Thursday, March 15, 2012

MichElle Pressé: Vogue Italia

Recently I received a message from my Writer's Craft teacher who taught me during my senior year of high school. Now that I am no longer her student, having each other on facebook isn't an issue, so we keep in touch from time to time. She has a fabulous collection of shoes that I would be in awe of every time she walked into the classroom. She has excellent fashion taste, which is why it came as no surprise when she gave me a little assignment for old time's sake: What is the fashion in Italy like? I'm about to tell you everything that I also told her in an articulate format. If you're Russian, please do not be offended. If you wear your pajamas in public, be offended.
Fashion is to an Italian woman as good manners are to a Canadian. No one knows why it is the way it is; it just happens naturally.
In Italian culture, it is molto importante to be wafer thin and walk slowly down the streets, arm and arm with your amici, and refuse to look any passerby in the eyes as that is not what a good model – erm, Italian does.
The biggest fashion faux pas in Italian culture is wearing sweatpants. They do not exist here. Pencil skirts, A-lines, skinny jeans and designer trousers are the way to go for dressing your bottom half. And a T-shirt supporting your favourite sports team won’t do, either.
Italian women have that certain je ne sais quoi about them that makes them so impeccably interesting and perfect to the rest of the world.
It seems as though good fashion sense is inherited the same way that huskies have blue 
Unacceptable. Even
if it is Juicy Couture.
eyes. It’s just something you’re born with.
I recall a trip I made to the supermarket one day when I wasn’t feeling my best. It was after dinner, I wasn’t feeling well, and I needed some tea. I didn’t think anything of my outfit. It wasn’t Vogue worthy, but I certainly wasn’t dressed like those awful people in Port Colborne who, for a reason unknown, find it acceptable to ride their bikes, walk into Tim Hortons, and even go to school wearing their pajamas.
I solemnly swore to my mother from the day I could form sentences that I would absolutely, positively, never leave the house wearing my pajamas.
To this day, I have proudly kept that promise.
Anyway, the supermarket. It took less than five minutes to walk there, and I was donning a pair of navy blue sweatpants with a white V-neck top and a grey cardigan on top. I didn’t look that bad, especially considering that it was late and I had a cold. Also, the cardigan was Ralph Lauren.
The cashier at the supermarket was less than impressed. She raised one perfectly plucked eyebrow as if to say, “You are in Italy. You do not wear that in public in this country.”
I ran out of there as fast as my Payless tennis shoes would take me.
Italian women take pride in their clothes and use fashion as a way to express themselves. It
You know what they say... Friends who
wear fur together... Um...
Look bad together. Forever.
is a way to tell other’s how much money they have and whether or not you earn more than they do. It is a way to shout to the rest of the world, “I AM ITALIAN,” without actually saying a word. They are fashionable, they know it, and they want you to know it as well.
It is important not to confuse the Italian women with the Russian women.
To the tourist eye, one may not be able to spot the difference between the Italians and the Russians (except for those who possess the Roman and southern darker features). After living here for six months, I can smell a Russian woman a mile away.  And not just because of the overwhelming amount of perfume they seem to bathe in.
Russian women flock to Italy and steal all the old, rich men. I don’t recall a single occasion where I’ve wandered into a piazza and haven’t seen a short, stocky Italian man with a tall, thin, and perfectly groomed Russian woman on his arm.
The Russians have a love for fur and rhinestones that go as far as the eye can see. If I had seen a Russian woman in my native country of Canada, I would mistake her for a glitzed-up grizzly bear.
The thing that Russians and Italians have in common is that they both refuse to leave the
house looking anything but perfect. There is the worrisome thought of running into someone you know, and the pleasure in being eyed with jealousy from women and the pleasure of being eyed with lust from men.
It’s also just what they do. They were taught to dress well because they believe that what they wear reflects their personality.
Of course high heels are always in style here. The Italian woman I work for has a drool-worthy collection of stilettos and high heeled boots, some of which cost more than my flight home to Canada.
The thing of the moment right now is plaid. Milan, one of the fashion capitals of the world and one of Italy’s largest cities, is full of talented and brilliant designers such as Donatella Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, and Prada. All I’ve been seeing in the magazines lately is plaid, plaid, and more plaid. I like to think that I’m ahead of Italian fashion, as I wore a green kilt as part of my uniform at my Catholic high school for four years.
Perhaps good manners aren’t the only thing that Canadians inherit after all.

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