Wednesday, June 2, 2010

La Moda: Fashion in Rome

Posted By on 06.02.10 at 03:00 PM

Note the designer bag.
  • Shades: check. Designer bag: check. Boots on the edge of summer: check.
I've always thought of Rome as inferior to cities like Paris and Tokyo for truly innovative style—people here tend to stick to trends, and consequently everyone dresses the same.

Long straight hair is a must, as is being skinny, and I saw a fair amount of solid dresses and skirts in the ritzy Spanish Steps area. Most stylish women were wearing boots, even though it was in the mid-70s and often seemed much hotter in the sun.

Needless to say, despite the treacherous sampietrini (cobblestones), heels are absolutely paramount to achieve la bella figura—a concept that's a little difficult to explain. For Italians, life happens on stage, and it's important to project beauty and style in all things: dress, behavior, driving . . . you get the idea. On the one hand, this means you generally don't see people wearing pajama pants on the street. On the other, it means that any deviation from the accepted definition of style can bring disapproval. Some amateur sociologists (i.e., me) blame la bella figura concept for a lack of risk-taking innovation in Italy, not only in fashion but in business as well. Public failure means making the most brutta figura of all.

Another designer bag, another bella ragazza.
  • Another designer bag, another bella ragazza.

I asked a lot of people if I could take their picture for a "blog di moda" (fashion blog) for a Chicago newspaper, but most demurred, and I couldn't figure out why. How does Scott Schuman do it? I checked with a Roman friend, who confirmed I was asking politely. I think Italians might be a little suspicious—I remember reading that when Google sent a car around town outfitted with a camera on the roof to capture images for its street view a couple years ago, Romans by and large made sure to head indoors. Anyway, I was left to take photos on the sly, which didn't work out too well. Maybe I'd have had better luck in Milan.

A sort of street fashion: Anselm Kiefers sculpture Regina Coeli, glimpsed in a gallery window.
  • A sort of street fashion: Anselm Kiefer's sculpture "Regina Coeli," glimpsed in a gallery window.

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