Saturday, December 26, 2009

Italian Fashion---Dressing like an Italian-American Girl (or Guy)

When I was 16, I spent the summer trying to dress like an “Italian girl.” It was August and I was in my dad’s small southern Italian town and this look, in my mind, and at the time, consisted of slightly flared, hip-hugging black pants, a baby-t, and a clear, plastic handbag. (Unfortunately, I’m not lying about this last part, either– I actually looked back at pictures for proof.)

To achieve this much-coveted aesthetic, I’d regularly raid my cousin Rossella’s closet and my friends and I would spend afternoons shopping at GAS, Phard and a host of other stores. Before this, Italian fashion was about what I saw on television: Gucci, Prada, Versace. But, I soon realized there was a whole other sector of Italian shopping.

Over the years, my desire to look like an “Italian girl” and my love of clothes in general, has given me the opportunity to get to know lots of great shops and brands. And thankfully, it’s gotten easier to find many of them in the U.S. Here are a few, culled from various experiences and some quick emails to friends in Italy.

Sisley: I’ve always felt that Italian girls had this ability to take a simple pair of jeans, match it with a well-made top and somehow look incredibly fashion-forward. Sisley, which is owned by Benetton, is a testament to that. Many of the designs are simple pieces with thoughtful details like a ruffle on a sleeve, a strategic button on a sweater or a cut in a skirt that give the clothes both dimension and versatility. And with collections for women, men and children, as well as an accessories line, there’s definitely something for everyone.

Energie / Miss Sixty: These represent two of the trendiest brands in Italy, for men and women, respectively. Headquartered in Chieti, Italy, I remember visiting one of their outposts in Calabria extremely regularly. When it comes to Energie, the company’s now 20-year-old brand, think fitted sweaters, distressed denim, and for fall/winter at least, lots of plaid, pink and purple. Miss Sixty, arguably the most popular of the company’s holdings, is where you’ll find the season’s patterned dresses, short skirts, and lots of unique, colorful tops.

Fornarina: Although it started back in 1947, this company recently made headlines in the U.S. when Lindsay Lohan became the face of their ad campaign. Feminine and flirty, with a slight edge, the fall/winter line features lots of leggings, slouchy boots and tight skirts. “I like Fornarina, and wore it throughout my early 20’s,” says Miriam Milazzo, my cousin who’s visiting from Calabria for the holidays, “The clothes are very trendy and colorful, but they also fit extremely well, and you can find a few more ‘serious’ pieces each season.”

Geox: Currently the number one footwear company in Italy, Geox shoes have a special rubber-sole technology that allows the feet to breathe, keeping them dry and comfortable. Miriam describes this line as perfect for a working professional and it turns out that while “rubber-sole” might not sound stylish, the shoes actually are. For women, there are suede pumps and tall boots and for men there are casual sneakers and dress shoes. There is a children’s line as well, where you’ll find high top and Velcro offerings.

GAS: This brand falls into the sporty and casual category and many of the pieces, to me, have a slightly laid-back, going-shopping-on-a-Saturday feel to them. Heavy on denim, from relaxed fit to skinny, there are also short leather jackets for women and round-neck sweaters for men this season. I love the story of the brand’s logo: Owner Claudio Grotto was inspired to create it when he saw two criss-crossed rainbows while on vacation in Cape Town, South Africa.

Marisa Iallonardo is a writer and editor based in New York, whose work has appeared in First for Women, Westchester Magazine and, among other publications. She is a first-generation Italian-American who has spent many summers shopping her way through southern Italy. Find her on her blog:

Photo Credits:
SisleyFall: From the Sisley Fall/Winter 2009-10 collection. Photo: F. Morandin
SisleyMan: From the Sisley Fall/Winter 2009-10 collection: Photo: F. Morandin

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