We all know that Italians are among the best-dressed people on the earth, but why is this? What is it about their fashion and clothing that always makes it look so good, and distinguishes it? After twenty years of intense observation and attempted emulation, my conclusion is that it comes down to two things – details and tailoring.
Italians dress to suit their size, stature and individual shapes. For this they need excellent tailoring as one size does not fit all. It always amazed me that the busiest place on a Saturday morning in Italy was the Sartoria or Tailor. Often I had to wait in a queue. Having new and old clothes taken in or up or re-shaped was a normal weekly occurrence, making sure that everything fitted perfectly and suited the wearer rather than just taking it off the shelf and making do.
The first time a female Commessa gently placed her hands on my breasts and cupped them, in response to me telling her that I wanted to buy a bra, I was speechless with shock. I didn’t know that not only would she be able to provide me with exactly the right bra, but that she could pick out the right cut of shirt for my shape and size too. For the first time in my life I was wearing a shirt that fit me perfectly. The same thing happened with other parts of my anatomy. I was told bluntly ‘no you will not look good in that Signora, but try this’ and, like magic, parts of me were embellished or hidden as the case required them to be. Shop assistants who knew more about my body shape than I did and as a result picked clothes that made me look better in them than out of them chose many of my favourite outfits for me.
In addition to the perfect fit of Italians and their clothes is the attention to detail that many of their clothes have, without becoming fussy or ostentatious. The straight black skirt will have stitching that emphasises the hips; the man’s business shirt will have tiny buttons at the lapel (years before the ‘button down shirt’ appeared anywhere else). Contrasting colour stitching will bring out a subtle colour in the fabric, seams on jeans will sparkle with just a little bling, and knitwear is designed to create a waist even where there may not be one. Details also include accessories such as suntans and haircuts, but particularly jewellery, watches, bags, lingerie, shoes, scarves, ties and sunglasses. Perfectly tailored clothes with subtle and enhancing details teamed with the above mentioned accessories make even people that are not naturally gorgeous looking, dress as though they are, and it has the same effect.
One day at my local bar/café in Rome I watched a short, large girthed, grey haired man walk to the bar wearing an immaculate suit. On his arm was a tall woman whose face was full of wrinkles. She was wearing a flowing green silk, knee-length dress and gold high heels which she elegantly and effortlessly walked in. They happily talked and greeted others, chatted and moved on. With his perfectly cut suit, silk tie, shining skin and good hair cut, he looked ten feet tall even though he was a head shorter than the beautiful woman on his arm.