BlackGirlTravel.com :: Travel Tip
Dressing in Italy
BlackGirl Travelers on their way to Italy have asked how to to dress so as not to look out of place among the fashionable Italians.
In a country where police uniforms are designed by Armani, it isn't surprising that the women take dressing very seriously. If you're planning a trip to Italy soon, and don't want to be pegged as a unfashionable tourist, there is one important thing to remember. Elegance is in the Italian blood, and most Italians would unhesitatingly sacrifice comfort to achieve it. Italy is a nation that cherishes outward appearances. Yes, it is great if you have a good heart, but Italians would expect you to have well-groomed hair, an impeccable sense of dressing and a really neat pair of shoes besides. Italian women take great pride in putting themselves together - the bella figura. To show off one's best features is the idea, so to blend in you must strive to stand out. Once you get your mind around this you can get on with it, but where do you begin to acquire that Italian flavor?
The Overall Look
Keeping these cultural differences in mind, Italy's "casual" is more closely related to what an American might wear to work on a "casual Friday" in a office. On men, casual is a crisp white or black collared shirt with well fitting jeans.
Nothing makes or breaks a look like footwear. Leave the walking shoes for tours and the park. Spice comes from style not comfort. The hottest design this season conveniently incorporates pointed toes and high heels in the same shoe for maximum discomfort. A nice wedge heel also nice for tours...style + comfort. When Italian shoe designers were creating this year, it is doubtful they concerned themselves with practicality. If they had, they would not have manufactured four-inch heels for streets paved with cobbles. Credit goes to the women promenading in these shoes: not wincing, not complaining and not watching where they step. It is a wonder that they never seem to look down and never get their heels caught between the stones
It's easiest to start with some fashion don'ts:
:: No track suits, sweat suits, or the like, and no baggy sweatshirts. Well, really, no baggy anything. If your clothes are oversize or don’t fit, Italians will assume that you’re wearing hand-me-downs and were unable to afford appropriately-sized clothing
:: No fanny packs.
:: No daypacks or backpacks, unless you're in your 20s or younger.
:: No clunky white sports shoes. Younger Italians do wear sports shoes doing sports, but these are usually sleek and stylish models (including some brands very familiar to Americans), and are never dirty or scuffed or worn down.
:: No shorts, especially not for men.
:: Don't wear sleeveless or shoulder-less clothing or show your breast or knees in churches and other sacred places.
Most women wear shoes with a small heel, while men wear loafers. running shoes are a big NO-NO (some even find them distasteful) when wanting to look fashion forward in Italy...even for tours on the cobble stoned streets. Italians walk on the same stones every day of their lives and they don't wear those running shoes! Other shoe faux-pax include, rubber shoes and wearing socks or pantyhose with sandals - if you're going to be cold wear closed shoes. Remember, you're traveling to the shoe-capital of the world, so the message you send to Italians will start at your feet!
Other signs that you're a tourist: baseball caps, fanny packs and deisgner logos. Italy may be home to designer labels, but Italians prefer subtle unadorned clothes where the craftsmanship (rather than the designer's logo) speak for the brand.
Also, Italians pay special attention to the details and will look at you in horror if a thread is hanging off one of your buttons, your hem is coming apart, or your clothing is wrinkled. Take a 360 in front of a full-length mirror before walking out the door.
No Italian would be caught on the street in synthetic fabrics, cheap perfume and oversized clothing. They believe in understated elegance: a simple pair of gold earrings, well tailored clothes in cotton, silk or linen, and dressing your age.
Now some do's:
So here's your rule of thumb: pack a few classic, tasteful, high-quality pieces in neutral colours that you can mix and match.
In general, Italians dress more formally than Americans. Blue jeans are fine, as long as they are well-fitting, clean, and in good condition (or any damage is intentional and fashionable) - well cut Levis are very trendy and even expensive in Italy.
Wear dark or subdued colors, except in summer. Even then, Italians wear white or pastels, not the bright purples and blues that many Americans like. Think minimalism when assembling outfits.
"Italian women love to look sexy and it is very important for men to notice them on the street. But this doesn't mean overt nakedness. Italian women infer a more subtle sexiness by keeping their bodies fit and wearing slim-cut clothing. "Italian are elegant". The ladies always wear make up, have their hair done in the latest fashion and always have on earrings!" DRESSES WITH HEELS ARE BIG IN ITALY!
Designer labels are always a plus.
Shoes- Nothing makes or breaks a look like footwear. Leave the tennis shoes for tennis and the walking shoes for the park. Spice comes from style not comfort. The hottest design this season conveniently incorporates pointed toes and high heels in the same shoe for maximum discomfort.
When shoe designers were creating this spring's offering, it is doubtful they concerned themselves with practicality. If they had, they would not have manufactured four-inch heels for streets paved with cobbles. Credit goes to the women promenading in these shoes: not wincing, not complaining and not watching where they step. It is a wonder that they never seem to look down and never get their heels caught between the stones.
As a tourist you'll be walking a lot, so I do recommend very comfortable shoes, even though this seems never to be a consideration for Italians, at least not for women, who routinely walk all over town with things on their feet that I couldn't even stand up in. Wedges are good walking shoes...comfort and style!
Painted fingernails will also mark you as a foreigner given that nail polish is only applied for very special occasions. Sunhats or baseball caps are dead give-aways, as is showing too much skin.
Of course, how you dress is always entirely up to you, and no one is going to jeer at you even if you commit every single one of the fashion "sins" listed above. :-)
The question I'm responding to came from people who wanted to know how to fit in.
In Italy, dressing well is considered an act of courtesy towards others.