Friday, December 4, 2009

Italian Fashion

I am continually struck by the fact that Italy challenges all conventional wisdom on gender-related fashion that has been instilled in me practically since birth. They should post signs at the airport saying that all traditional rules about what men and women should wear do not apply here. Nothing is sacred: Italian men wear more pink and purple than any other color, tighter pants than a hooker in Hollywood, they pluck their eyebrows with reckless abandon, and they wax every other part of their body. It makes for interesting people-watching, I tell you, but enough is enough.

I'm from Seattle, where you can wear a Santa suit in July and no one would blame you. Ok, yes, it would be strange and cause much laughter, but you wouldn't be judged for it. Here I can't walk down the street in flip flops without earning disgusted glances.

As a result I am starting to think that I am in the wrong country. It would be one thing if it were truly a culture where “anything goes.” But in fact the culture here is just as judgmental as anywhere else, if not more so. They just have a skewed view on what is appropriate for public apparel (aka neon-colored jeans and down coats that look like cheap black plastic interspersed with rubber bands to hold everything together. Seriously).

The other day I popped into one of the local clothing stores which looked about right for my style (ok, my price range). However, I was shocked and appalled at what I saw inside. It was a very gruesome sight, and I’m not exaggerating. On first glance I saw rack after rack of moderately cute collared dress shirts. But on further inspection I saw that the shirts went down and included snap-on underwear. That’s right, snap-on underwear attached to the shirt, known to babies the world over. The Italians have combined grunders and business shirts. Sweet Jesus, I dropped that shirt like a hot potato and ran for the door. I left feeling very disappointed with Italian style, as well as very nervous for the future of American fashion. The US tends to echo the Italian trends after about a 6 month delay, so maybe I’ll just have to move to Asia for the next year or so until this storm blows over. Or maybe Brazil: they seem to be very fashion-conscious there.

I do love a lot of things about Italy (the amazing food, generous people and the well-trodden atmosphere that permeates the air here to name a few) but the preoccupation with fashion is not one of them. A sweatshirt and jeans is my favorite winter ensemble, and although I consider myself to be a reasonably flexible person, I refuse to ever subject myself to purple pants. It's never going to happen. Oh, well. At least there's pasta.

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