Italians may be surrounded by exceptional fashion, but not all Italians have learned to be fashionable.
Italy is one of the fashion capitals of the world and a mere stroll through Milan or Rome’s Historic Centre will prove it. Impeccably-dressed Italian men and cosmopolitan-chic Italian women pepper the sidewalks in full-on strut, completely aware of the multitude of eyes in their pursuit. The others, those who observe, who attempt to imitate, those who fill in the gaps, however, are not always up to par.
When Italian Fashion Falters…
The biggest eyesore in my opinion is also extremely common in Italy; visible bra straps. Ages ago, Madonna showed off her lace brassiere. A decade ago, D&G launched a line of dresses with visible bra straps sewn in. Designers are always inventing something new. Sometimes, it is just a gimmick and not to be taken seriously. A blush-pink D&G gown with its visible black lace bra straps is in another league from the girl on the street in an orange tube-top and old white bra straps sticking out.
However, if the gown was not designed to have a visible bra, adding one will ruin the effect. Simona Ventura, one of Italy’s top TV hosts, graced the stage of the week-long San Remo Music Festival showing off her collection of bras.
The lingerie industry has taken enormous strides since the olden days of yore and there are bras available that will hide under any style of dress.
The other recurring bra scenario is when the bra is noticeable due to its color. Do you know what color your bra should be if you wear white or a sheer top? A white bra will be seen, regardless of your skin tone. The best shade to choose is a nude bra. Nude meaning the shade of your skin tone. If you are quite fair, it should be closer to beige. If you are a rich dark complexion, your bra should be closer to the shade of rich dark chocolate. There are many shades of nude seamless bras available for every hue. Mine are caramel. One small step into a local lingerie shop would equal a giant leap for the fashionably-challenged.
Tourists have dressed badly ever since the term was coined. It is useless to persist on changing the image. Italy, however, has to maintain their example as one of the leaders in fashion. As I wander the city centre, I notice giant labels all over everyone; D&G might just be the biggest culprit. If you have a giant label on your jeans, purse, belt, sunglasses, scarf or T-shirt, I can accept it. If it is on a cocktail dress, evening gown, suit, blazer, swim wear or winter coat, it is going a bit overboard. You must stop and ask yourself, “Can I pull off this look?”.
I used to joke with my boyfriend whenever he would wear his D&G denim jacket with the giant foot-long label on the back.
“Where did you get that jacket again? I keep forgetting.”
“It’s vintage! They don’t make these anymore!”, he would claim as I giggled.
I continued to hide it in the back of the closet. He has since replaced it with a Versace one showing no obvious labels.
If the shoe fits…
Many women would love to have smaller feet and sometimes will cram their feet into sandals that are too small. Not only will your feet hurt, you may even permanently damage them but having your heel or toes protrude over the edge is a definite fashion DON’T. If you are sensitive about the size of your feet, keep your shoe size to yourself and the sales clerk, but at least wear well-fitted shoes. Otherwise, your feet will be the first thing everyone notices, for they are sticking out.
As women begin to notice the first signs of aging, panic strikes and some resort to extremes. Middle-age is no longer what it used to be. Women are continuing to look amazing even past their fiftieth year. In order to do so gracefully, however, certain pitfalls must be avoided at all costs or you risk looking like an aging Barbie doll instead. This look is very commonly found in Italy, where bad-plastic surgery thrives.
The beauty of Italy is that the thirty-something-year-old woman is the ideal as opposed to America’s Lolita-nymph preference. Celebrities such as Monica Bellucci, Maria Grazia Cuccinotta and Elisabetta Canalis are some of Italy’s top beauties regardless of their advancing years.
The battle in trying to maintain this ideal is often lost, however, when cheek implants, lip injections, Botox, hair extensions, false eyelashes and breast enhancements meet stiletto heels, piled-on make-up, plunging necklines and micro miniskirts or peek-a-boo gowns. This is the road that Italian pseudo-celebrities such as Valeria Marini, Pamela Prati, Alba Parietti,and that odd-looking Lecciso woman, have taken.
Maintaining your beauty as you grow older will make you feel ageless but overdoing it will make you look like a man in drag. It may be obvious that multitudes of celebrities have had surgery, but maintaining your beauty should not completely alter your face.
Men with Overly-plucked Eyebrows
Milan witnessed the birth of the metrosexual and since then he has appeared in every cosmopolitan city around the world. Women adore a well-dressed man who smells wonderful and is impeccably groomed but continues to be a man. Italian men know how to keep this balance from faltering. They are real men, sometimes too real and misogynistic and other times the perfect masculine gentleman.
This fine line is easily crossed, especially by what Italians call ‘i cafoni’, the crude. One might expect a boorish man to be Neanderthal-esque, but it is not so in Italy. Here, they take on an excessively gelled, overly-plucked and a somewhat smarmy persona; Italian soccer/football players being the prime examples.
This has been my boyfriend’s favorite line ever since I told him what it meant. Now whenever he spots someone’s crack peeking out from their pants, he yells, “Crack kills!”, and we both laugh. This can easily be avoided by testing out your jeans before you leave the house. Squat down and feel how far they go. If they go low, wear a belt, otherwise, do not squat down in public. Sit with your back to the wall. Put a jacket over the back of your chair. No one wants to see your crack, so keep it to yourself.
