Monday, October 31, 2016

Italy - What They Wore, What I Saw, and other random thoughts

It was glorious. Absolutely, positively wonderful. Of course, anybody who knows me at all understand that 2 weeks alone with Belovedest is going to be the best thing in the world, no matter where we go. But I've got to tell you - if you've EVER got the chance to visit the Abruzzo region of Italy, DO IT.

aerial view of Roccamorice, Abruzzo, Italy
A view of Roccamorice from the air. If you know who took this photograph,
please let me know so I can credit them!

The mountains area extremely steep, and the towns (many of which date back thousands of years) are perched on the tops of the mountains where they are stunningly picturesque, and easily defensible if a band of mounted villains try to attack. If I ever write a Medieval romance, it will DEFINITELY be set in an Italy mountain town...

the Abruzzo forest colors in autumn
A relatively wide road. The autumn foliage was stunning...

We went hiking - there's a hermitage near where we were staying that we really wanted to visit. But we apparently got the wrong end of the mapping stick, because at one point, this was the path:

Hiking path to Santo Stefano de Majella

We turned back! (I admit, I fell...) we're going to have to go back and try again some day...

So what did women in Italy wear? Virtually anything you can imagine, including a shockingly inappropriate amount of lycra, revealing body parts that might have better been left to the imagination.

And big jewelry. Holy handbags! The unwritten rule that your earrings should be smaller than your ears was never obeyed in Rome...

But there were some fairly clear trends that we observed. Foremost, lots and LOTS of people were wearing super-lightweight down jackets. Always horizontally quilted. Even if the temperature was near 80 degrees Fahrenheit; style trumped appropriateness EVERY TIME...

down jackets as seen on women in Rome

I saw a fair number of coats with 3/4 sleeves. Personally, I can't recommend these unless you're either (a) wearing something short-sleeved under them, or (b) wearing long gloves. Most frequently, I saw women wearing these with their undergarment sleeves showing (obviously, no way to avoid this) and it generally looked awkward. Your may like this look - if you do, you're on trend with the Italians!

3/4 sleeve coats as seen on women in Rome

Leather? OH yes, there was a lot of leather being worn. I couldn't quite understand WHAT they were trying to accomplish, because the weather was decidedly warm, and leather skirts (and pants!) couldn't have been comfortable. But I saw literally dozens of black leather skirts, in every possible structure imaginable:

leather skirts as seen on women in Rome

There were plenty of leather jackets in evidence too, but it was interesting to me that the majority of them were round-collared and VERY simple. I saw a few more "motorcycle" kind of jackets, and a few leather blazers, but easily 3/4 of the jackets that I saw were styled like these:

leather jackets as seen on women in Rome

And just a word of advice, regarding leather jackets (or almost any garment, for that matter!): just because you can fasten it doesn't mean that it fits. I saw some zippers that looked just about to blow...

On a much brighter note, I saw a LOT of women of a certain age dressed in impeccable quiet good taste. It was really quite a formulaic kind of ensemble, built around a beautiful tweed or patterned straight skirt - not tight, but trim. Next, a beautiful blouse with a modest neckline, most commonly a silk bow in a light neutral color. Add a dark neutral cardigan, serious jewelry (some really BIG gold necklaces), dark tights and shoes that will tolerate cobblestones. Add in the most beautiful handbag you can afford, and you'll look like a Roman woman:

A classic Rome outfit in navy and white

And what did I buy? Well, one night, before dinner, B and I stumbled upon a combination craft market/flea market, where someone had an entire table of scarves. Any Hermes to be found? If there are, I'm going to spot them!

For about 40% of retail, and in spotless, possibly unworn condition? Heck yes!

Hermes Pierres d'Orient et d'Occident in red and royal blue
Hermes Pierre d'Orient et d'Occident

I also found a black and white tweed jacket. Sort of a blazer, sort of outerwear. You'll see more of it in the future!

If you followed me on Instagram, you might have noticed a couple of things. First - my phone behaved appallingly badly in Italy. In the little town were we were for the first week, our phones would work ONLY when we were sitting outdoors on the plaza overlooking the ravines. Anywhere else in town, it was not happening. So my Instagram feed would arrive in batches, although I had been taking pictures occasionally throughout the day.

