I'm leaving for a three month trip to Europe. I'm a graduate student going on exchange and will spend 3 weeks in Moscow, then 3 months in Hungary. Thus, I will be there for the duration of the fall and start of the winter. I want to look good, but I will also be limited by what I can fit into my suitcase and the fact that I'll be doing lots of walking/traveling makes me apprehensive about the shoes I should bring and what I can reasonably wear when cold weather hits. Could you do a list of say-- 5 or 10 (or however many) essentials I (or anyone) should have for an extended trip to Eastern/Central Europe? Thoughts?
Having done a good deal of long-term, luggage-restricted travel myself, this is a question for which I am well-suited.
Like mine was, your experience sounds like it will be a predominately casual one. You're not there to impress wealthy expats at exclusive dinner parties or to tink-tink your glass at museum galas, you're there to study, explore the sights on-foot, travel overnight on trains and indulge in dressed-down late night debauchery in whatever local watering hole you and your friends happens to stumble across.
As such, you need to bring along pieces that can easily intermingle with one another - both in terms of ease of layering and color/style coordination - to create as many unique outfits as possible. You also need to think about sticking as strictly as you can to practical, non-dry-clean, non-iron, non-high-maintenance, high-quality materials like jersey, denim, washable wools and non-wrinkle cottons. For those few items you can't leave behind but on which you can't compromise treatment, be prepared to hand-wash or to entrust these to a local (read: likely unreliable) cleaning service. Anything unnecessarily impractical (e.g., a pair of bright, funky flats, a satin-trimmed peasant blouse) must out of deference to your limited suitcase space fall to the bottom of your to-pack priority list. Never fear, though, for some of my all-time favorite wardrobe components were those I serendipitously - and cheaply - picked up in-country while finding my way from the bootleg DVD district back to my apartment.
While it sounds like your trip will be for the most part an informal one, a woman always likes to have in her back pocket the option to dress for the different gradations of formal, whether it be first-date formal, school reception formal or just feel-like-looking-prettier-than-normal formal. Rest assured, I have taken these occasions into consideration when selecting the items I did.
Lastly, we need to think about temperature. I checked the weather for your two destinations - Moscow and Budapest - between September and December, and the range you should expect to experience is between 65 and 35 degrees Fahrenheit -- a Fall-to-Winter transition similar to that which most of us in this country are accustomed.
Without further ado, here are my recommendations for those essential items* a fashionable woman should pack for an extended Fall/Winter trip: