In Europe, and especially in Italy, people dress to impress. Cities in Italy are made to be walked. They are made for the pedestrian because they were built at a time when cars didn’t exist. Cities were built for the people in mind. When walking around Piazza della Signoria on a field trip, my Florentine Architecture teacher told us that Florence in particular has beautiful piazzas because Florence was where democracy was born. Piazzas are communal space where people gathered to share ideas with one another. This kind of feature in a city is crucial to a democracy, whether it be physical or virtual space people need to have space to build and listen to each others’ ideas. Because democracy is about rule by the people. Sharing ideas is a form of developing ideas which is crucial to an educated and critical thinking populous. Piazzas were respected by the Florentine rulers and for many years they did not attempt to infiltrate the piazza. The first time a ruler put his own mark in a public piazza was when Cosimo put a statue of himself riding a horse in the Piazza della Signoria. Until then, there had been no mark of royalty.
There are many artisan shops but also a lot of designer stores. People like to window shop and stop in front of store windows to marvel at the displays and the array of shoes.
So, cities in Italy, Florence included, are made for people to walk and gather and talk. So when people go out, they tend to put some effort and thought into their appearance. I have never seen so many stylish older women until walking around in Florence. Sometimes you will see them dressed in clothes that younger women wear – and they are rocking it! Common colors are black, grey, cream, and blue, with the right cut and some accessories.
There is a certain style that is popular in European culture, and so people who are exposed to different cultures stick out like a sore thumb. I see this with American boys and girls. Many times when I see a boy with sweatpants and a baggy shirt or a girl with a lot of makeup on and not so fashionable clothing, I can often times hear a word or two of American English coming out of their mouths when they speak. I told Aitana about this and she says she has experienced the same.
As for me, it is hard not to wish my appearance and wardrobe were different when I compare myself to people in the street. People-watching is still one of my favorite hobbies. I like to watch people interact, look at what they are wearing, and look at their dogs. I make the action of looking painful for me when I cease appreciating what I am seeing and start to want to look like another person.
Aitana and I connected over this. She says she feels insecure because she does not dress feminine like most girls do. Feminine meaning makeup, low-cut, tight-fitting clothes, and high heels.She sees a girl dressed cute and wants to dress like them because of the attention that they get. Sometimes she dresses feminine. When she dresses like that, she gets compliments from her mom, her boyfriend, and she gets attention from everyone. But she isnt comfortable. She feels her most comfortable in clothes that are comfortable, sporty, and preppy.
Although I do not wish to dress in a certain way in order to get attention, I think that both Aitana and I experience frustration and insecurity when we compare our physical appearance to that of others. I think we would be happier if we keep in mind that we each have chosen to adorn ourselves the way that we have based on principles that we hold. The reason why I do not wash my hair and bathe and shave on a regular basis is because I don’t feel the need to be squeaky clean and because I don’t like the feeling of being cold that I get right after I get out of the shower. The reason why I don’t wear new clothes is because I don’t feel good about spending a lot of money on clothes. I don’t feel good about it because I am using my parents’ money – money that I didn’t make – on clothes and so I try to be as thrifty as possible.
Italian culture is less interested in buying cheap and more interested in buying quality. In this I have failed. I still like to buy cheap clothing in price – used – but not lacking in quality.
Yet, I see the practicality in buying beautiful, well-made clothes that are versatile and timeless however the good thing about not spending a lot of money on clothes and wearing a lot of hand-me-downs is that when I travel, if I need to leave my bag somewhere because it is heavy I am not extremely paranoid about someone taking my bag. Because I am not emotionally tied to my clothes. There is only one item of clothing that I am fond of and that is my great grandmother’s sweater. The rest I could lose and I would not be too upset.