How to Dress Like a Local in Italy


by Michael Catford May 26, 2017

The catwalks of Milan are perhaps the most fashion forward in the world. Italians, it’s fair to say, know how to dress. For those fashion-conscious souls traveling through Italy this can create quite the dilemma – how do you dress like an Italian?

Unlike the strict dress codes enforced in places like the Vatican and the Middle East, there are no hard and fast rules on how to dress in Italy. It’s about knowing fashion, and knowing what works with your figure. But there are some basic dos and don’ts that may come in handy for anyone who plans to visit this beautiful country.

DO:

  • Ensure that your outfit matches. Italians tend to put more weight on how all of your garments work together, rather than focussing on one show-stopping piece.
  • Wear discreet designer labels. Italians will respect the style of someone who wears a product of a big fashion house, but not someone who overdoes it.
  • Wear jeans. While Italians are very fashion-forward, they have a healthy respect for a well-fitted pair of jeans. You can combine these with a nice top/blazer and shoes, but never with a tie.
  • Wear well-fitted clothing. Baggy pants and oversized sweatshirts are out, tailored trousers and dresses are in.
  • Wear light make-up. Italian women will almost always put on light, natural looking make-up before leaving the house.
  • Wear socks. Italians rarely, if ever, wear closed in shoes without socks. For moccasins and boat shoes these socks may be very low-cut, however.
  • Choose a simpler shirt. Italian men who wear shirts without collar buttons and breast pockets are generally considered more elegant than those who choose these additions.

DON’T:

  • Overdo the perfume. Italian women usually work with little to no perfume. Less is more.
  • Wear sports and activewear if you’re not getting physical. Avoid wearing runners in the cities, and keep your gym tights to the gym.
  • Bare your shoulders in church. While fashion-forward, Italy has a deep respect for religion.
  • Choose bright or flashily-branded items. Keep your color palate demure, and your branding minimal.
  • Wear shorts or flip-flops in the evening. Unless you’re on the beach, a trouser and closed shoe combination is a must for men.
  • Wear white socks. Unless you’re playing sport. Socks should be as discreet as possible.

Remember that because Italy is a particularly fashion-forward country, almost anything is possible, and this list is intended as nothing more than a basic guide. But for those who want to stay within the bounds of good taste and don’t want to challenge the status quo, this list will help to ensure that you look as at home on the streets of Rome and Milan as you can.

On top of that, this list will obviously change depending on what your environment requires. A lazy Sunday at a beach resort will allow you to break many of these rules, while a formal dinner will require that many of these dos and don’ts be further tightened. But as long as you use common fashion sense, there’s nothing to fear when choosing an outfit for your next Italian holiday.




Michael Catford
Michael Catford

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