A Belle Spy’s report from the Bel Paese
Besides seeing the sites with my daughters and eating an ungodly amount of emergency artisan gelato, I set out to answer these questions on a recent visit.
Disclaimer: I am no Moda Spia(like Eleonora, Rome resident and our very first Italian expert.) My view of the fashion scene in Italy is mostly from the trodden tourist avenues of Florence and Rome. I didn’t demand to see a passport to verify the subject’s of my observations nationalities. Honestly, it’s more likely that some of the people I spotted live right around the corner from me in the United States than in Italy, or even Europe.
Number one travel fashion trend that is a carry over from last summer: The gladiator sandal. Whether jeweled, laced, leathered, brown or hot pink, this style was worn by women of all ages.
The general “look”: Above the knee breezy and feminine sundresses, either belted or bowed. Cotton capri pant and top ensembles with drawstring details at the ankles and waists. Oversized sunglasses, classic tortoiseshell or black, or in an array of bright colors.
What did the women who we thought were Italian share as far as what they wore?: Layers of sheer fabrics and lace with exposed matching underpinnings. Short shorts and capri, harem, parachute and palazzo pants. Neutral monotones from head to toe or contrasting bright colors. Stacked heel slingbacks or kitten heels (especially with capri pants). Large, slouchy leather purses. An overall feeling of “effortlessness” and “classic” that we all know indeed took an effort of which mostly women in the rest of the world are incapable.
The teen scene: In the evenings my daughters’ teen counterparts were into wearing blush-inducing booty shorts and 5-inch high stilletto platform heels in bright jewel tones. In a large part because of their apparent comfortableness with this style of dressing, the Italian teens somehow pulled it off. In any case, I was glad I was not an Italian parent of teenage girls in booty shorts and heels.
Shoes: Any discussion about Italian fashion without extensive discourse on shoes would be lacking. (Did you know the Italians actually invented high heels?) Besides the ubiquitous gladiator sandal, we noticed lots of shoes in store windows with apparent identity crises. I found myself wanting to ask them: “What are you, beautiful Italian made shoe that even without your mate costs more than my mortgage?”
A few more words about about shoes: Remember 10 or 20 years ago when the only shoe advice handed out to Americans visiting Europe was: Whatever you do, DON’T wear white sneakers! ? Gone are the days when people in the know would admonish this practice as if shodding one’s feet in any kind of athletic shoe were something of grave, punishable by law consequence.
The booty shaping sneaker (not to be confused with booty shorts) actually seems to have taken Italy by storm, and on any street you will likely find a young female wearing them. Converse and Pumas worn by the younger set are also seen on feet pounding the pavement everywhere. There are subtle differences though, and it is still recommended that if you don’t want to stand out as American and are over they age of 25, you step up (ha!) your shoe choice, and stay away from both those comfy white New Balance and Nikes AND booty shaping shoes.
On the tourist track, if not Italian, the best-dressed women were Asian: Again, we didn’t ask for passport identification.The effect was always neat, put together with the latest trends, but if anything, seemed to lack the “effortlessness” impression left by the well-dressed Italian woman.
A few comments about shopping for leather goods at Florence’s San Lorenzo market: The San Lorenzo market is a great shopping experience whether you end up buying anything or not. The quality of the leather goods isn’t necessarily the best, but there are deals to be had, and you may come home with a piece that you’ll love and use for years.
Be prepared for the hard sell on the part of the salespeople and decide ahead of time to have fun with it. You will be told you have pretty eyes and great taste and my favorite: “Ah, the three of you must be sisters!” Your daughters may receive their first marriage proposals. I believe that no female is above getting a slight ego boost from this.
Oddest travel fashion moment
Our favorite sales moment came when our knowledgeable, able and crazy complimentary salesperson from one of the booths, swept us away into the shop behind his stall to show us the approximately 47 colors a leather jacket my daughter had been perusing came in. As a last ditch sales pitch, right in the middle of the store he pulled out a lighter and demonstrated how the leather jacket was fireproof!
Do you have any fashion expertise or experiences gleaned from your travels that you’d like to share?
More articles on fashion in Italy:
How to Dress Like an Italian, by Eleonora Baldwin
How to Dress Like an Italian on the Beach, by Eleonora Baldwin
All photos taken by and property of Margo Millure.