The other thing that I've realized, and you might have discovered, is that I'm most likely to take photographs of strange little details that catch my eye; I leave the major art works and architectural masterpieces to those with a better camera and a steadier hand than I have!

So I leave my little description of our vacation with one of my favorite sights along the roads of Italy:
the Eni six-legged fire-breathing dog


Style Watch - What women are wearing in Italy, Fall 2016
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  1. I love getting your observations about your travels!!!
    Do you remember a few years ago, the "breastplate" necklace phenomenon? I never got into it but I do have a very big necklace of silver balls that acts almost like a scarf as a visual filler.
    I also had a leather jacket identical to the black one shown. I bought it in Florence around 2002. The leather was like butter! But I snagged the elbow on something sharp and it ripped. Fini. Sniff! But just to say that the style is one with legs.
    Re 3/4 sleeve coats, showing the under layer works if it's tight. Say a sweater. Probably because it gives that gloved silhouette without covering the hands.
    The six legs of the dog represent the four wheels of the car and the two legs of the driver. High concept, eh?

  2. The tweed skirt combo is very appealing. I'm trying to work out which decade this look alludes to- is it the 50's?

  3. I was in Italy last year (Florence & Ravenna) in late October/early November. It was between 60-70 every day (gorgeous) and I was astonished to find that style ruled over comfort to such a degree. Some rule exists that says as of October 15 (or whenever...) one MUST wear a puffy jacket in a dark color, wool, tights, etc. Of course they all looked fabulous, but how did they avoid sweating, is what I want to know.

  4. Your Pierres is a wonderful find! It's my all-time favorite Hermes scarf, and a beautiful reminder of the lovely inlaid stone tables (pietre dure) at the Uffizzi in Florence. And those colors should fit into your wardrobe nicely. I love the tweed skirt outfit.

  5. Thank you for this post! I leave for Italy in ten days - splitting time between Venice and visiting my son who is studying abroad in Rome! Your notes will definitely help me pack!

  6. I also love the tweed skirt ensemble - it's the perfect look as far as I'm concerned - always a classic. I cannot for the life of me understand the fascination with these puffy jackets! A friend and I were in "Roots" a couple of weeks back as she was looking for a Fall jacket. The salesperson persuaded her to try on a silver jacket in this style - we both looked at each other - burst out laughing and called out "Michelin Man" at exactly the same time! Now my friend is average heigh and weight (never mind petite and round like me) and even she wouldn't wear it. I'd just feel like a walking sleeping bag!
    So glad to hear that you had such a lovely time on your break.

    1. Hi Margie, I think the Uniqlo light downs are slimmer. If not, it'll be Chewbacca meets Michelin Man when I start wearing the one I've just bought!

    2. Hi Margie, I think the Uniqlo light downs are slimmer. If not, it'll be Chewbacca meets Michelin Man when I start wearing the one I've just bought!

    3. The Uniqlo ones are indeed quite thin - they're really not much heavier than wind-breaker type of jacket. And they come in some delectable colors...

  7. Thank you Margie for the description of the walking sleeping bag!!The slim younger people in my family wear these jackets well but I have stayed away from the look. I love the Italian zest and sensuality in their clothing, men and women both ( big generalization, I know). I also am attracted to the tweed skirt uniform that could include tweed pants occasionally.

    Deb from Vancouver

  8. Lovely post! I just chimed in to say it's the little details on your instagram feed that keep me following. Thank you.

  9. That scarf was an awesome find!! I like the tweed ensemble but it is too dressy for my job. I'm not big on the 3/4 sleeve coats or the puffy jackets. I do see them everywhere here too. I love your travel observation posts!!

  10. I loved both the 3/4 sleeve jackets LOVE THEM. Glad you had such a fab time AND "found" Hermes :-)

  11. Your trip to Italy sounds enchanting...good work on finding the Hermes in amongst the stacks of silk scarves!
    Look forward to seeing that new tweed jacket too!

  12. Love getting this travel report on fashion sightings, Janice! And hooray for the Hermes find! When do we get the food report????

