Hubby and I love to travel. But when we’re away for a few weeks, we start to long for home. And certain things at home. Popcorn, mashed potatoes, tea and toast, the view of the river from our sun room when dusk falls and the geese are landing. And my wardrobe. Well, I long for my wardrobe. Hubby doesn’t care one way or the other. Ha. And if we’re away when the seasons change, well that just makes my longing even more pronounced.
So while it was still a balmy 25°C in Rome last week, I was gazing in the shop windows at fall fashions and kind of whimpering. That, and looking wistfully at all the chic Italian women I saw on the street, on the subway, and in shops. My well-edited travel wardrobe was wearing a bit thin by this time, and I was right royally sick of black, white, and grey.
I’ve been itching to share some of my observations on Italian fashion with you. Very non-expert observations, of course, from the perspective of one Canadian woman… of a certain age. So, let’s take a break from my travel narrative, shall we, to talk fashion?
Italian women dress really well. That’s the first thing I noticed. Even better than French women, I think, at least from my, admittedly very limited, experience. The second thing I noticed, with a sigh of relief, was that everyone, and I do mean everyone, was wearing sneakers. I saw sneakers on mannequins in shop windows, like this one at Gucci, above.
Women on the subway on their way to work, like this woman below, wore sharp blazers, crisp cropped or rolled pants, and sneakers.
|Sneakers and sharp blazers on the subway.
Women at work, wore sneakers with beautiful little dresses. Like this smiling saleswoman, below, who was happy to have her picture taken when I asked, even when I told her it was for a blog. So kind. And her dress is wonderful, isn’t it? Here’s the link
to the dress on the Manila Grace website. I’m thinking I may go wild and order one. I saw tons of girls and women all over Rome in short or long dresses, with denim or leather jackets, and sneakers.
|Loved this dress with sneakers on an employee in this shop.
I saw women everywhere who looked fabulous. Some were younger but many were my age or older. Like the woman, below, with the lovely white streaks in her hair. In case you can’t tell from the photo, she’s wearing a two-toned green tunic which matches her cropped, wide-leg trousers. I love the anorak with the trousers, and those rope-soled shoes. Not quite sneakers, but darned close. She’s well put together without looking like she’s trying too hard. Is it the shoes, do you think? The shoes and the coat together? I wonder if the Italians have a translation for “je ne sais quoi.”
|Casual, je ne sais quoi, on the street in Rome.
Or this woman, below, whose grey hair was swept up and clasped into a loose chignon, and who looked like a model to me. In her loose khaki, silk (I think) sweat shirt, black cropped pants, black sneakers, and a chic belt-bag (that you can’t see here) in a distressed-looking, butterscotch leather, she looked marvelous. I’ve lightened the shot so you can see her outfit better, making her sneakers look blue, but they were black.
Here they are from a distance: the perfectly soignée, casual urban-chic couple out for a Sunday stroll round the shops in Rome. Sigh. Wonder where they parked their Vespa. You know, on closer inspection, they might not be local because I think he’s carrying a map in his hand. No matter, they’re still chic.
Even the families I saw had style. Like this family coming back from watching an early morning half-marathon event on Sunday morning. The dad, below, is in a navy and white striped tee, and navy track pants, with a yellow sweater around his neck, and the son who’s moved a bit ahead wears his grey sweater around his neck, like his dad. The mum has her pink sweater tied around her waist and her navy puffa jacket crammed into her shoulder bag, which you can’t see here. But it was the little girl who first caught my eye. In those plaid pants rolled up and worn with her sneakers, her crisp white shirt, and holding her own puffa jacket in front of her, she’s the very image of Italian chic. And so cute. No Disney back-pack for her. Seriously, she looks better dressed most adults.
|I saw lots of chic families on the street this Sunday morning
I saw all kinds of examples of chic little kids in Italy. I so wish I’d been able to take a photo of a certain toddler in Agerola one morning. He had escaped from his mum and was running as fast as he could down the street, his little white, cotton dress shirt buttoned up to the top and worn over jeans rolled up just so, with the cutest little sneakers, shouting “Papa, Papa,” after a car that was pulling away. The car stopped, and Papa opened the door and got out. Yep. He was wearing identical sneakers, jeans rolled just so, and a white cotton shirt buttoned right up to the neck and worn out over his jeans. “Oh my god,” I muttered, “I wish I had a shot if this.” I could hardly stop from chuckling until we’d passed, and I said to Hubby, “Wasn’t that the cutest thing?” And he looked surprised and said, “What?” Sigh. He was probably thinking about hockey. He misses hockey if we’re away during the season.
