Italy: dress up or go home

Sarah Rosenberg

In Italy, a cultural epicenter of European life, fashion is not a choice, but a lifestyle. After spending a week in this beautiful country with classmates for a QU301 Study Abroad program, this realization was easy to see. The country itself is a work of art: the landscapes, the terracotta-roofed apartment buildings, the stone monuments and the ancient ruins that envelop the cities are physical tributes to the country’s beauty as a whole.

The first rule in Italian fashion is that you can never successfully wear sweatpants, beat-up sneakers or anything baggy. Personally, I was fine with tucking my Nikes into my suitcase and wearing my black leather boots for day and night.

Speaking of leather boots, even after spending just one week there, I learned that leather is a fashion staple. Besides the fact that stores and vendors sell leather goods as if it were needed for sustenance, many people wear a leather product with their outfit on a daily basis. Leather boots, sandals, and oxfords shoes, leather purses, clutches, messenger bags, totes, and satchels, leather bracelets, and leather belts (must I go on?) are key pieces to any Italian outfit. Once you see, smell and feel this authentic leather, you’ll understand exactly why it’s such a must-have.

Sleek leather boots (wedge boots, riding boots, army boots, etc.) were paired with equally sleek denim jeans, sheer tights and shorts, or knee-length skirts. These boots and their leather accessories were mostly black or a beautiful amber color.

It’s important to note that the colors utilized in Italy are very subdued and neutral: different shades of brown, grey, black, navy, and plenty of white are more popular. The way the colors are styled through layering makes their outfits pop even without bright colors. Tights under shorts, chunky sweaters or cardigans over T-shirts or tank tops, blazers, thick scarves and layers of gold jewelry are popular trends, but they never appear too cluttered or over the top.

You can purchase scarves on almost every street and store in Rome or Florence, and they come in every color, design and pattern you could possibly think of. They are a treasured accessory for Italians because they are so versatile.

Gold jewelry is another fashion necessity for locals and an authentic byproduct of the country itself. If you hit the right vendor you could find bracelets made from both Italian leather and gold, a heavenly combination in itself.

When roaming the streets of Italy, and I hope you have an opportunity such as this in your lifetime, it’s hard not to watch both the men and women treating the streets as if they were runways. From firsthand experience, I see exactly why Italy, specifically Milan, is a fashion capital of the world. I loved seeing men wearing fashionable outfits instead of baggy, washed-out jeans and baseball caps. I adored seeing women pull outfits straight from a Vogue magazine to wear for grabbing a cappuccino. So, Quinnipiac, take a few hints from Italy, and stow away your sweatpants in favor of your bubble skirt and leather jacket.