  13. Congratulations on the scarf! I would pass on the down jacket. Petite with a full torso..too Michelin! The 3/4 sleeve is so tricky. I
    have a vintage Avoca cape but I wear a grey or black sweater under it for arm coverage. I would love to find the perfect tweed skirt!

  14. What a wonderful trip, and congratulations on the scarf, what a superb memento of the holiday - couldn't have been more perfecter!

    The puffer jackets are huge in Australia too, or at least in the cooler regions. To me they look absolutely European, especially when worn with skinny jeans like a bike jacket and either a scarf. Some of the outdoor shops here do more flatteringly shaped, longer line versions - more like coats, and with angled or verticalish puffs. They're wonderfully cosy.

    We too are just back after 2.5 weeks in New Zealand, a holiday-makers' paradise. I took a Whatever's Clean 11 wardrobe in black, cream or white, and blue: jeans and black pants, blue jumper and cardie, teal jumper, three cream or white t-shirts, two patterned shirts and a blue jacket. Cognac boots and black flats, plus four scarves. I don't want to see any of those clothes again for a while but it was an excellently versatile carry-on wardrobe. Thanks for all the inspiring advice here!

    Robyn in Tasmania

  15. Janice,
    My conservative self prefers the tweed skirt outfit, but I also really like the collarless leather jackets. With a turtleneck sweater, they can be quite chic ! Thank you for your travel observations -- It's always interesting to see how other parts of the world dress and live !

  16. What a great piece, Janice. So pleased you had a good time. I felt I was there with you reading your post. So pleased the mature ladies didn't disappoint. Tips to pick up there, that's for sure.

    Apropos silly 3/4 sleeve coats. I stupidly bought one. In a sale. Lime Green too. Then after a year of not wearing it because of all the issues you list, I found a matching colour cashmere wool and knitted deep cuffs (which can extend over the hands like mitts) and a scarf collar, sewed them in and hey presto, I had a totally wearable coat that was now actually wind-tight and snug ... and I was smug! Must post a pic of my work one day.

    1. That's brilliant! and it sounds beautiful, too. Isn't it grand to be able to knit? Some day, I'm going to learn...

  17. Love the tweed skirt ensemble. The lycra and puffy coats I'll forego :) Sounds like you had a wonderful time Janice! What a great experience for you and your husband!

  18. I saw so many of those puffy coats in Italy two Octobers ago - almost always blue ones. We saw plenty on our recent Pyrenees trip too, but not so pervasively blue! Those collarless leather zippered jackets I always think of as "scuba" jackets, but Google wasn't backing me up very convincingly on a quick search. I have one wool melton short jacket with raglan 3/4 sleeves, a funnel neck, and a matching removable faux fur collar, all in a beautiful plummy purple. I usually wear it with a matching top underneath that has long tight sleeves. That way I can push up the under sleeves (and make them invisible) if it's warm, or pull them down if it's chilly. - nancyo

  19. This was a really good read. It was like being there. That crafters market would have been so much fun.

    I bought a little flaired jacket with 3/4 length sleeves, black with white polka dots last year at a thrift store. It's not practical if the weather is too cool but I never fail to get compliments about it, from all ages. It reminded me of my youth. It's only really useful for a few days but that doesn't matter as it only cost $10.

  20. Wonderful! I always marvel at the Italian women on their high heels walking on cobblestones! It must be in their genes!
    My first visit to Rome was many years ago in early November; on a Sunday stroll thru the Borghese Gardens, the women were in furs!It was in the mid 60's and sunny! They dress according to the season, not the temperature! The 3/4 sleeve down jackets have been a trend there for several years, usually in a pale color.

  21. What's wrong with the path? It looks like a perfectly normal mountain hiking trail to me.

  22. I love the Roman lady outfit, very Sofia Loren. Italy rocks smart casual with the best of them. They go for quality over quantity and even the fake stuff looks amazing. I lived in Modena in 1984. There weren't any shops that were a source of inexpensive items like there were in England. But the costume jewelry was incredible, the 'vera pelle falsa' was butter soft. Worth a pilgrimage just to pick up bling, bags and shoes. Really delighted for you finding a Hermes scarf, noticed you like them :) I must go back a.s.a.p.