I must digress briefly to tell you about the day in Florence when we were eating lunch in a sidewalk cafe. I came back from the washroom in time to hear Hubby say in an exasperated tone to the man at the next table, “You’re right, that was a terrible trade.” “Oh, my god,” I laughed out loud. “You’re talking hockey? You actually found someone in a cafe in Florence to talk hockey with?” Turned out that the couple at the next table were from Montreal. Montreal being a big hockey city, for those who don’t follow the NHL, which I’m sure will be most of you. Ha.
You know, all over Italy, I saw many more examples than I’ve shown here of the kind of simple, casual, yet polished looks that I aspire to achieve with my own wardrobe. Short jackets over dresses, long blazers or short coats over cropped pants with narrow or wide legs, or over jeans rolled to the perfect, most flattering, length. And everything worn with sneakers, sneakers, and more sneakers. Or the occasional chunky, low-heeled boot. Everywhere I saw restraint, a less-is-more aesthetic, with respect to hair, and accessories. The one exception to this was with make-up. I found that Italian women wear more make-up than most women I see at home in Canada. Not over the top make-up… just more.
As far as my own wardrobe goes, I think I fared well with what I packed for travel this trip, aside from growing sick to death of it, which is to be expected. I reached most often for jeans, short-sleeved tees, scarves, and my black quilted sweater from Layafette 148. Once we headed into the Apennines, and in the evenings in Rome, I wore my Uniqlo vest a lot too. I felt great in my Moncler coat in Venice and in Rome when we had rain. And in Rome I wore my cropped Rag and Bone dress pants with my sneakers. After all, everyone else was doing it. My new Longchamp travel bag was light, comfortable, and looked polished. Surprisingly, to me anyway, I wore my Helmut Lang blazer only once; it seemed somehow wrong, not casual enough. If it had been cooler in the cities, I might have worn it with my hoodie and a scarf. But when the weather in Rome finally cooled at night I reached for my Uniqlo down vest instead. I should have left my black Stuart Weitzman loafers at home, though. I wore them once, and only because I’d packed them; I hate not wearing everything I’ve packed. The flat sandals, packed only in case of really hot weather, stayed in my bag. So on the whole, I wore pretty much everything, and was pleased with the variety, and with how comfortable and pulled together I felt. I wasn’t going to win any fashion awards. Ha. But I didn’t feel out of step with what other women were wearing.
You could say that I really love how Italian women dress. Understated, soignée, polished, easy. They seem to love wearing clothes, but do not let the clothes wear them. I did see one or two women, tottering along in uber-high, wedge-heeled shoes, and too much jewellry, who might as well have worn a sign saying “Fashion Victim.” But this was in smaller towns where maybe the motto is “we try harder.”
I remember one year when Hubby and I were in New Zealand, as I was making comments on the street fashion we saw, he asked me how I judge a good outfit from a not so good one. That’s a tough question to answer. Sometimes it’s because I look at an outfit and think I would love to wear it. Sometimes I know that I’d never wear an outfit, but I recognize that it looks wonderful on the person wearing it. Sometimes I recognize the creativity that goes into crafting an outfit; this is often something worn by someone who has totally different taste than me. And sometimes it’s because I admire the balance of texture, and shape, and think how perfect it is aesthetically.
See the shot, below, of the Max Mara shop window in Rome? I love this outfit. But I’d never wear it. I’d never wear cropped wide-leg trousers like that. Nor the woolly toque, which would look ridiculous on me. But the layering of down coat under wool coat, over turtleneck, the monochromatic colour, the mix of texture, all grounded by those black boots… I love all of that.
|Max Mara shop window in Rome
This is the shop window that made me really long for home, and my fall wardrobe, on our last day in Rome. I was missing being able to wear my wool sweaters, my Max Mara coats, my new burgundy loafers which I bought just before we left home in September.
You know, maybe I admire the street fashion in Italy so much because my favourite designers have always been Italian. Max Mara. Fabiana Filippi. Brunello Cucinelli. Prada. Armani. Most of these I can’t afford, with the exception of (some) Max Mara. And one Prada sweater that I bought in New York in 2016. But I’ve admired and loved them over the years.
All this fashion talk has whetted my appetite for outfit planning. I’ve turned my closet, but I haven’t had time to do a thorough inventory, to see what I still might need to help me get through the rest of the fall. I’m thinking a pair of cropped plaid pants to go with my new burgundy loafers, my Uniqlo down vest, and my Akris burgundy turtleneck from last year. And maybe a dress? We’ll see.
And writing this post has made me realize that I don’t pay half so much attention to what women wear in my own city as I do in foreign cities. Maybe I should do a Canadian street fashion review? There’s nothing like travelling abroad to give you a fresh view on your home town.
What have you observed fashion-wise when you’ve been travelling, my friends? Do you find it better, worse, or just different than what women wear at home? Wherever home might be.