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Fashion in Florence

La bella figura, or “the beautiful figure,” is a philosophy that most Italians live by. It isn’t just about maintaining a healthy body type; it’s about the way you behave and present yourself in public. One way (and probably their favorite way) Italians like to live up to this philosophy is through fashion.
There are quite a few differences between Italian and American fashion. In America, it is not uncommon to visit a college campus and see most students wearing baggy sweatpants, hoodies and sneakers or flip-flops to class. In Florence, you would have a very hard time finding college students wearing those things. While they do wear sweatpants occasionally, they are usually fitted around the ankle and never hanging down around their knees. Sneakers are common too, but they are super fashionable; athletic shoes are reserved for just that, athletics. The style of choice for Italian college students seems to be a nice pair of fitted jeans or leggings, a long sweater for girls (because leggings are not pants here, ladies!) or a decent shirt for guys and a good pair of sneakers or boots.
When going out at night, Italians always try to look their best. Girls will almost always be wearing heels paired with a skirt/dress and tights or skinny jeans and a fashionable top. Guys will wear dress shoes with a pair of really nice jeans or slacks and a button-down shirt. If you find yourself taking cues from Jersey Shore when choosing your outfit, you’ve got the wrong idea. La bella figura philosophy is about keeping it classy, not trashy.
One thing that I found slightly odd about Italian fashion is that they tend to disregard the temperature outside and follow the actual seasons instead. At the beginning of March we had some really warm weather, but the winter jackets were still out in full force. I asked one of my professors why this was, and she explained that since it was still technically winter they follow the winter fashion rules. You can imagine the strange looks my friends and I got when we wore short sleeves and sandals.
I don’t consider myself a fashion guru by any means, but I do have one piece of advice that I wish I had listened to before coming to Florence: don’t shop before you arrive! I know it’s tempting to go shopping for a whole new wardrobe every time a new semester begins, but try to stick with the basics at first and pick up some new things in your host country that you might not find at home. That way it’s easier to blend in with the locals and not look like a tourist. Plus, I bet you’ll feel super fancy when you can answer, “Where did you get that (insert random article of clothing here)?” with, “Italy!”
Loren Benton
CEA MOJO in Florence

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