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Style: Europe vs. Italy

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April 30, 2010 Culture & People, Fashion 2 Comments

The differences between the importance and meaning of style across Europe is just astounding. I mean, in some Northern European countries a functional, waterproof anorak of uncertain colour, shape, and age is considered a perfectly acceptable piece of outerwear, not only to keep warm, but also to double for a pesky umbrella. In Italy, on the other hand, the socially accepted counterpiece is fitted, and fashionable. Carrying around an umbrella is never considered too bothersome, and even if it is only to look well-equipped and to keep one’s hair dry during the shortest of drizzles while waiting for the bus.

l girl cappellari rome Style: Europe vs. Italy

Young Woman on Via dei Cappellari

While in Italy, the importance of style permeates all levels of society, in urban as well as rural areas, I have found that in other parts of Europe a focus on style can be seen as a snobistic expression of superficiality, consequentially framing any lack of style as a deliberate and socially accepted way of displaying a focus on inner values.

When in company of someone who is infinitely more stylish than me, I tend to feel uncomfortable, but my initial reaction to try and feel superior “because I am not that superficial” has definitely run its course. Instead, I have started to regard style as a treat for the eye, and an enjoyable habit. Getting on a Roman bus in the morning, surrounded by women whose impeccable clothing choices perfectly complement their figures, and whose picture-perfect hair and make-up look like they must have taken two hours to complete, I just didn’t have a choice.

p fashion people campo rome Style: Europe vs. Italy

Stylish People on Campo de' Fiori

I catch myself automatically glancing around, making sure that I don’t look like a slob in comparison. Looking closer, I realise that not every hair-do is as perfect as it looks, and that not every make-up line is invisible, but that these people’s style is just as much about confidence, pride, and an innate sense of selling themselves anything but short. Thank goodness! My relief is twofold: Not only do most other women also have some tricks up their sleeve to looking so polished this early, but I have confirmation that style can truly be about inner values as well.

It makes me smile: Of course I know that style may not very important when looking at the grand scheme of things. But even though it obviously pales in comparison with noble and humanitarian causes, I like to think that there is merit in trying to make the world a more beautiful place, especially if it can be achieved with a mere shift in attitude.

Back in Switzerland, I used to feel slightly pressured to explain myself when showing up in high heels that were not completely boring, even if I was only wearing jeans. In Italy, on the other hand, I enjoy any excuse for whipping out those heels, along with a fitted and classy dress, some fun and colourful jewellery, and a great handbag. I never feel out of place at any time of day or night, but life becomes easier and people friendlier. And I feel more fabulous. Superficial? Maybe so. But while some may feel pressured by such an environment, I feel liberated. I enjoy that Italy allows me to shamelessly add highlights my hair to complement my natural colours, and to hunt for that umpteenth matching belt without having to present excuses. It is nice to be able to want to look stylish without having to explain to everyone that you are not a snob.

What do you think? Do you enjoy the ever-present importance of style in Italy? Do you feel pressured by it? Or have you escaped its influence altogether, and happily watch the stylish people from the safety of your functional anorak?

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Currently there are "2 comments" on this Article:

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    [...] try it, but it looks like a good way to keep all those good-looking clothes that you will need to measure up with the Roman fashionistas in acceptable condition. View the NYT slideshow here. linkscolor = "000000"; highlightscolor = [...]

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    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Melanie @Italofile, Melanie @Italofile. Melanie @Italofile said: Fun article from @romejournal: Style: Europe vs Italy http://www.theromejournal.org/2010/04/style-europe-italy/ [...]

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