Since Julia Engel started her popular fashion blog, Gal Meets Glam, in 2011, she’s gained an audience of millions who follow her elegantly feminine style around the globe — from Provence to Dublin to Tuscany and on to her recently adopted hometown of Charleston, South Carolina.
Today, she officially transitions from influencer to designer with the launch of her own fashion brand, Gal Meets Glam Collection — a line of versatile day-to-night dresses in an inclusive size range from 00-20. The designs are influenced largely by Engel's personal style, but also by her love of travel. They're meant to “truly take you places.”
“When I’m getting off a plane and wanting to throw something easy on, I always reach for a dress,” Engel told Travel + Leisure. “I love dresses, and I want something I can pull out of my bag and feel beautiful in and it’s one simple item.”
Limited-edition collections will roll out on a monthly basis and the first drop is full of sophisticated silhouettes, light, breezy fabrics, and romantic details — including plenty of Engel’s signature statement bows. It’s essentially Charleston in dress form, down to the color palette. Just add a straw bag, and you're set for a stroll down King Street.
“Charleston makes for the perfect weekend getaway spot,” Engel said. “Even though it’s a small city, it’s very cosmopolitan and has a lot going on, so you’ll feel like you accomplished a lot even if you’re only here from Friday night to Sunday afternoon.”
Below, we chatted a bit more with Engel about Charleston and her best travel tips (she’s usually flying three times a week), and highlighted some of our favorite dresses from the new collection.
What are three of your must-see spots for a trip to Charleston?
Julia Engel: “I would definitely spend a good amount of time either walking or biking around the South of Broad neighborhood. That’s where all of the historical homes are, like Rainbow Row, and you really get a feel for that Charleston Southern charm — the front doors and the flower boxes. A lot of the hotels have bikes [for guests] so you can ride from your hotel.
Also, not far from Charleston is Sullivan’s Island. It’s about a 15-20 minute drive outside the city and it’s this little beach town that’s so adorable. There’s plenty of local restaurants where you can find fish tacos and little ice cream spots and the beach itself is beautiful. That’s kind of everyone’s favorite spot to head for a beach day.
My third spot would be Hampton Park, which is probably my favorite park in Charleston. It’s filled with so many different types of plants and flowers that when you walk around, there’s always something blooming. It’s gorgeous. We like to head over and do a picnic lunch and we always take friends from out of town. Everything I recommend doing is outdoors because that’s really where you soak in the most.”
Do you have any absolute travel essentials — the items you bring on every trip?
“I always have my headphones and my water bottle, because staying hydrated is really the key to keeping up your energy and looking alive. I always have a great pair of comfy sneakers or flats and I love two brands for travel shoes. Vionic, which sounds silly because it’s an orthopedic brand but they make really, really cute shoes and you would have no idea that they’re actually good for your body and your posture. I have a couple pairs: wedges, sneakers, and flats. I also like APL sneakers. Oh, and we always have a little handheld travel steamer and it is life-changing if you travel with blouses and dresses.”
What’s your ideal in-flight outfit?
“I always wear my favorite pair of jeans that have a little stretch, sneakers or flats, and depending on the season I’ll either wear a sweater or a T-shirt and a light layer over top, and a scarf because I get really cold on flights. And then I‘ll bring a cozy pair of socks in my bag. Layers are best.”
Any favorite packing tips?
“Just because I’m traveling doesn’t mean I’m going to throw on a traveler uniform. I love getting dressed up and feeling like I’m really embracing the experience of where I’m going, but I definitely try and plan outfits ahead of time. That always saves me from overpacking. And I try to figure out which accessories I can wear the most of, so maybe I’ll have two or three really great pairs of shoes that I can rewear with everything. I’m always packing neutral shoes whether it’s a rattan sandal or a cream espadrille, and that saves a lot of room and weight in your bag because shoes are what weigh the most. Also, we always pack this really lightweight Samsonite duffel bag. I think it weighs one pound. We’re kind of known for liking to shop while we travel, so we’re always bringing something home.”
How have your travels influenced your style?
“Getting to travel and experience different cultures and different cities all over the world opens your eyes to different color palettes and textures and prints. I feel like, through blogging, we’ve become true photographers at heart. We’re always looking for that beautiful moment, and that’s made me pay close attention to a fabric I might see or a tile that has an incredible pattern.”