Everyone’s heard about Italian style, the perfect blend of elegance and ease.
I’m lucky enough to spend every summer in Italy and every year I watch and wonder. Try as I might I’ll never achieve the casual glamour that Italian women – and men – carry off without a thought.
As I enjoy this year’s adventures at my lovely holiday home in Abruzzo, I realise I have picked up a few habits and customs to help me blend in with the natives. It’s taken years but now I often get mistaken for an Italian. Until I start speaking of course!
The first thing to note is that Italy is not one country. It is many. It has a myriad of cultures, fashions, foods, wines, and customs. What is considered OK in Calabria would be laughed at in Le Marche. And you need a totally different wardrobe for town and country.
In the countryside, generally anything goes. Time has stood still in many of these small villages. The women wear “housecoats” over their floral dresses as they spend their mornings making lunch and doing laundry and the afternoon gosipping with neighbours. Clothes are often bought at the local markets – mass produced, cheap and pretty awful.
So let’s leave the country and head into the city or to a stylish beach resort.
Rule number one. Never leave the house without your makeup. No stylish donna would go shopping without her lipstick. Generally make up is more natural nowadays, but it’s still essential.
Italian women layer — and top those layers off with an elegant exterior. For stylish Italian women, that means a chic jacket or trench coat. Even in the summer, you will rarely see a woman walking around town without something to swish around her shoulders. Cardigans just don’t cut it, so choose a lightweight structured shape to complement your outfit.
Italian men prove that you don’t have to be going to work, or a wedding, to pull off a jacket. Pair one with white or beige trousers, or even jeans—and, of course, leather shoes—and you’re good to go to lunch… or a museum. Just don’t be surprised if you’re mistaken for an Italian while you’re there!
A great pair of sunglasses is a must. Essential to protect your peepers in the sun, or just to look cool in the shade. Of course, Italians love their designer sunglasses—but any frame will help you blend in.
Italians tend to wear basic blue jeans a lot less often than their counterparts elsewhere. It’s not that women are always in dresses (although they often are), and men in suits; it’s that when they do throw on trousers, they’re rarely basic jeans or chinos. Instead, trousers come in a rainbow of colours. And yes, that’s true for men too.
Even at an informal lunch, men will wear an open-neck shirt tucked into well-cut, fitted trousers with a leather belt. If you see a shirt hanging loose over trousers you’re probably looking at a tourist. And football shirts – never!
Occasionally you’ll see tailored shorts but casual shorts are only for the garden or beach. Women still love capri pants – you can see Audrey Hepburn on every corner.
Italians buy Italian. Made in Italy is seen as a mark of quality. And quality counts.
Italian women accessorize. So if you’re keen to be mistaken for one, remember the little details: in the past year, chunky bracelets and collar necklaces have been trendy, but so are delicate necklaces and drop earrings. Wear whatever jewellery you like… but if you want to look like an Italian, do wear something!