Sunday, November 21, 2010

Style Sunday: Italian Women's Fashion

Italians are stylish. Florence is renowned for its leather. Milan is known as a major fashion capital of the world. Police uniforms are designed by Armani. Heck, Italy on a map looks like a high-heeled boot! In Pescara, I remember thinking my professors looked more like models with their black fitted clothing and stilettos than language lecturers.

Italians always try to look their best everyday.  It's a necessity. This is a vital part of attempting to make a good impression on others. There's a popular Italian phrase: fare la bella figura, literally "making a good figure" or putting your best foot forward. Presenting oneself well conveys dignity. Italians go to work looking their best out of respect for not only themselves but their job as well.

From my observation, in their clothing choices, Italians are polished and show off the positive. They consider quality not quantity in shopping. A few classic pieces can morph into different outfits simply by changing a single clothing item or accessories. So, what are these precious few? An Italian friend of a friend told me that a woman must have an "Audrey Hepburn-style" black or navy sheath dress and a great pair of high heels. They consider this simple yet elegant and above all versatile for any occasion. She also recommends a two-piece suit that one can break up, i.e. wear the blazer with jeans for a glamorous yet "not to serious" look for the office. Jeans are just as ubiquitous there as they are here. Outerwear seems very important. She insisted women have both a trench coat and an overcoat (known as cappotto). Decked out down jackets are currently a trend, even with swarovski crystals. ...or this fur-trimmed one:

Speaking of details, my Italian fashion source confirms my personal observation of how important accessories are to transform simple clothing into a special look. The extras like a handbag, belt or jewelry make an outfit. Scarves are a way to complete an outfit and add color I've noticed. If you see me outside, I'll be wearing one most of the year. Accessories can be lots of fun; I'll have to make this more of a focus myself!

Italians will also wear clothing to highlight their best features. For example, fitted clothing that is tailored well reveals a slender figure or a low neckline flatters womanly curves. Body-hugging leggings with boots balanced by a bigger sweater is currently a trend.

How do you achieve an Italian look?

First, clear out your closet! American closets are much too full of unnecessary and worn out items. Like Niecy Nash says on the TV show Clean House, "Clutter is an outward expression of an inward thing." Cluttered closets may mirror cluttered minds. Only keep what you love, use and looks fabulous. Donate as much as you can of the rest to charity. Keep the simple basics as they are highly revered.

Another American pitfall is to be primarily concerned with comfort instead of beauty. Italians dress with elegance in mind. Keep clothing that shows off your best, most beautiful attributes, but keep it classic and dignified.

Next, invest in high quality basics, as high quality as you can afford. An item of high quality will last longer. Italian women know a basic staple will be versatile and used often. Italians also know that neutrals go with everything and seem to have a penchant for black in particular. I remember seeing all the bright colors in the United Colors of Benetton store in Pescara and thinking "do they really wear that?"

Lastly, accessorize to complete a look, especially with an outfit completer like a trench and an accessory like a pair of black sunglasses.

There are a few Italian wardrobe staples:
 - sheath dress in a neutral
 - two-piece suit
 - jeans
 - cell phone
 - large designer sunglasses
 - high stiletto heels
 - trench coat
 - overcoat

The items Italians avoid are:
 - sneakers
 - flip-flops (Flip-flops are okay if you're at the beach or getting a pedicure. Only.)
 - shorts (If you're dressed in a tank top and shorts, you may not be allowed to enter a church.)

A special grazie
 to my Italian penpal B and her Italian friend
who studied fashion in Florence for contributing.


  1. Great post. Italian women are so chic and glamorous at the same time, but they keep their glamour in check and it's done with classics it seems, not trendy items. I really like that. One of my favorite photos of an Italian woman I've ever seen was with a simple white fitted shirt and gold hoop earrings.

  2. Thank you! :)

    They are, I agree. I love that... Although they are not immune to fads; Italians love Hollywood, but those trendy pieces have a limit.

    I also love the words they use-- "glamorous" and "elegant" even "any occasion." They truly consider their look and possible perception from others everyday and all day. I should dress for a word on that level...

    I tried to find a picture (with legal copyrights) of an Italian woman but simply did not like any. I love those coral Ferragamo peep-toe pumps however!

  3. I just saw this post now, good advice! Only....every Italian woman (or man) I know wears sneakers. The difference is, an Italian woman wouldn't wear sneakers "for a night out" as many Americans would. However, Italians are also tragic victims, IMO, of the hideous Hogan "high heel sneakers" that to me look like orthopedic shoes. Women in their 20's--le anziane, beige, navy terrible. Oh, also, shorts are incredibly popular with Italian teens and woman. booty-shorts for nights out with a flowy top and teen girls wear shorts daily once the Firenze summers kick in. I think they 'say' tourists should avoid shorts because it's the tourists who go to Church, not Italians. ;-)

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your observations and expertise! I haven't traveled to Italy in the summer yet, so I appreciate facts on summer trends.

  4. image of said hideous Hogan

    cute outfit, pity about the shoes.

  5. All the girls love fashion. They want their dress to be fashionable and always in a trend. This Italian latest trend for women clothing is very elegant. I like the fashion clothing.
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  6. These boots are fantastic when teamed with long, floating skirt - although they suit narrower skirts more perfectly. Most wanted hat

  7. I must say they are doing quite good i mean the sort of work is coming out its more like trend setters which is a very good thing,

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