Clothing stalls at the market.

Clothing stalls at the market.

So you’re in Belgium in April and you are ready to set out to attend class, buy groceries, or eat some waffles. You need a step-by-step guide to select the perfect spring outfit! Here’s some advice from a seasonal expert, yours truly.

1. Start with the fundamentals: temperatures in Belgium fluctuate throughout April and can range from 32°-70°F during the day. Depending on your outerwear of choice (see #10), you could be sweating profusely within an hour of walking out the door. Wear deodorant.

2. Select a handbag large enough to stow a water bottle (there are no water fountains in Belgium, regardless of the season), an umbrella, sunglasses, and any purchases you make on your excursion.

3. Tops: it’s April in Belgium, so you probably need to wear a heavy woolen sweater, but within the hour you may wish you were wearing a tank top. So it’s really up to you. Whatever you choose, you’ll want a light cardigan for indoor temperature fluctuations and also a camisole to wick away sweat.

4. Bottoms: I’ve been having the best of luck with a maxi skirt. I keep it wrapped around me like a blanket in the chill but it’s perfectly acceptable to knot and hike it up when it gets too warm. Leggings are necessary, and if the sun suddenly emerges and the temperature warms up, you can stash those leggings in your handbag.

5. Scarf. A scarf is a must. If you are riding a bike, the scarf soaks up all the rain pouring down your nose before it trickles down and reeks unmentionable havoc. If you are not riding a bike, a scarf is a fashionable accessory, doubles as a blanket when you pause at a cafe, and triples as a hat if the temperature plummets.

6. Contacts. Yeah, leave your eyeglasses at home. If contacts are not an option, consider installing windshield wipers on your glasses. Consider installing a second pair of wipers on your shades. 

7. Footwear. This is where things get awfully tricky. This is a Belgian April, so what do you wear on your feet? I mean, the obvious choice is flats, because you’re maneuvering over cobblestone or riding a bike. But then again, that dazzling sun may suddenly emerge, and your flats will become sweaty and start rubbing. Best go with sandals. But, there is the hail. Oh yes, it will hail two or three or four times during your excursion. You’ll want to be in socks and ankle boots with sturdy tread for that.

8. Speaking of hail, I forgot to suggest that you would do well to wedge a hardhat in you handbag. You’ll need it two or three or four times.

9. Socks. Yes, even if you’re wearing flats, you probably do want to wear socks. Because it will get warm and sweaty as you walk, and you’ll want the socks to wick sweat. Then it will start raining, and the rain will come at you slant, and it will pour off your umbrella into your shoes, and then you’ll be grateful that you wore socks. Really, you should bring an extra pair of socks in your handbag. Also, an extra pair of leggings or pants won’t hurt, because yours will be soaked from the knee down.

10. Outerwear. This is the fun part! Wear anything you want to! No matter what you choose, your outerwear won’t meet the demands of an April day in Belgium. The 32°F morning may prompt you to select a down coat. But in an hour it will be in the balmy upper 40°’s, and you’ll wish you had worn that leather jacket. Hold up, it’s raining: you should probably select a parka. But if you’re still out at noon, it will be 70°F in the sun and you won’t want a parka at all. Maybe you want to outsmart the weather by stashing an unsightly poncho in your handbag. Good luck with that. That plastic material works like a sauna. In a few minutes, when it’s sunny and toasty warm and you’re ready to take the poncho off, it will be dripping wet and you will have to carry the poncho in outstretched arms everywhere you go. But not before the poncho has conducted every drop of rain directly into your shoes, like a vindictive drain pipe flooding a basement.

So there you have it, my best advice on selecting the perfect outfit for any April day in Belgium. Get ready to go with your deodorant, handbag, water bottle, umbrella, sunglasses, wool sweater, tank top, cardigan, camisole, maxi skirt, leggings, scarf, contacts, flats, sandals, ankle boots, hardhat, socks, another pair of socks, another pair of leggings, down coat, leather jacket, and a parka. But please, keep things simple and skip the poncho.