandic style.

After 5 otherworldly days in the wild countryside, we saved Iceland’s beautiful capital city, Reykjavik, for last, and it was worth the wait, both for its abundance of fantastic little restaurants and for the sweet shopping! It didn’t take me long to find a modern twist on the Icelandic sweater style, with ribbon yarn instead of wool and soft pastels instead of various shades of sheep. The enticing little shop freebird displayed many lovely items in a well lit space with a modern feel, and I felt like I had just been plunked down in a NYC designer’s outpost. I loved freebird’s motto, too: “Beautiful Things for a Beautiful World”. And, once I tried on the ribbon sweater, I was able to fill that empty spot in my suitcase I had saved for shopping!


I loved walking through the cobblestone streets of Reykjavik, admiring all the quaint little houses and historical places, while soaking in the flavor of a land where sagas of Vikings and past remnants of volcanic eruptions combine with new threats of fire and ice, all meshing in the most intriguing of fashions.  Iceland is a country that does not steal your heart quietly but grabs you with all its fierce charm!  Especially when you are set to rock your style (oops, I mean “gear”!!) for any occasion!

Fashionably yours,



  1. Laurie Klatscher says:

    The trip looks gorgeous and intriguing. And so do you. Love your freebird ribbon yarn sweater. Thanks for representing the American girl with your impeccable style!

  2. Looks like you had a great time and naturally you need no fashion lectures on “having the right gear”. Every savvy girl knows that when there’s a risk of a Geyser getting you wet you prepare with the right protection without making it obvious…

    Love the updates Keep them coming.

  3. Love that you’ve detected the “moral” of my Iceland story, Steve! And glad you’re eager for the next installment, coming soon.. “American Girl Abroad: Smitten by Scotland”. I will try my best to find the heart of fashion in that one too, so keep reading 🙂

Leave a Comment