Fashion & Beauty

The DNA of Italian Style

PICTURE THIS: My husband and I are enjoying aperitifs in a piazza in Milan when two women pull up on a scooter. One is wearing something that looks like an American flag; the other is in a luxurious black cat suit. They get out to photograph the church in the square, head into the bar inside and then the woman in the cat suit reappears in an ivory silk shirt and matching flowing pants, jumps back on her motor bike and is gone. Just a vignette of Italian city life.

While traveling for two weeks, first in Puglia (the southeastern tip of Italy) and then in Rome and Milan, I had my antennae out for what was trending in Italian fashion. From past experience, I was accustomed to thinking whatever Italians were wearing, or decorating their homes with, would soon make its way to the States. That’s no longer as true. When images fly across the digital landscape in nanoseconds, we’re all on a more equal footing. Still, in Italy it’s not as much fashion as style that matters. And during my 14-day stay, I found plenty of examples to admire—and emulate.

—Janet Kelly



Left: Lisa Corti is known for her exuberantly colorful textiles, which are designed by her in Italy and then manufactured in India by specialist craftspeople using an ancient manual block print technique. Wouldn’t this canvas Lion Bag Tiger Geranium Handbag make a blah day better? It is on sale for 72 euros (approximately $82 at the current exchange rate) at lisacorti. Right: Watermelon prints popped up on pillows for patio furniture, pool floats and on Furla’s printed leather Metropolis Mini Crossbody, looking luscious enough to eat. $302.99, zappos.

Left: In the past two weeks, it was hard to spot an Italian without a pair of Matrix-style shades. These glossy black Need Mimi sunglasses offer more protection than the skinniest versions, and that’s a good thing.  $98 at needsupply.   Right: On the streets of Rome and Milan, whimsically printed bulbous backpacks have morphed into more minimalist styles like this Retreat Offset Denim Backpack from Herschel Supply Co. $100, Nordstrom.


Left: Shredded sneakers? A little ridiculous but so damn cute. Superga Massimo Alba X worn tennis sneakers are $93 at Farfetch. Right: A woman having lunch at the cafe at the Prada Foundation in Milan accessorized her oversize, mustard-colored wrap blouse with blue jeans and Satin Pointed-Toe Slide Mules, like these from Balenciaga. $750, Neiman Marcus. Thumbs-up!

Left:  Flowery fragrances give me a headache, and although I’m game to try different scents, the  classic Acqua di Parma ‘Colonia’ Eau de Cologne Natural Spray is the one I remain true to. $155 for 3.3 ounces, Nordstrom. It’s particularly delicious in summer. If I’ve run out of it, I’ll spritz on my husband’s Colonia Essenza, which is slightly stronger. The only one I don’t like is Colonia Oud, whose fragrance has a close resemblance to furniture polish.  Right: Italian women are big on big watches. Adidas’s Silicon Strap Watch is sporty, sleek and understated. I couldn’t help but notice that my host in Puglia set off beautifully bronzed skin with a crisp white watch.  $75, Nordstrom.

Left: This Puffed Sleeves Poplin Shirt, $39.99 at Mango, pairs perfectly with jeans or a pair of black skinny pants. Style the outfit the Italian way with an abundance of bracelets. Right: Savvy Italian women are flocking to Martino Midali for fashionable clothing at affordable prices. This oversize, waterproof poncho is 143 euros (approximately $164.45 at current exchange rate) at the designer’s website.

Left: Style this pre-fall Ulla Johnson Rhodes High Waisted Trouser with white sneakers for summer; switch to a gold-weave flat for fall. $360, modaoperandi.  Right: Add a little artistry to a bedroom with Lisa Corti’s Organza Bedcover (queen, $680). The geometric lines on one side flip to a floral pattern on the reverse. The Italian designer’s pillows, quilts and throws, hand block printed in India, are sold at John Derian.

Left: An Italian Riviera look, minus the big bucks.  Printed asymmetrical blouse, $49.90 at Zara, worn with flowy printed culottes, also $49.90, at Zara. Right: In-the-know fashion folks consider Theory to be like Prada for less. This washed Satin Easy Pajama Shirt is $285 at Theory. The coordinating Satin Pajama Pant is $395, also at Theory.

Left: Getting around the one-way streets and blocked-off traffic in Milan or Rome takes patience or a stunning baby-blue Primavera 50 Vespa. $3,949 (also available in white, red, pink and black) at Vespa. Right: Just as stylish if not quite as speedy is Bianchi’s minty green Venezia bike with color-matched fenders. $600, Bianchi USA.


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4 thoughts on “The DNA of Italian Style

  1. Carol says:

    Fun! I have lots of watches but LOVE this white one

    1. Janet Kelly says:

      Me, too.

  2. Christine Ledbetter says:

    I want all of it.

    1. Janet Kelly says:

      Let’s go to Italy together!

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