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Summer Travel Fashion Trends in Italy

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A Belle Spy’s report from the Bel Paese

What are the current summer travel fashion trends in Italy? And what is it about how Italian women dress that makes us want to emulate them anyway? Or simply, “What should I wear in Italy?”

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 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 carryover 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 most 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 stiletto 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?”

Among other things the cross body purse on the woman on the right clearly marked her as a smart tourist. If I were to take a guess, the other two flamboyantly dressed ladies, with their “identity crisis shoes” and styles, and over the shoulder slouchy handbag were probably either Italian or from Hackensack, New Jersey.

A few more words 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 holding one’s feet in any kind of athletic shoe were something of a 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 the 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.

In Italy, there have always been vendors outside tourist spots selling straw hats. This year the fedora hat was everywhere.

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!

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

Do you have any fashion expertise or experiences gleaned from your travels that you’d like to share?

Travel Belle tips for buying a swimsuit

About the author

Margo Millure lives in Richmond, Virginia. She is a portrait photographer, writer and founder of Travel Belles. Learn more about her at

13 thoughts on “Summer Travel Fashion Trends in Italy”

  1. Ha– I love it that the pyrotechnics demos could actually be a trend! I had no idea either. I’m wishing I bought one of those fedoras now that I’m home!

  2. Good eye, Margo! 🙂 It’s been so cool here in Amsterdam that folks are dressed for fall more than summer – lots of black with big scarves. I’m sure that will all change once I get to Italy. 🙂

  3. well, we will be in the mountains at the end of September! (seriously. can’t. wait. … but in any case, it won’t be THAT hot. Even when we were in the Piemonte a couple of weeks ago it was probably about 15 degrees cooler.

  4. I may have to resign the title of Moda Spia! Wonderful job, Margo, you nailed the trends to a T!
    Baci, Ele xx

  5. Lots of great fashion tips here Margo! Plus I really love how you caught snapshots of the women on the streets – nice to see all the trends in action 🙂 Gladiator sandals are definitely a hit & I couldn’t agree more..leave the white sneakers at home ! 🙂

  6. Oh, this made me laugh and laugh! As you know we were both in Rome at the same time this summer; I went and bought a pair of the ever-present gladiator sandals myself. Ouch, the back hurts my Achille’s heel! Guess I’m not built like an Italian.

  7. I only had a brother too… I think that is why this kind of mother/daughter trip had been on my bucket list since they were born!

  8. Haha! If you look closely, you’ll see that in the pic of the jeweled gladiator, the wearer seems to have… *gasp* .. a blister!

  9. Margo ~ What a hoot! I’d say the young women at the gelato stand are Australian. My son would agree.

    From flip flops to stiletto bootie shoeties, my feet hurt thinking about it. With foot issues, and wanting to fit in a la mode, I search for boots that serve for all round occasions.

    Yesterday I received the Gentle Soles double buckle boots I ordered (from Garnet Hill or Zappos if they have your size) and I think they will work out. (With a pair of Spenco insoles for arch support.) Order a half size smaller – they are comfortable and chic. The cost is pricey, but my feet are worth it!

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