Dressing for Business
This is perhaps the one area where Italian women either hit or completely miss with no grey area and where Italian men usually remain safe. 80% of Italians in the office will be dressed for success on a daily basis. Men are well aware of whether they can get away without wearing a tie or not. Although women will normally wear a pantsuit in winter, they will wear more feminine attire in the warmer months.
The other 20% must be single and desperately seeking a husband, for they arrive at work inappropriately dressed. The following are inappropriate to wear at the office:
- Excessive jewelry: dozens of bangle bracelets, long clanging necklaces, chandelier earrings, ankle bracelets. Wearing all of these at once so that you are heard before you are seen is a definite DON’T.
- Super-tight jeans: Some offices are more casual than others but if you look like you are dressed to go on a date rather than work, you might get lucky tonight but it will not lead to success in the workforce.
- Cleavage: Sometimes it is difficult to keep the girls under control. Especially since they tend to swell once a month. If you have your cleavage on display on a permanent basis, you will get lots of attention but it will not be on your work. But then again, maybe that is your goal after all.
If gaining a husband is more important than your career, then the aforementioned faux pas may get you a date. However, they may not see the real you if they are focused on your curves alone.
Bad Haircuts & Dye-jobs
While most of the teen girls who hang out on Piazza del Popolo have a strange mullet haircut which anyone in their right mind should skip, I am excusing them; teens should be free to express themselves no matter how ridiculous the look may be. So if you are still in high school and want to go with that strange chicken look, goth it out or get that hot pink ombre look you’ve been dying for, go for it while you can still get away with it.
Please refrain from the following horrors if you are an adult:
- Mullets: Short, but long; Just pick one. Either cut it all off or grow it all long. Both is not a fashionable option, not that long hair is in either, but it is more acceptable.
- 70s Hair: Italian men over 50 are always guilty of this one. The 70s are over, please get a haircut.
- Elvis Hair: Italian men who have gone grey are the culprits in this case. You are not fooling anyone. Dyed hair has an unnatural hue that is extremely noticeable on men. Add the fact that no one’s hair is pure black. If you are prematurely grey and you really must dye you hair, just get low-lights in an ash version of your natural hair color. If you do the half black-half natural thing, it is obvious that you are doing it. If you are over 60, it is really obvious and even more so, it is ridiculous. The wrinkles, cane and trembling have already announced your age. Black hair dye will only make you look like old-Elvis. Luckily, the comb over is rarely seen anymore.
- Metal Head Hair: Yes, everyone knows you used to be in a rock band in high school, but those days are gone. You have photographs of those good old days, right? Someone get me the scissors! Fast!
- Tails: There are few around but still too many so I must include it. Just cut it off. While 80s fashion has returned, this haircut has not. Although I have excused the teens who choose to wear their hair as they wish, I do not excuse the children whose parents’ lack of taste has inflicted a bad haircut on their child.
On the Epiphany, Italian children are visited by La Befana, a witch, who fills their stockings with candy or coal. Unfortunately, La Befana makes her appearance at night at the hottest clubs in Rome.
Not everyone was born blessed with the beauty of Sofia Lauren, but dressing to resemble a witch is not the direction you want to go in. If you have long stringy black hair and sharp features, skip the long black jagged-edged skirts. Get a good haircut and dress in a sleek or chic style and the kiddies will stop asking you for candy. Which reminds me…
All white is just not right!
Few people look good in all white attire. When they do, it is usually white summer linen. I have yet to see a white spandex dress paired with white boots and a white leather jacket look good on anyone, not to mention it gives a slight air of a street-prostitute. All white needs an expert eye in order to pull it off in autumn or winter.
For Divas Only….
There are always exceptions. Some extreme looks seem to just work for some people. Amy Winehouse is a perfect example of constant fashion faux pas but it was her signature look and without it she would just have been boring. While many Italians dress quite well in general, the missing ingredient is usually creativity. Most stick to a classic attire. Many others merely copy the exact outfit they saw on the mannequin in the window or will only wear the three things that are trendy at the moment over and over again. I once mentioned that Italians never compliment others on the street. New York women will stop and compliment you if they like what you are wearing. My friend rejoined, “Well, what would they say? I really like your classic white shirt?”.
Creativity adds a flair to New York City streets and is found more so on the sidewalks of Milan than in Rome. Although it can go horribly wrong, they still get an A+ for effort. If you have a particular look that works for you and only a few of you do, then who cares what anyone says, work it! Lady Gaga’s costumes leave everyone gagging at the award shows but the girl can sing and that’s what counts. Whitney Houston never managed to find a decent wig. Beyonce’s mommy made her clothes for ages. Mariah Carey is usually on every worst-dressed list. Britney is just a big ol’ mess. Are you a diva? Are you sure? Whether you are a world-famous superstar or the Diva of your town, you are known for your over-the-top style so enjoy it…I know I will.
Speaking of divas… A Diva Arrives at Leonardo Da Vinci...Airport and quickly learns about Avoiding Italian Predators with a Taste for the Foreign Variety.
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