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How to Dress Like an Italian

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Typical Rome

White sneakers and khaki pants? American.

Flip flops and shorts in the middle of winter? German.

Default raincoat and pink lipstick? British.

Vintage sundress, leggings, and mary janes? French.

Skinny jeans, high-heeled boots, a designer tote, and a crisp white T-shirt? Italian.

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Walking down the streets of Rome’s centro storico, you can spot a person’s nationality without even asking for their passport. A lot has to do with hair too. Italian women most always don well-groomed roots, glossy Aniston-style manes, inconspicuous highlights and a killer haircut.

Unless it’s 8:45 am and they’re dropping off the kids at school. There you’ll usually meet frazzled viragos wearing scrunchies and baggy sweats.

But Italians know how to dress, no doubt. Blame the haute couture designer influence, the “Made in Italy” philosophy, or the overall great history of fashion that surrounds them daily, le ragazze Italiane know their stuff.

At times they may overdo the accessories, some are fashion victims, and some come covered head-to-toe in logos and initials. But for the most part, Italian women have chic in their DNA.

italian shopping

Italians can be thrifty and purchase knock-offs from their favorite Senegalese sidewalk Prada pusher. They may comb second-hand stores for the perfect vintage leather jacket in a tucked away dark corner of the city. They may spend their hard-earned cash on one exquisite pair of peep-toe slingbacks, or take daddy’s platinum credit card for a field trip if they’re lucky.

I love the way Italian women dress. I appreciate the studied, “the first thing I could throw on” look, how some can juxtapose classic cuts to denim, the dashing shabby chic, or the way some Italian ladies benefit from the simple elegance of a well-tailored pant suit while riding their Vespas to work.

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Obviously style comes not with the clothes, but with the person. Elegance may have a code, it’s the personal taste that seizes that code and bends it to circumstance.

Italians take huge pride in their appearance. Many opt for classic, well-made clothes, rather than experimental, disposable fashion.

Italy is not the place to find new fangled trends, rather le Italiane embrace a consistent elegance through all walks of life. There is rarely a style off-duty; for Italians dressing casually–even at pre-school pickup–is no excuse for slovenly attire.

Here are some images were stolen on the street. They speak volumes on how to dress like a true Italian.

stylish couple

stylish italian woman

chic on Rome streets

chic older woman

wearing black italy

handsome italian man

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*First photo courtesy of OliverN5 via Flickr. All other photos by Eleonora, our own Moda Spia (fashion spy)

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About the author

American-born and Roman-bred Eleonora Baldwin is an active writer, blogger, journalist, gourmet vacation entrepreneur and photographer living in the Eternal City. Her writing appears regularly in several online food and travel columns that focus on Italian lifestyle, culinary customs and recipes, as well as her soon-to-be released cookbook-memoir, due for publication in 2016. Her blogs illustrate dishes, restaurant reviews, and useful tools for parents travelling with kids in Rome. On Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino, her most popular blog, Eleonora shared her insider knowledge about the depth of Italian cuisine. She can be spotted in and around the Eternal City guiding epicure travelers to secret food and wine locations, interviewing celebrity chefs, and capturing with her camera the essence, beauty and life that surrounds her.

26 thoughts on “How to Dress Like an Italian”

  1. Love this piece! When I was searching for the photo to put up top, it cracked me up: I searched for “skinny jeans” images and at least 1000 pictures of the Jonas Brothers came up.

  2. Alas, what will I do in the fall when I go to Italy? Black leather, black pants…they don’t look good on me. I will have to find some sleep alternative that is neither French nor American nor British…something bella!

  3. Leslie~ I’m sure you’ll find plenty of great fall clothes, just give me a call and we can go shopping together for great stuff.
    Margo~ who are the Jonas Brothers?!

    Ciao belle!

  4. E. – they are a teen boy band from New Jersey. I’m now more sure than ever that their stylist has an Italian style obsession.

  5. Fashion aside, it’s also in the way Italian women of all ages carry themselves that exudes elegance and style. They’re to be admired.

    Your nationality distinctions made me chuckle since I just posted a lighthearted article on how to look like a tourist in Paris! 🙂

  6. Great article, I would say the most fashionable people in Europe would be the French but I am from Scotland so would I come under the Kilt and Sporran category?

  7. Love the friendly neighborhood Malandra photo. You have nailed it. When ever I head back to LA, my friends always laugh and tell me the 1/2 Italian is more like 60%. It makes no sense to me to not look good when I go to yoga.

  8. So true! And when we americani go to buy some of these fashions in Italy, we should not be deterred by the size 0 samples in the store windows. The shopkeepers stash the “large” sizes (6, 8, 10) in the back! Not really sure I can wait ’til May to go back . . .

  9. Thank you for your wonderful comments!

    Elizabeth~ Grazie!
    Krista~ Isn’t she? Glad you enjoyed.
    Linda~ Yes! Atlthough most shopkeepers are a size 2 themselves…

  10. Thank you for your wonderful comments!

    Elizabeth~ Grazie!
    Krista~ Isn’t she? Glad you enjoyed.
    Linda~ Yes! Although most shopkeepers are a size 2 themselves…

  11. Eleanora,
    Where/what shops do you recommend for affordable ladies (55-60yrs) clothes & shoes in Rome, Florence, Tuscany?


  12. Please advise where to shop for clothing in Sicily. I am looking for clothing for a mature woman not teenagers!
    I’ll be travelling from South Africa in April to Sicily for a wedding amongst other occassions.
    I’d appreciate your help. Thanks

  13. Just got back from Northern Italy. SO INTERESTING! In Milano, everything was black: boots, pants, jeans, jackets, ecc, ecc. Then….going east to Adriatic to Venezia….all of the sudden…the men in colored pants…or colored scarves…the women in carmel-colored leather jackets, ivory, buff. But to wear such a jacket or such a color in Milano….wrong! You would look like you did not belong.

  14. I am going to Rome next month and trying to figure out what to wear as to not look too much like a tourist. Any suggestions? Really need help with shoes.

  15. I travel to Europe frequently especially Italy seeing I’m almost 100% Italian and have been mistaken as a roman very frequently. A black long sleeve v neck for a man is the most versatile piece in his suitcase. Stay away from patterns or prints with crazy designs. I bring my slim fit button downs as well. Pants I stick with grey, black, tan, even shades of blue. Pants are usually either slim fit or snugly fitting and hemmed properly. Shoes black leather all day. Brown on occasion. Night time bring a slim fit blazer leave the tie at home maybe get daring and wear an italian scarf.
    Hope this helps someone.

  16. Thanks, Zachary! So great to hear your point of view about Italian fashion for males. Much appreciated!

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